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Gary Russell Jr. stops Jhonny Gonzalez in four, wins WBC featherweight title

28
Mar
Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Gary Russell Jr. said he would be faster and stronger against featherweight beltholder Jhonny Gonzalez than he was during his failed first title shot against Vasyl Lomachenko last year, and the southpaw speed demon was true to his word, dropping the Mexican veteran three times en route to a fourth-round stoppage on Saturday in Las Vegas to claim the WBC title.

Against Lomachenko, a marvelously talented amateur great, Russell claimed that working with a new strength and conditioning coach caused him to come into fight week heavy and taking off the excess weight led to a flat performance in the biggest pro bout of his career. Skeptical fans and members of the boxing media didn’t believe him. They figured he took an easy road to the world title by not fighting ranked contenders and was not ready to face a fellow stud after feasting on soft opposition for so long.

Regardless of what you believe led to Russell’s disappointing performance against Lomachenko, one thing everyone can agree on is the 2008 U.S. Olympian’s elite-level speed and talent, which was on display at The Palms on Saturday. (And facing a much-slower, battle-worn puncher certainly played into his athletic attributes.)

Russell (26-1, 14 knockouts), a 26-year-old Washington D.C. native, was in charge from the opening bell, shooting rapid-fire jabs and one-two combinations to Gonzalez’s head and body. Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KOs), a 33-year-old former bantamweight titleholder who won the WBC 126-pound belt with a shocking first-round KO of Abner Mares in 2013, was game but unable to time Russell with his jab, straight right or vaunted left hook.



Russell increased his pressure and aggression in Round 3, committing more to his offense before Gonzalez momentarily backed him off with a few body shots. However Russell’s gamble paid off by the end of the round as a more-active Gonzalez was open for his right hook, which produced a knockdown just before the bell.

Gonzalez never fully recovered. Two knockdowns and 37 seconds into Round 4 referee Tony Weeks saved the Mexico City resident from any more punishment.

“We put the work in in the gym,” Russell said during his post-fight interview (after giving his trainer and father Gary Russell Sr. credit for making him the fighter he is today). “For all the young fighters coming up, never come into a fight doubting yourself, put the work in at the gym. We were 100 percent prepared for this bout.”

Russell says he will stay ready for the very deep featherweight division, which includes Nicholas Walters, Mares, and Lomachenko.

“I’m back in the gym on Monday,” he said. “We’re definitely looking to get Lomachenko again.”

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