Gary Rus­sell Jr. de­fends ti­tle in event­ful night at MGM Na­tional Har­bor.

Fighter is cor­ner man for broth­ers’ wins be­fore own vic­tory

The Washington Post Sunday - - SPORTS - BY GENE WANG­

Even when he was to de­fend his feath­er­weight ti­tle later Satur­day evening, Capi­tol Heights boxer Gary Rus­sell Jr. placed fam­ily first, serv­ing as a cor­ner man for un­der­card bouts in­volv­ing two younger broth­ers at MGM Na­tional Har­bor.

Both vic­to­ri­ous sib­lings then wit­nessed first­hand Rus­sell Jr.’s main event against Os­car Es­can­don in the home­town de­but of the World Box­ing Coun­cil cham­pion who had, by his own stip­u­la­tion, waited un­til he owned a ma­jor belt be­fore fight­ing lo­cally.

Rus­sell Jr. made it a clean sweep for the fam­ily with a sev­enth-round tech­ni­cal knock­out, leav­ing the bois­ter­ous home­town faith­ful to chant “Ga-ry! Ga-ry! Ga-ry!” and pro­vid­ing trainer Gary Rus­sell Sr., the pa­tri­arch of the fight­ing Rus­sells, a proper cel­e­bra­tion on his birth­day.

Ref­eree Har­vey Dock halted the fight at 59 sec­onds in Round 7 af­ter Rus­sell Jr. con­nected with a vi­cious right to the tem­ple and an­other straight right that sent his op­po­nent to the mat for a sec­ond and fi­nal time. As ring an­nouncer Jimmy Len­non Jr. read the of­fi­cial re­sult, fans ring­side be­gan ser­e­nad­ing Rus­sell Sr. with ren­di­tions of “Happy Birth­day.”

“First and fore­most, I got to say happy birth­day to my fa­ther,” said Rus­sell Jr., fight­ing for the first time in more than a year be­cause a train­ing-camp in­jury to Es­can­don forced a post­pone­ment from the orig­i­nal date of March 11. “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.”

In front of an an­nounced crowd of 2,345, Rus­sell Jr. (28-1, 17 knock­outs) kept the fight in close quar­ters in the early go­ing, a strat­egy that reaped sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fits by Round 3. Af­ter work­ing the jab, Rus­sell Jr. un­loaded mul­ti­ple com­bi­na­tions that in­cluded an up­per­cut that dropped Es­can­don to one knee in the cen­ter of the ring.

Es­can­don (25-3, 17 KOs) got up but never re­gained his bear­ings, with Rus­sell Jr., 28, con­tin­u­ing to ad­min­is­ter se­vere pun­ish­ment.

That Es­can­don re­mained up­right for the rest of the round was a feat unto it­self. But the bar­rage also left Rus­sell Jr. some­what fa­tigued from the heavy vol­ume of punches, lead­ing to more stalk­ing than land­ing con­sis­tently through the fifth and sixth rounds.

“I’m ec­static,” Rus­sell Sr. said. “I’m re­ally happy. I got three wins. Three stop­pages. It’s my birth­day. I’m 15 min­utes from home, and I can go home and re­lax.”

The at­mos­phere be­fore the main event had turned un­ruly when an al­ter­ca­tion be­tween fans un­folded in the first few rows dur­ing An­dre Dir­rell’s In­ter­na­tional Box­ing Fed­er­a­tion su­per mid­dleweight ti­tle bout against Jose Uz­categui. The Venezue­lan chal­lenger landed a blow to the chin that dropped the in­terim cham­pion just at the bell to end Round 8, leav­ing Dir­rell on his back.

Af­ter Dir­rell sat up and moved to his cor­ner, he was awarded the win via dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion when ref­eree Bill Clancy de­ter­mined the punch came af­ter the bell. Mo­ments later, Dir­rell trainer and un­cle Leon Law­son Jr. charged Uz­categui, swung at him and con­nected be­fore ring of­fi­cials in­ter­vened.

Ac­cord­ing to the Show­time broad­cast, Prince Ge­orge’s County po­lice were seek­ing to ques­tion Law­son but could not lo­cate him in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the fra­cas.

“I want to apol­o­gize for the glad­i­a­tors,” Rus­sell Jr. said. “The glad­i­a­tors are war­riors. The Dir­rell camp, some­times emo­tions build up and take the best of us. Please for­give them.”

In the third un­der­card bout, un­de­feated su­per ban­tamweight Gary An­to­nio Rus­sell faced lit­tle re­sis­tance from Jo­vany Fuentes on the way to a third-round TKO. Gary An­toinio, 24, scored knock­downs in the sec­ond round with a straight right and in the third with a left hook.

The sec­ond of those knock­downs prompted Fuentes’s cor­ner to stop the fight 22 sec­onds into Round 3, run­ning Gary An­to­nio’s record to 8-0 (six KOs) in his first bout this year. It marked the fourth time in five fights that Gary An­to­nio has won by knock­out.

“We cap­i­tal­ized on ev­ery­thing we worked on in the gym,” he said. “There was never any pres­sure be­cause we didn’t mag­nify the fight just be­cause it was at home. We treat ev­ery fight like a cham­pi­onship fight.”

Gary An­tu­anne, 20, was the first Rus­sell sib­ling to en­ter the ring dur­ing the early por­tion of the un­der­card. Rus­sell Jr. helped Gary An­tu­anne re­move his robe dur­ing in­tro­duc­tions and pro­ceeded to watch the youngest Rus­sell brother dis­man­tle chal­lenger Joshua Ross via first-round TKO.

Gary An­tu­anne sent Ross to the mat three times in the su­per light­weight fight be­fore Clancy halted the pro­ceed­ings.

“I lis­tened, I fol­lowed in­struc­tions, and it led me to a fast vic­tory,” Gary An­tu­anne said. “I wish it would have lasted longer. I was look­ing for­ward to it be­ing more ex­cit­ing.”


Gary Rus­sell Jr., right, de­fends his ti­tle against Os­car Es­can­don on Satur­day at MGM Na­tional Har­bor.

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