On Saturday, May 20, 2017, live from the MGM National Harbor, “Mr.” Gary Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) put on a crowd-pleasing performance as he defended his WBC Featherweight world title with a seventh-round stoppage over the outmatched No. 1 title contender, Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs).
The fight headlined a televised tripleheader on Showtime Championship Boxing, which included Rances Barthelemy vs. Kiryl Relikh and Andre Dirrell vs. Jose Uzcátegui.
While the three fights were all entertaining in their own right, the co-main event between Dirrell and Uzcátegui stole the show for all the wrong reasons.
Read on for three observations from a lively night at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD.
Gary Russell Jr. entered the ring against Oscar Escandon not having fought in over a year, but he picked up right where he left off against Patrick Hyland in April of 2016.
Although Escandon hadn’t fought in over a year as well, it doesn’t diminish the fact that Russell Jr. was quick, sharp and powerful.
Tack on the added pressure of fighting at home for the first time as a professional and you have to be impressed with Russell Jr.’s performance against the mandatory challenger for his WBC title.
Escandon looked outgunned from the very beginning and it just proved the age-old adage–there’s levels to this!
So what’s next for Russell Jr.? You have to hope that he doesn’t have another year-long layoff, because it’s obvious that he’s a special talent.
In speaking with Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight, Russell Jr. was adamant about one thing–he wants Vasyl Lomachenko, twice!
“I want Lomachenko [next], 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,” said Russell Jr.
Aside from Lomachenko, there are tons of fighters within the Al Haymon wheelhouse that would present excellent fights for Russell Jr.–including Abner Mares, Carl Frampton, Leo Santa Cruz and Lee Selby.
Sign me up for any of those.
Skipping School and Breaking the Rules
Rances Barthelemy got all he could handle from Kiryl Relikh on Saturday night.
Although it was a hard-fought battle, most ringside observers–including yours truly–felt that Barthelemy got the well-deserved win.
Fans in the crowd and social media warriors seemed to think Relikh was “robbed”–I didn’t see that, though.
But, we’re not here to argue the decision. What was most intriguing in watching Barthelemy was his blend of technical skill and a desire to get into a toe-to-toe brawl.
Barthelemy spoke with Round By Round Boxing after the fight and broke down why he fights the way he does.
“My style comes from the desire to prove the critics of the Cuban school of boxing wrong,” said Barthelemy. “People say the Cuban style is boring, that we’re runners and that we don’t give spectacles. I want to show that Cuban’s have balls and that we can also hustle and fight.”
Like Barthelemy, we’ve certainly heard the criticisms about the Cuban school, but “Kid Blast’s” style breaks conventional wisdom.
Someone who wasn’t impressed with Barthelemy was Adrien Broner, who took to social media to mock Barthelemy.
Again, sign me up for that one.
Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcátegui put on an exciting fight for the better part of eight rounds–that is until we got a Dirrell vs. Arthur Abraham flashback and all hell broke loose at the MGM National Harbor.
Referee Bill Clancy ruled that Uzcátegui hit Dirrell after the bell, which most people agreed with (although some on Instagram were totally against the ruling) and disqualified him.
What unraveled after the punch was a product of high tensions and probably a touch of déjà vu for Team Dirrell.
For those who aren’t familiar with Dirrell vs. Abraham, you can watch a clip here of the blow that Abraham landed on Dirrell that caused him to be disqualified.
Similar to his reaction after the Abraham fight, Dirrell was frustrated with the way he officially won the fight.
“I forgive Uzcátegui. 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,” said Dirrell.
Dirrell’s uncle was not as forgiving. Following the decision to disqualify Uzcátegui, Dirrell’s trainer and uncle Leon Lawson punched an unsuspecting Uzcátegui in the corner.
The crowd, which was already fired up from a brief altercation involving Anthony Dirrell, was not pleased with the replays that showed Uzcátegui hitting Dirrell as the round ended–even though there was no sound on the replay.
“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,” said Dirrell.
Although Dirrell pleaded for his uncle to be forgiven, the Prince George’s County Police are taking things into their own hands.
Of course, Lawson’s actions weren’t okay, but in a “sport” like boxing, a series of shots after the bell could be the end of a fighters career–or even worse, their life.
Lawson let his emotions get the best of him and there should certainly be consequences for his actions.
Alejandro "Alex" Burgos is a former Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Round By Round Boxing. He is a professional blogger, SEO Consultant and Marketing Director at Capital Practice Consulting in Washington, DC.