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The Cold Hard Truth: On Sports

Gary Russell Jr. retains WBC title over Oscar Escandon

Gary Russell Jr. retains WBC title over Oscar Escandon

By James Bell

@boxingsource2

It was an eventful night at the MGM National Harbor as featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. defended his title against Oscar Escandon. This was Russell’s second defense of the title and his first professional fight near his hometown of Capitol Heights, Maryland. He wanted to put on a show for the crowd that came out to see him, and there were various instances where he was doing just that. In the early rounds, he showcased his speed and a bit of his power and Escandon couldn’t keep up with it as Russell scored a knockdown in the third round. After that knockdown it seemed like Russell was controlling the pace and attempted to look for more openings in the next few rounds. While he was doing that, Escandon was trying to get back into the fight with an effort of his own.

Russell using his range against Escandon as referee Harvey Dock looks on (Photo by James Bell)

Between rounds 4 and 6 there were times when Escandon was able to get to Russell, but the defending WBC featherweight champion took the punches and responded back. In close quarters Russell was able to score well with uppercuts, and by the 7th round it looked like Escandon was taking a lot of punishment. After a set of punches by Russell made Escandon look dizzy and back to the ropes, referee Harvey Dock put a halt to the bout 58 seconds into Round 7. Gary Jr. was able to retain the WBC featherweight title and move to 28-1 while scoring the 17th knockout of his career. Oscar Escandon, who was the interim champion coming into the fight, goes down to 25-3.

Russell lands with a left on Escandon (Photo by James Bell)

It looked like both fighters wanted to shake off their ring rust early, as both fighters had not fought in over 13 months. In the first few rounds Russell threw an average of 85 punches per round while Escandon threw an average of 82 punches. Russell’s height was a factor because he was able to keep away from Escandon on many occasions during the fight as Oscar tried to touch him up when the fight got past Round 3. On two occasions Escandon threw over 100 punches in a round, but only connected on 20% of those punches. Russell was more successful, connecting at around 37% from Round 4 to Round 6. Overall, Russell outlanded Escandon 198 to 108 in total punches and that included 180 power shots by Gary Russell Jr.

After the fight, Russell wanted to thank the fans that came out to support. The crowd of 2,345 was very vocal during the bout as they yelled chants of “Gary! Gary!” and “DC!” as he was one of their own. It was also a special day for him as his father (Gary Sr.) celebrated his birthday on that day.

“First and foremost, I got to say happy birthday to my father. Secondly, I’d like to tell all the fans that came to support me: I love you all. Thank you.” Gary Jr. stated when he was interviewed after the fight. “I fought a tough competitor. 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.”

Gary Russell Jr. looks to the crowd after stopping Oscar Escandon. (Photo by James Bell)

He also mentioned what he is looking for in reference to potential opponents. As he is the WBC featherweight champion, he wants to prove himself against the other champions to see who is the best in the division. “I’d love to unify against all the other guys in the featherweight division. I’d like Leo Santa Cruz, Lee Selby, Oscar Valdez.” There was one other fighter that he mentioned, and that was the one who gave him his lone pro loss: Vasyl Lomachenko. Russell’s mission is to avenge that loss and force a trilogy between the two.

“Lomachenko, that’s a no-brainer. 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.”

As for Oscar Escandon, he came into the fight expecting what Russell would do in the ring, but didn’t make the adjustments to get an advantage. He had a strategy but it didn’t work out for him.

“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. It didn’t work unfortunately. I was getting my rhythm going and I felt like Gary was getting tired. I didn’t see him coming with the big punch he threw at the end  and that was it. I went down and was hoping to get a 10 count but the referee didn’t give it to me and he stopped the fight,” were Escandon’s quotes after the fight ended. “Now we need to go back to the drawing board to rest and see what my manager has planned for me.”

Gary Russell’s father was smiling a lot after the fight was over. His birthday was extra special as not only did Gary Russell Jr. win by knockout, but Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne Russell also won by knockout earlier in that card.

“I’m ecstatic. I’m really happy. I got three wins. Three stoppages. It’s my birthday. I’m 15 minutes from home and I can go home and relax.”

Photos taken by James Bell for The Boxing Source
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Gary Russell Jr. retains WBC title over Oscar Escandon
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Gary Russell Jr. retains WBC title over Oscar Escandon

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