Photo Credit: Esther Lin/SHOWTIME
Gary Russell Jr. proved that ‘speed kills’ by stopping Jhonny Gonzalez in dramatic fashion on Saturday night at the The Pearl at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas to walk away with the WBC World featherweight title.
The end came early in the fourth installment of the bout, after Gonzalez had already suffered a first knockdown courtesy of a Russell right hook in the third round, and a another knockdown at the beginning of the fourth round. Throughout the short-lived encounter, Russell’s footwork, handspeed, and power were too much for Gonzalez and the brawling veteran was hardly able to get off with any meaningful shots of his own.
“I don’t feel [Gonzalez] really recovered from the first knockdown,” Russell told Showtime’s Jim Gray after the fight. “My father told me to still maintain composure; stay off the jab; close the distance. He wanted me to punch in three’s and four’s.”
The first two rounds came and went uneventfully and seemed to indicate a tactical and cautious matchup. But by midway into the third round, Russell’s speed advantage was apparent, and it wasn’t long before the fight was abruptly ended in the fourth when Russell hurt Gonzalez with a sloppy combination and ref Tony Weeks had seen enough.
ShoStats had Russell landing 59 of 172 shots thrown; Gonzalez landed only 14 out of 115.
“We were never in this to turn it into a track meet,’’ Russell said. “We were going to stand right in the pocket. We know what Gonzalez likes to do, and that’s throw the wide left hook. I tried to bait him into throwing it and he did.”
Jhonny Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KOs) was previously in action stopping veteran Jorge Arce. Prior to the Arce bout, 33-year-old Gonzalez had dispatched undefeated warrior Clive Atwell and poleaxed world champion Abner Mares to walk away with the WBC World featherweight belt that will be on the line March 28.
Russell (26-1, with 15 KOs) came into the fight having outpointed Christopher Martin in December of last year. Previous to that bout, Russell had tasted his first career-defeat at the hands of featherweight phenom Vasyl Lomachenko.
With the victory, and the title win, Russell successfully puts to his career back on track after his loss to Lomachenko and sets himself for high profile future encounters.
Gonzalez, after 65 pro fights, appeared to have lost his much of his resilience and speed. Dropping the WBC belt, and losing the fight to Russell, will mean a fall in the rankings for former two-division world champion Gonzalez, and the Mexico City warrior will have to consider if his next move is retirement.
On the co-feature, Jermell Charlo beat Vanes Martirosyan by unanimous decision.
Jhonny Gonzalez vs. Gary Russell Jr (scores are not official)
Round 1: Russell wears red, Gonzalez in gold and black trunks. Russell fights out of a southpaw stance. They meet in the middle of the ring and begin vying and measuring. Russell threatening with speed. Throwing jabs. Gonzalez watches. A feeling out round. 10-9 Russell
Round 2: Meet in the middle of the ring again. Russell measuring, pumping the jab, but not landing. Gonzalez keeps watching, not throwing. Left hook Gonzalez. Misses. They tie up. Back at vying and observing. Another low action round. 20-18 Russell.
Round 3: They meet, Russell with left. Gonzalez unable to catch Russell. Russell lands with combination. Jab, jab Russell. Big right hook from Russell. Russell stalking. Right from Russell KNOCKS DOWN Gonzalez. End of round. Russell in control, Gonzalez chasing. 30-26 Russell.
Round 4: Russell attacks. Gonzalez KNOCKED DOWN AGAIN! Ref waves the fight off. BALL GAME OVER! RUSSELL WINS!