Photo Credit: Esther Lin//Showtime
We are now less than 24 hours away from the Saturday night WBC featherweight title match between champion Jhonny Gonzalez and challenger Gary Russell Jr. Both fighters and the undercard combatants (Jermell Charlo and Vanes Martirosyan) successfully made weight without incident.
PREDICTION: I don’t have issues with the many observers picking Jhonny Gonzalez to knock out Russell. Although Gonzalez has a lot of mileage on him, the veteran has proven himself at the elite level and remains a dangerous puncher (just ask Abner Mares about that left hook). However, I’m going with Russell to finally shake the stigma of being an eternal prospect and score a clear unanimous decision. Speaking with his trainer last week, I expect Russell to play keep away in the early rounds and build a decent lead with his quicker hands and underrated footwork.
Gonzalez will touch him up at some point in the later rounds, but Russell showed enough toughness in the Lomachenko bout that I feel he can weather it. Finally, Gonzalez doesn’t have the best recent track record against southpaws. His last defeat was a 2012 eighth round technical decision to Daniel Ponce de Leon (if a fight where PDL dropped Gonzalez). And in 2009, Gonzalez was stopped in three rounds by another southpaw in Toshiaki Nishioka. RUSSELL UD
PREDICTION: This is a pick ’em fight. I’m leaning towards Martirosyan because he is more active and better at fighting inside (where I think a lot of exchanges will end up). What gives me pause is that Charlo might have a weight advantage that ends up tiring Martirosyan. If Jermell had the power of his brother Jarmall, I’d be more inclined to go with him. Without it, I see Martirosyan dragging Jermell into an attrition fight where he gets outworked. MARTIROSYAN MD