NATIONAL HARBOR, MD. (May 20, 2017) - WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. made his second defense of his title when he faced top challenger Oscar Escandon on Saturday, May 20 in the main event of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING at the recently opened MGM National Harbor in Maryland live on SHOWTIME.
The Maryland-native Russell Jr. (27-1, 16 KOs) and the WBC Interim Featherweight Champion Escandon (25-2, 17 KOs) battled in an exciting feature bout that brought the local crowd of 2,345 to their feet on several occasions. Leading up to the fight, the speedy and talented Russell Jr., was impressive in his fourth-round stoppage of the battle-tested Jhonny Gonzalez that earned him the title in March 2015. The 2008 U.S. Olympian had also scored important victories over Vyacheslav Gusev, Juan Ruiz and Miguel Tamayo before losing a majority decision to Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBO 126-pound title in June 2014. The southpaw, of Capitol Heights, Md., also scored a dominant second-round TKO victory over Patrick Hyland in his first title defense in April 2016.
Fighting out of Ibague, Colombia, Escandon turned pro in 2008 and was undefeated in his first 22 professional bouts. Escandon won an interim world title at super bantamweight in 2014 when he defeated Tyson Cave in his U.S. debut. He earned his shot at Russell Jr. last March when he survived an early knockdown to score a knockout victory over Robinson Castellanos in the seventh round of their showdown in Washington, D.C.
Russell Jr. came out on fire in Round 1 putting is speed on display in the form of lightning combinations to the body and head of Escandon. Mid-way through the fight Escandon was hurt badly, knocked down and wobbled several times but refused to go down to the furious power punches by Russell, Jr. By Round 6, the writing was on the wall, Escandon had picked up his output a bit but continued to take heavy punishment from Russell Jr., who was making only slight footwork adjustments to set-up the angles for some crushing upper cuts. Russell Jr. was pitching a shut-out and by time Round 7 got started the accumulation of punches had taken their toll on Escandon. He was sent to the ropes behind steady combinations from Russell, Jr. when referee, Harvey Dock stepped in the end the contest at 59 seconds in the 7th round. Russell commented 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."
The other fireworks of the evening were brought out by top 168-pound contenders Andre Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs) out of Flint, Michigan and Jose Uzcategui (26-1, 22 KOs) fighting out of Baja California, Mexico. The two met for the IBF Super Middleweight World Championship.
33- year old Andre Dirrell said all the right things at the final press conference leading to the event. “My opponent is a fantastic fighter. If anyone should be in line for a title it’s this guy. He has the the power and he has the skill. I just believe he’s up against a better and tougher opponent."
But when the bell rang on Saturday night, Jose Uzcategui let his hands make up for his limited English speaking skills. Dirrell was pressured throughout the fight and was usually fighting off the ropes or just beyond the skirt for most of the duration. Uzcategui hurt Dirrell early with under 40 seconds left in the 2nd, placing him on wobble street just before the end of the round. The power advantage was clear and Dirrell was looking to avoid Uzcategui's power shots for the remainder of the fight while looking to counter when he could.
The controversy began at the end of the 8th round when Uzcategui knocked out Dirrell at the end of a multi-punch combination just after the bell rang ending the round. Dirrell did what any fighter who was clearly losing the fight up to that point would have done. He stayed down. Referee Bill Clancy, disqualified Uzcategui and declared Dirrell the winner. This triggered a ringside fracas which turned into pandemonium as Leon Lawson, Jr., Dirrell's uncle and trainer made his way to Uzcategui's corner and sucker-punched Uzcategui with a barehanded left hook. Dirrell's uncle wasn't any more successful with taking Uzcategui down than his nephew was though, as Uzcategui stood firmly rooted and instinctively brought his hands up to protect himself.
Local county police and security personnel eventually restored order to the ring and the night proceeded incident free. But it was a vivid statement to local boxing fans that professional boxing with all its glory and sometimes warts, has come to D.C.
Full results for Showtime Championship Boxing: Russell Jr. vs. Oscar Escandon can be found here.
About the Author:
Darryl Keeton is an avid striking, grappling and wrestling fan living in Upper Marlboro, MD. He holds a black belt in ITF Tae Kwon Do with additional training in Combat Jujutsu, Boxing and Muay Thai.