Story by: Robert Uzzell
There was plenty of action on Saturday night from the MGM National Harbor as Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) defended his WBC World featherweight against Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs).
I thought Gary Russell did what he should have done, which was win. However, he needs to be much more active than he has been of late. If you watch the fight closely, you see that Russell was hit with shots that a fighter of his talent should not allow from a guy a few levels lower.
Gary Russell has extremely fast hands. Everyone knows that to be true. However, boxing is more than just hand speed. You heard it here first- if Gary doesn’t stay more active and steps up to fight guys like Leo Santa Cruz or Carl Frampton he loses. I’m not even going to bring up the real fight he’s clamoring for, which is a rematch with Vasyl Lomachenko. If he takes that based on what I saw Saturday night, he lose worse than he did the first time.
My recommendations is for Gary to try to fight 2 to 3 more times in 2017. At this point, I don’t think it will happen. Gary seems to be lost in the mix. I don’t think he is big enough or powerful enough to make a move up and make significant noise. To be real, I’m torn on what he should do next. I truly believe he’s being set up for a fall if he takes on anybody in the top 5 at this point. We shall see.
The second Russell of the trio, Gary “Antonio” Russell moved to 8-0, 6 KOs as he walked through Jovany Fuentes (7-9, 6 KOs). Russell scored knockdowns in the second and third. A left hook on the temple ended Fuentes’s night.
Gary Antonio Russell:
“We capitalized on everything we worked on in the gym. We knew he favored his right hook so I would walk to it to try to get him to throw it and he wasn’t really doing it. I just knew I needed to touch and fire and that is exactly what I did.
“There was never any extra pressure because we didn’t magnify this fight just because it was at home. We treat every fight like a championship fight.
“The Russells are two for two, but personally I think we are already three for three…that’s what’s expected tonight.”
Gary Antuanne Russell, (1-0 1 KO) won his pro debut over Josh Ross (2-4-4). Russell cornered Ross against the ropes and landed a body shot to drop him. Ross took an eight count and got up. Russell jumped on him again and stopped him with what appeared to be a double right hook to the head.
“I listened, I followed instructions and it led me to a fast victory. I wish it would have lasted longer. I was looking forward to it being more exciting.
“I wasn’t expecting it to be so short. We trained and sparred for twelve rounds, as if I was a professional before my debut and that’s what I was prepared to do – go the distance. But I executed what my father told me to and I got that quick victory.”
In the televised opener, Rances Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs) won a 12-round unanimous decision over valiant Kiryl Relikh, (25-3, 16 KOs). The first few rounds featured fantastic flurries from both guys and it was heating up to be the fight of the night.
Barthelemy landed what the referee deemed to be a low blow. After a timeout, the fighters were back to action and Relikh tried to take his anger out of Barthelemy.
Relikh went on the attack in the 5th round and shook Barthelemy badly and into the ropes. The referee ruled a knockdown and Barthelemy finished the round on unsteady legs. Relikh went in for the kill but couldn’t finish.
Barthelemy recovered in the next round and out boxed Relikh the rest of the way, scoring a body shot knockdown in the 8th round.
“It feels great to be going forward. The 11-month layoff really took a toll on my body and I felt it in the ring.
“I knew it was a close fight but knew I should get a unanimous decision.
“Relikh was a hard hitter. He surprised me with a right hook in the 5th round and I hit the canvas, so I knew I had to be careful going forward. I knew I had lost that round and had to come back stronger.
“I took the sixth round to take a breather and then I came back to work the body. Once I knocked him down, I saw that he was hurt and protecting himself upstairs a lot more so I knew I was going to have to be more strategic to come out victorious.”
“Of course I thought I won. Even TV thought I won. The referee did his job when he called it a knockdown in the fifth. I thought it was over.”
“The two low blows definitely affected me. It takes the wind out of you. This is boxing not MMA.”
The drama of the evening unfolded in the title eliminator between Andre “The Matrix” Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs) and Jose Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs).
Uzcategui came out blazing and had Dirrell reeling as early as the first round. The tough as nails Uzcategui chased Dirrell and landed vicious shots everywhere he could on Dirrell.
In the middle rounds, both fighters began to exchange, with Uzcategui seemingly getting the best of it.
Then came the 8th round!
In the closing seconds of the eight, Uzcategui landed a three punch combination to Dirrell that dropped him hard. The third punch was ever so slightly after the bell. Here is where I disagree with Bill Clancy the referee and the Maryland State Boxing Commission.
The ruling that the punch was extremely late, Dirrell couldn’t continue, and that Uzcategui should be disqualified. I disagree.
At worst, Dirrell should’ve been given a 5 minute recovery period. The referee asked Dirrell twice if he was okay and his answer was “YES”.
Then Dirrell looks to his corner and obviously was encouraged to stay down. So we go from a guy who is okay to a guy who is now unable to continue?
Okay lets say that’s the case. Then the worst thing you should do is go to the scorecards, because most would agree it was an accidental foul. If you do that Dirrell loses.
The b.s. explanation by the referee, “That’s a blatant foul. Earlier in the fight, I had warned Uzcategui. I warned him. Dirrell wins the fight, he was clearly unable to continue.”
What he said and what was heard doesn’t match.
The commission guy came in afterwards and covered for the referee by the way he stated things. Bottom line is Maryland got it wrong.
Afterwards, Dirrell’s uncle came into the ring and sucker punched Uzcategui. He’s being sought by police.
“All I remember was him [Uzcategui] throwing a shot at me at the same time the bell rang. After that everything was blurry. I remember a shot and then all went fuzzy.
“I forgive Uzcategui. I forgive his camp. I don’t want to win a championship like this. I wanted to win fair and square. But I forgive him.
“I’m sorry for what my coach has done. My coach is my family, my uncle, and he was worried. He cares for me. He loves me. Please forgive him.
“I’m going to stand up like a man. I didn’t win like I wanted to, but I’ll be back. I’m going to come back as soon as they let me.”
“I felt very good. I was hurting him the entire fight. I felt like I could hurt him anytime I wanted. Nothing he hit me with hurt me.
“I was throwing a three-punch combination and I didn’t hear the bell. I didn’t mean to hit him. The third punch wasn’t that hard of a punch. I was surprised he stayed down.
“He did the same thing against Abraham that he did against me tonight. He quit against me and he quit against him. I deserve to be the winner.”