WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. will defend his title against former world champion Kiko Martinez in the co-feature to Wilder vs. Breazeale on Saturday, May 18 live on Showtime from the Barclays Center in Brooklyn ,New York and is presented by Premier Boxing Champions.
This Showtime Championship Boxing event will begin at 9 pm. ET/6 p.m. PT and will also have unbeaten super lightweight contender Juan Heraldez squaring-off against former world champion Argenis Mendez in a 10-round attraction. The event will then led into the WBC Heavyweight Champion Deontay Wilder taking on mandatory challenger Dominic Breazeale.
The 30-year-old Russell (29-1, 17 KOs), who was born in Washington, D.C. and now lives in Capitol Heights, Maryland, will make the fourth defense of his featherweight world title on May 18 and his second career appearance at Barclays Center. Russell won his title orginally by knocking out Jhonny Gonzalez in 2015. After stopping Patrick Hyland and Oscar Escandon, he most recently defeated previously unbeaten Joseph Diaz Jr. by majority decision last May. Russell, who is trained by his father, Gary, Sr., is part of a big boxing family. Two of his younger brothers, Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne, are currently unbeaten professional boxers.
“I expect to send a message to everyone in or near my division that I’m a force to be reckoned with,” said Russell. “I want to unify against Leo Santa Cruz and I’m going to do what I have to do to get there. I’m never going to take any opponent lightly and right now, it’s my job to take care of Kiko Martinez before I worry about anything else. On May 18 you should expect to see excitement, punching power, hand speed, fast combinations and a great level of boxing IQ. I’m the best in boxing today and I prove that every time I get in the ring.”
A native of Comunidad Valenciana, Spain, Martinez (39-8-2, 28 KOs) has been up against some of the biggest names in and around the featherweight division throughout most of his career. He won a super bantamweight world title in 2013 by stopping Jhonatan Romero and has taken on names such as Leo Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton, Josh Warrington and Scott Quigg. The 33-year-old is unbeaten in his last four contests (3-0-1). His last fight he won defeating Marc Vidal convincingly for a European featherweight title last October.
“I’ve been waiting for this opportunity to win another world title and I’m thankful and excited for May 18,” said Martinez. “Gary Russell Jr is in for a rude awakening. I have a lot of experience and I feel great at featherweight. There will be nothing better than celebrating my 50th fight with a new world title.”
The undefeated Heraldez (16-0, 10 KOs) continued to rise up the rankings in 2019 when he knocked out Eddie Ramirez in their February showdown on the Ruiz-Davis undercard. The 28-year-old from Las Vegas earned a decision victory over Kevin Watts and a stoppage of Maynard Allison in fight year last year. He has been making a name for himself since a unanimous decision victory over then unbeaten prospect Jose Miguel Borrego in his first 10-round bout in August 2017 back on the Mayweather vs. McGregor undercard.
“I’m one of the best super lightweights in the world and I’m going to show it again on May 18,” said Heraldez. “They keep lining them up and I’ll keep knocking them down. Mendez is good, veteran opposition, but I’m going to show I’m on a different level. This is a great opportunity to once again perform on a big stage and I’m going to take full advantage and steal the show.”
Mendez (25-5-2, 12 KOs) most recently fought to a split-draw against Anthony Peterson in March on the Peterson-Lipinets card, running his unbeaten streak up to three. The 32-year-old defeated Eddie Ramirez and Ivan Redkach in back-to-back fights after losses to Robert Easter Jr. and Luke Campbell. Originally from San Juan de la Maguana, Dominican Republic and now living in Brooklyn, N.Y, Mendez originally won the IBF super featherweight title with a knockout victory over Juan Carlos Salgado back in 2013.
“This fight is do or die for me to become champion again,” said Mendez. “Anthony Peterson ran from me in our fight in March, so if Heraldez does that on May 18, I will be better prepared. If he stands and fights with me, I feel strongly that I will dominate him and make a statement to everyone that I’m an elite 140-pound fighter.”