The mission remains the same for Gary Antuanne Russell.

A dangerous assignment awaits the unbeaten junior welterweight, who next faces former two-division titlist Rances Barthelemy. The bout serves as part of a July 30 Showtime tripleheader from Barclays Center in Brooklyn, confirmed mere days after Russell’s father, Gary Russell Sr. passed away on May 23 shortly after celebrating his 63rd birthday.

The family patriarch served as the head trainer for all of the boxing Russell brothers, including pros Gary Jr., Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne. The fight with Barthelemy will be the first for anyone without their father in the corner, though further driving the 26-year-old southpaw to proceed with the goal of becoming a junior welterweight champion.  

“We have to keep going forward, period,” Russell pointed out to and other reporters during a recent media conference call to discuss the July 30 event. “We can’t take a step back. Because that would make all the sacrifices we’ve made and that our father made, be in vain. We can’t go backward.

“As far as training, we’re busting our tails as usual. As far as our training methods, nothing is different. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We’re trying to do everything as close to usual as possible. The only difference is my dad’s voice and foul language aren’t here for inspiration. We have to work with what he left us and keep sharpening our tools.”

The presence of the Russell brothers at ringside whenever one fights has become commonplace throughout their respective pro careers. Former longtime WBC featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr. has often taken the lead during fight week activities involving Gary Antuanne Russell (15-0, 15KOs) and bantamweight contender Gary Antonio Russell (19-0-1, 12KOs) with the elder Russell guiding the ship on fight night.

It became increasingly difficult for their father to maintain that role, battling years of health issues and even having his left foot amputated last December. He was bound to a wheelchair while present for Gary Russell Jr’s 12-round defeat to Mark Magsayo in January and Gary Antuanne Russell’s tenth-round stoppage of former WBC junior welterweight titlist Viktor Postol on February 26. The win saw the 140-pound contender extend his perfect run of having stopped each of his 15 pro opponents to date, with the expectation of soon challenging for his first major title.

That goal will be carried out by Russell to the best of his ability even without his father’s presence. The next step comes against his second straight former titlist in Barthelemy (29-1-1, 15KOs; 1NC), a 36-year-old Las Vegas-based Cuban who won titles in the 130- and 135-pound divisions.

In the meantime, each fight and win in the ring will continue to serve as a tribute to the legend who made it all possible for one of boxing’s proudest boxing families.

“My father cornered the market when it came to a lot of this, not just in boxing, but as a leader and a teacher,” noted Russell. “We don’t want anything he did to go in vain. We want to keep this legacy going on. He knew what he was doing with this machinery and with our legacy.

“He gave us a cerebral insight on not just the world, but boxing. We’re going to take it and run with it at this point. Life has a road that demands not just excelling, but evolution. That’s part of life. We’re going to carry this legacy and information and build off this foundation he left for us.

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox

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