30.01.06 – By Aaron King: Russell Jordan says that he’s been thinking about winning a title since day one. Until recently, it’s hard to imagine that a title was on anybody’s mind when they heard the name “Russell Jordan.” It takes a certain brand of toughness and resiliency to be a fighter. It takes a degree of arrogance that most people just don’t have. For Jordan, it’s taken even more.
Russell’s trials began in late 2002. He won his first two fights by first round knockouts and was cleanly on his way as a legitimate prospect when he headed to Washington D.C. for a contest with Jose Luis Almanzar.
“Oh yeah,” Jordan said. “I remember that.”
In truth, it’s impossible to forget. It might have been too much for a young fighter if not for Jordan’s never-say-die approach and the help of his management.
Rocky and Ralph Fratto, as well as trainer Robert Johnson also remember the night their fighter first made the trip to D.C. “Yeah, he got robbed in that fight,” Rocky said.
Jordan appeared to beat Almanzar handily, knocking him down twice. The bout was scheduled for four rounds. If you do the math, two knockdowns in a four round fight seems like a guarantee.
That’s not what happened. “You know, he knocked the guy down twice,” Rocky said, “and he lost a split-decision.”
After that, Jordan knocked out three of his next four opponents. But, he and his team went back to the scene of the crime. This time, he suffered a TKO loss to James Kirkland, which too has been called controversial. Shortly after, Russell Jordan didn’t fight for almost a year.
Before that stretch, though, there was all the reason in the world to believe that “Spiderman” might be seen hoisting a belt over his head.
“Do you know about his amateur career?” Rocky asked me. “He had 151 wins, and lost only three times. Pretty good,” he said.
With that striking record and a spot on the Olympic team as an alternate, the excitement that surrounded Russell as he first set out was understandable. “Since amateurs, he’s been in the limelight,” Ralph said.
But after such an unfortunate run and a layoff, there were serious questions about whether or not Jordan would cash in on the expectations that he helped build. One man who didn’t have any such doubt was Russell himself.
“I was good. I stayed in the gym the whole time, so there really wasn’t any drop off. I just wasn’t getting any fights.”
The Rochester, New York native began to work out of Geneva, and since, he’s begun to put his career back together in a major way. He’s won six consecutive fights, including very impressive knockouts in his last two fights.
In November 2005, Jordan beat Henry Humphrey via a fifth round TKO. He looked very impressive, but Russell had a revelation for his manager after the win. “He said he didn’t get enough work in for the fight,” Rocky said.
In his last bout, against Maximino Cuevas in December, Jordan pulled out a victory that has had some comparing him to Arturo Gatti. Through the first two rounds, Cuevas dictated the pace and out threw Jordan.
“Russell was fighting the wrong fight,” Ralph said. “He knew he could knock the guy out, and he tried, but that was the wrong way to approach the fight. I told him just to take it one round at a time.”
Trainer Robert Johnson wasn’t quite as urgent. “I’ll be honest with you. [Cuevas] couldn’t hurt him. Russell went in to knock him out, and he did,” he said.
Jordan felt the same way. The third round started much the same as the previous rounds had progressed. Cuevas was throwing more punches, but Jordan was aware of something that those in attendance didn’t see.
“He wasn’t hurting me,” he said. “I knew it was a matter of time [before I got the knockout].”
Half way through the round, Jordan stepped back and delivered a perfectly timed counter right that he had been searching for in the first two rounds. Cuevas’ legs buckled, and he lifelessly fell to his back. Cuevas got up before the ten count, but it didn’t last much longer. Jordan delivered another picturesque right hook that sent Cuevas head first into the canvas.
The paradox of Russell Jordan goes beyond the ebb and flow of his career. He is soft spoken, yet supremely confident. He is tall and thin, yet has a deadly right hook delivered from his southpaw stance.
“Russell is real tough kid. He’s very deceiving. But he can really hit,” Ralph said of his fighter.
And he is absolutely right. Jordan is the kind of fighter that would trouble any other at welterweight – very long, counters with quick and accurate hands. Oh yeah, did I mention that he can hit like hell?
Somebody else was in Washington D.C. on that night in 2002. “Lou Duva saw Russell [in D.C.],” Johnson said.
Now it is Duva’s heavily hyped prospect Oscar Diaz (23-1, 11 KOs) that will be fighting Jordan on February 24 at Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York, where Jordan won his last two fights. Diaz has become a particularly visible prospect since nationally televised wins over Al Gonzalez and Jessie Feliciano. This fight too will be a part of ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. To those who haven’t seen Russell Jordan (12-2, 8 KOs), Diaz looks like a safe bet. But don’t expect that to shake the Jordan camp.
“Diaz can’t hurt him, that’s what we think,” Johnson said without hesitation.
“[Diaz] really can’t do anything with him,” Ralph added.
Jordan and crew don’t seem to have any problem with the idea that others have. That is, that he won’t be able to beat Diaz.
Ralph said: “Duva thinks he can win. Good, we want him to think his guy can win. We know we can hurt Diaz, and I don’t think he can hurt Russell. Of course, we just gotta worry about what we can do. If you try to worry about both guys, you’re gonna lose.”
“I’m gonna watch tapes starting next week. I just have to be a lot busier. I’m gonna go after him from opening bell,” Jordan also said.
He has reason to be confident. He’s fighting in a comfortable setting and, as Jordan says, “They got me running extra miles; everything is extra. They got me doing a lot.”
He’s training like he never has before. According to Johnson, his average day looks like this: “He gets up early and runs, four miles a day. He works out at the gym, hits the bag, and does about eight rounds of shadow boxing. A lot of ropes, a lot of calisthenics.”
He’s going to need all of those extra miles to keep up with the ultra-conditioned Diaz. That may be the only thing that worries anybody in the Jordan camp, but they wouldn’t admit it even if it was.
“Russell needs to be in very good shape and use the jab. He shouldn’t have any trouble if he does that,” Ralph said.
If all goes as planned, Jordan’s plans could be looking drastically upward.
“If we beat Diaz, we want a title shot. You know, they’re both good young guys. The winner is going to want to get a title shot,” Ralph said.
They don’t just want a title fight. They want it soon.
“If he wins against Diaz, it’ll be two or three fights,” Johnson said. Jordan added: “I want the title shot. I’ve been bugging about it. I’m ready for it now. I want the top guy.” And they really mean the top guy. Ralph said with a chuckle, “Zab Judah, I think we could take him about now.”
Talk about a title shot. It looks like Russell Jordan has the chance to come full circle. Well, at least it looks that way to everyone else. To Russell Jordan, he’s right where he’s supposed to be.