Beating Christopher Martin was one thing, but Gary Russell, Jr. wasn’t fully able to get over his disappointing loss to Vasyl Lomachenko last June.
The opportunity to capture a world title slipped through his hands and the Maryland native suffered the first loss of his career. The Martin win was a mere stepping stone for Russell, who was given a second crack at a world title Saturday night in Las Vegas.
Russell made sure he wouldn’t slip up this time.
Jhonny Gonzalez had been on a tear, knocking out 14 of his last 18 opponents, the highlight being the first round drubbing of Abner Mares. Gonzalez had been riding high and many figured he’d be too experienced, too tough for Russell to knock off. As it turned out, Gonzalez had nothing for Russell and was soundly beaten within four rounds.
Russell picked apart his Mexican counterpart from the outside with blistering hand speed and Gatlin gun-like jabs. His offense disallowed Gonzalez to get into any sort of rhythm and Russell was in complete control. However, once Gonzalez seemed to be inching a little closer on the inside where he could unleash his hellish punching power, Russell made sure that never came to fruition.
Gonzalez backed the American up along the ropes but when he tried to unfurl his vaunted left hand, Russell cracked him with a left and then followed it up with a right hook.
Gonzalez stumbled forward and then back onto the seat of his trunks. He was badly wobbled but by the time he climbed back to his feet, the bell sounded to end the third frame.
Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KOs) was still woozy in the fourth and Russell never gave him a chance to clear his head. Russell swarmed his foe with a dizzying array of punches, felling the Mexico City veteran again. Up again and stumbling around, referee Tony Weeks allowed him to continue, but Russell unloaded everything in his arsenal, dropping him. Weeks immediately waived it off, awarding Russell Gonzalez’ WBC featherweight title in the process. The official time of the TKO came just 37 seconds into the fourth, virtually exorcizing the demons of the Lomachenko loss in the process.
“I don’t think he ever recovered from the first knockdown,” Russell reflected immediately following his triumph. “My father told me to get on him and I did.”
Russell, who improved to 26-1 with his 15th career knockout, intimated that he covets another crack at Lomachenko, though he stated that it’s back to the drawing board. He’ll be back in the gym on Monday, he said, and needs to get better.
In the co-main event, junior middleweight contender Jermell Charlo kept his unbeaten professional ledger intact with a hard-fought close unanimous decision win over the tough Vanes Martirosyan. Charlo used super footwork and clever jabs to eke out the majority of the rounds, all of which were about as close as they come.
Martirosyan seemed to dominate early with a vicious body assault, but once he stopped going to the guts, Charlo crept back into the fight and picked the Armenian-American apart from the outside. Charlo, who hails from Houston, had done just enough over the course of ten rounds to be awarded the decision via tallies of 96-94 (twice) and 97-93. Sherdog.com also had it 96-94 for Charlo, who improved to 26-0 with 11 KOs. Martirosyan, who protested the loss, fell to 35-2-1 with 21 KOs.
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