It took nearly 1,000 punches, but Gary Russell Jr. successfully defended his WBC featherweight title.
In the first of two world title fights taking place on a split-site Showtime Championship Boxing telecast, Russell retained the WBC title with a unanimous decision win over Joseph Diaz (115-113, 117-111, 117-111).
The fight started with Russell throwing punches nonstop in the first four minutes of the bout. Russell’s jab overwhelmed Diaz, who has not faced a boxer that possessed the same level of hand speed as Russell. Diaz was able to work the body with his left hook and even mounted some pressure to Russell, but was unable to keep up the pace for 12 rounds unlike the WBC champion.
Russell relentlessly used the jab to force Diaz to play defense throughout most of the fight. Diaz did catch Russell off balance in the 11th and 12th rounds, but was unable to put away Russell and by then, it was too late to win on the scorecards.
According to ShoStats, Russell threw a total of 992 punches, connecting only 199 of those punches while Diaz connected on 192 of 491 total punches. In a post-fight interview with Showtime, Russell said he was not satisfied with his performance, grading himself somewhere between a C- and a C+.
"I was disappointed in my performance because I wasn't planning on going the distance. I hurt the right hand, but I still had to use it, because he could not get past my jab," Russell said.
This was Russell’s fourth fight since the start of 2015, all of them world title fights. The decision win also snapped Russell’s three-fight knockout streak, having not fought farther than the seventh round in those three fights. Russell’s future plan is to eventually unify featherweight titles and has an eye on the June 9 WBA featherweight title bout between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares.