RIO DE JANEIRO – Gary Antuanne Russell has advanced to the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Russell, 20, scored a split decision over Thailand’s Wuttichai Masuk, meaning one more win will guarantee him a medal in the 2016 Olympic games. The American team was shut out of medals in the 2012 London games. […]
RIO DE JANEIRO – Gary Antuanne Russell has advanced to the quarterfinals at the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Russell, 20, scored a split decision over Thailand’s Wuttichai Masuk, meaning one more win will guarantee him a medal in the 2016 Olympic games. The American team was shut out of medals in the 2012 London games.
Russell was much sharper in the first round of this fight compared to the opening round of his first fight on this world stage. His jabs set up sharp overhand rights that landed on the chin of Masuk.
Masuk, 26, was given the second round on the judges’ cards by landing several clean shots to the head and body of Russell, but the third round was up for grabs and Russell knew it. He took control early by aggressively charging Masuk and landing rights and lefts. He was on the attack for the first two minutes of the round, until Masuk realized he had to fight back. Masuk did just that, as he landed some shots in the closing minute of the round. But Russell held his hands up to indicate his confidence in victory with a few seconds left in the final round.
“He was winking at me, so I thought I would showboat some for the fans. He showboated with the winks, so I showboated, too,” Russell said. “I was pretty confident in the victory, but it’s never over until the fat lady sings.
“I felt the power of his left hand. He hit me on the glove and I felt it. In the third round, I wanted to throw him off with the tempo of the fight. I would speed up and then slow down and then pressure him. Everybody comes to the Olympics with a winning mind set. I never go into a fight without winning on my mind.”
Russell moves on to the quarterfinals on Aug. 16 and will fight Fazliddin Gaibnazarov of Uzbekistan.
“That’s the plan – to bring back gold,” Russell said. “This is an extraordinary team of men and women. We have a lot of brave hearts on this team. But it’s one step at a time. I will approach that round of the games like all of the other rounds.”
The Capital Heights native won his first fight on Aug. 10 via a unanimous decision over American Richardson Hitchins, who was fighting for Haiti. Hitchins, who hails from Brooklyn, NY, could not make the American team, so he talked himself onto the Haitian team.
Russell, a southpaw, outclassed Hitchins with faster hands and the ability to muscle Hitchins whenever the Haitian fighter tried to get anything going. Hitchins, an orthodox fighter, tried to shoot his right hand down the middle, but good head movement by Russell and counter shots to Hitchins’ face had all of the judges giving Russell each of the three rounds.
“I am very confident in what I do,” Russell said.
Russell’s father and trainer, Gary, Sr., was high up in the stands and was on his feet for each round. He was able to holler to his son with instructions to “let your hands go” or “shoe shine. Go downstairs and work your way back up.” He and Russell’s mother were all smiles when the referee held up Russell’s hand as the winner. They were the only family members to make the trip to Rio.
“I could hear his voice among all of the cheering around the ring. It was like something mental between him and me,” Russell said.
Russell had fought Hitchins twice before and saw a little difference in him.
“He ran around in the last fights and I wanted to stay in his face this time. I actually let him stay in this fight longer than I should have,” Russell said. “I was expecting to be a lot better, but it was my first fight and as one great fighter said, it’s not how you win, as long as you win.”
Russell also talked about fighting for his brother, Gary, Jr.
“I have mirrored my brothers from day one. When Gary, Jr. was not able to compete in his Olympics due to weight issues, I was hurt and my family was hurt,” Russell said. “I wanted to take it one step further and get in the ring. I learned from Bernard Hopkins to never go over five pounds between fights.”