Featherweight star Gary Russell Jr. retained his WBC title at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, MD tonight by beating down game challenger Oscar Escandon of Colombia over 7 heated rounds.
Headlining a Showtime card for his second defense of the title he won in 2015, Russell started slow but ended up laying a beating on Escandon (25-3, 17 KO) for a good portion of the fight. Russell's speed was the major difference throughout the scuffle, as he landed flush combinations and hard jabs all evening. Escandon, never one to lay down, made a heck of a fight out of it, landing hard shots to the body early and finding Russell's chin with a few haymakers. Both men went straight to the body for rounds 2 and 3, landing thudding shots repeatedly.
The third round saw Russell catch his foe with a right hook that had Escandon on the mat and in major trouble. The hometown American followed up the hard shot with a barrage and managed to later land a hard left and two right hooks that became a consistent theme throughout the round. Rounds 4 and 5 saw more of the same, with the champ digging into the body and slipping most of the offense that was being thrown his way. Escandon gets warned for a low blow in the sixth, however Russell returns with a flurry that stuns his counterpart and finished the round with a flurry.
As the seventh stanza began, Russell entered the middle of the ring and threw a few brutal combinations that had the referee on alert. A massive right hook had the Colombian in awful shape, as he staggered and fell back against the ropes. The referee took the opportunity to step in and wave off the bout at 0:59 of the 7th round. The stoppage may have come a little early, but Russell Jr. was starting to take complete control of the fight and laying a beating on the challenger.
While Russell did not look amazing against a lesser opponent, he showed he still has incredible speed and can be a major player at 126 or slightly above. While some have mentioned a rematch with Lomachenko, it appears the plethora of other featherweights may be a more enticing fight and easily made. Santa Cruz, Frampton, Valdez, Mares, or Selby would make for incredibly exciting fights and style matchups.
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