Gary Russell Jr. stood at the podium for Thursday’s final press conference at the MGM National Harbor and declared boxing is about fighters who can find a second gear. Being able to go beyond one dimension, he said, separated great fighters from the good ones.
As it turned out, Russell didn’t need a second gear — his speed was enough to overwhelm Oscar Escandon.
Russell captured a seventh round technical stoppage over Escandon Saturday to make the second defense of his World Boxing Council (WBC) featherweight title at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Russell, who grew up in Capitol Heights, stunned Escandon with a right hook to the temple, causing him to stumble back to the ropes. Russell jumped to pounce, but referee Harvey Dock intervened because of the punishment Escandon had already taken to that point.
The time of the stoppage was 59 seconds into Round 7. The win also marked the first time Russell had fought near his hometown as a professional.
“I fought a tough competitor,” Russell said. “I knew Escandon wanted to come and bring his best. I knew he was going to come forward. I was ready for him. We are warriors.”
Russell (28-1, 17 knockouts) had been largely inactive entering the fight, with Escandon being just his third bout since 2015. Furthermore, Russell had only fought six rounds over two fights, knocking out Jhonny Gonzalez in four rounds and stopping Patrick Hyland in two.
But there wasn’t any rust he needed to work through. In Round 3, Russell landed a tremendous right hook to send Escandon crashing to the canvas. Escandon got back up, but Russell spent the last half of the round battering his opponent with combinations.
Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) rarely had any successful moments throughout the fight. He plodded forward, but his 5-foot-1 frame put him at a significant disadvantage.
“I knew that Gary was going to go fast from the first to the fifth round and it was part of my strategy to let him do that and get tired,” Escandon said. “It didn’t work unfortunately.”
Russell spent the first two rounds hammering Escandon with uppercuts on the inside.
The WBC featherweight champion finished the night landing 39 percent of his punches (198 of 508). Escandon landed just 20 percent (110 of 558).
Russell wasn’t the only “Gary Russell” to have a dominant performance either.
All three Russell brothers emerged as victors on Saturday. Gary Antonio Russell (8-0, 6 KOs) had a third round stoppage 22 seconds into the round against Jovany Fuentes while Gary Antuanne Russell knocked down Joshua Ross three times to earn a first round knockout in the first victory of his career.
The three wins also gave Gary Russell Sr., the father and trainer of his sons, a nice birthday present, who turned 58 on Saturday.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m really happy,” Russell Sr. said.”I got three wins. Three stoppages. It’s my birthday. I’m 15 minutes from home and I can go home and relax.”
After, Russell thanked the fans for attending. The announced attendance was 2,345.
“Lomachenko, that’s a no-brainer,” Russell said.”I don’t want to do it for the fans or for the media, I want to do it for myself. And I want to do it twice. I’ll knock him out the first time and then, he’ll want me to fight him again.”
Lomachenko, however, moved up to 130 pounds. If he is unavailable, Russell said he would like to unify with other titleholders in the division.
Gervonta Davis comes up big in overseas win
Baltimore native Gervonta Davis went across the ocean to defend his International Boxing Federation junior lightweight title against Liam Walsh — and he prevailed with the most impressive performance of his career to date.
Davis (18-0, 17 KOs) earned a third round stoppage over Walsh, who was previously undefeated, at Copper Box Arena in London. He successfully defended his title for the first time.
“Tonight we were in the groove,” Davis said. “I think he was hurt pretty bad. The ref did his job and it was just a matter of time. I used my boxing IQ tonight and picked my shots, and when I picked my shots I got him out of there.”
Davis sent Walsh down after landing a series of explosive overhand lefts midway through the round. Davis, a southpaw,, spent the first two rounds timing the punch and it finally connected in a big way. Walsh (21-1, 14 KOs) got up after being knocked down, but Davis pounced and referee Michael Alexander stopped the fight with 49 seconds left in the round.
Fans at the MGM National Harbor watched the fight on tape delay as Showtime began its telecast.
Davis, 22, is one of the youngest titleholders in the sport. He is promoted by superstar Floyd Mayweather.
Other undercard fights
It wasn’t the best night for the Maryland Athletic Commission.
In the co-main event of the evening, super middleweight Andre Dirrell won after Jose Uzcategui was controversially disqualified for knocking Dirrell out as Round 8 ended. Direll, a former Olympian, remained on the ground for several minutes and Uzcategui was disqualified because his shots technically came after the bell.
In the aftermath, a fight broke out in the ring after Leon Lawson Jr., Dirrell’s uncle and trainer, sucker punched Uzcategui in the corner. Shortly before, a fight also broke out in the crowd, causing security to remove a man.
Before his disqualification, Uzcategui led on the scorecards 77-74, 77-75 and 76-76.
In a separate fight, super lightweight Rances Barthelemy captured a unanimous decision over Kiryl Relikh in a fight that seemed closer than the judges scored it. Barthelemy and Relikh traded knockdowns with Barthelemy being ruled down in Round 5 after the ropes held him up, while Relikh was knocked down on a body shot in Round 8.
The three judges scored the fight 116-110, 115-111 and 117-109 for Barthelemy. But each fighter had their moments throughout and Relikh landed the heavier punches. Barthelemy used his superior speed to remain competitive.
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