Photo Credit: RoundByRoundBoxing
Las Vegas, NV — Gary Russell Jr. is now a world champion. The six-year pro displayed surprising power and dropped Jhonny Gonzalez twice in route to a four round TKO at the Palm Springs Hotel. Russell has been the brunt of many jokes due to his years of sub par competition, but showed he belongs in the discussion of elite fighters in the featherweight division.
THE SOUTHPAW JINX CONTINUES: Yesterday, I picked Russell to come out on top mainly due to Gonzalez’s history of futility against southpaws. Both of his recent losses, which were mostly one-sided, came at the hands of two lefties in Daniel Ponce de Leon and Toshiaki Nishioka. But most, including myself, expected Russell to rely on his speed to cautiously outbox Gonzalez. Instead, Russell stayed in the pocket and invited exchanges (Writer’s Note: Trainer Gary Russell Sr. predicted we’d be surprised by his son’s power.). He beat Gonzalez to the punch every time and had the champion looking uncoordinated and as if he were punching underwater.
Russell made effective use of his right hook and Gonzalez was hurt bad by a knockdown at the end of the third. He was finished quickly in the opening minute of the fourth.
FROM LAUGHINGSTOCK TO MAN TO BEAT?: The Gary Russell Jr. we saw last night would beat most Top 10 featherweights. It wasn’t just his usual speed — his accuracy, offense variety, defense and footwork made for an excellent performance. Those qualities make him a favorite over guys Abner Mares Leo Santa Cruz and Evgeny Gradovich in my eyes.
However, I think Nicholas Walters, Nonito Donaire and Russell’s old friend Vasyl Lomachenko had the right mix of power and counter-punching to take Russell out. Since Rusell will likely be in line to face whomever wins the rumored fight between Mares and Santa Cruz, the new title-holder can keep busy on a PBC card this summer by facing his #1 contender Robinson Castellanos, or a “safer” option like a Christian Mijares.
JERMELL CHARLO UD10 VANES MARTIROSYAN: Jermell Charlo kept his undefeated record intact with a close but clear decision win over Vanes Martirosyan (97-93, 96-94 twice). Martirosyan took the peculiar strategy of boxing at long-range for most of the fight, which favored the longer reach and faster hands of Charlo. Nonetheless, Martirosyan’s early body work and occasional hard right hands had the fight even on my card headed into the ninth round. Charlo was a bit more active and landed the cleaner shots to sweep the final two rounds and win 96-94 on my scorecard.