Gary Russell Jr. Knocks Out Jhonny Gonzalez To Win World Title

Gary Russell Jr vs Jhonny Gonzalez

After coming close to world championship glory in 2014, Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KOs), a former United States amateur standout, delivered on his promise in impressive fashion Saturday night, knocking out defending champion Jhonny Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KOs), of Mexico City, in the fourth round in the main event of a SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING doubleheader promoted by DiBella Entertainment at The Pearl Theater at Palms Casino Resort.

 In the co-feature on SHOWTIME®, undefeated Jermell “Iron Man” Charlo (26-0, 11 KOs) of Houston, won a close, unanimous 10-round decision over Vanes Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KOs), of Glendale, Calif., in a clash of top-five ranked super welterweights. There were no knockdowns in a bout scored 97-93 and 96-94 twice.

The talented and quick-fisted southpaw Russell, who stood and exchanged with Gonzalez, utilized his overall speed to dominate. He dropped the veteran three times, once in the third and twice in the fourth before referee Tony Weeks waved off the fight 37 seconds into the round.

“This is the kind of performance I always expect but don’t always get,’’ said Russell, who lost a close 12-round decision to Vasyl Lomachenko in his initial attempt at the 126-pound crown last June 21 on SHOWTIME. “If people only knew how hard we worked for this, the time we put in the gym, the mental and physical things we work on and put ourselves through every day.

“There are always obstacles to overcome but for this fight I was 100 percent. This win is for all the people who have been with me from the beginning.’’

Russell’s strategy was to eliminate Gonzalez’ vaunted left hook, and he executed the plan to near perfection.

“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.

“Honestly, I don’t think he recovered from the first knockdown.’’

Gonzalez, a two-time WBC featherweight world champion – and a veteran of 16 world championship fights – won the title for the first time in April 2011 and made four successful title defenses before losing it in September 2012. He regained the title on a shocking first-round knockout over Abner Mares in August 2013 on SHOWTIME, and had made two more successful title defenses before falling to Russell.

Gonzalez offered no excuses before quickly exiting the ring.

“I’m OK,’’ he said. “I did not expect this kind of fight at all. We expected him to run around the ring with me chasing. But he didn’t.’’

Vanes Martirosyan vs Jermell Charlo

In the co-feature, Charlo silenced critics of his resume by defeating his toughest opponent to date.

He was surprised at the way his match with Martirosyan played out. “I definitely expected a much rougher fight,’’ he said. “This was easy compared to what I thought we were in for.

“I fought smart and when I was told to pick it up, I knew what time it was so I did. I’m absolutely ready for a shot at a world title.’’

Martirosyan, who was cut over the left eye from an accidental headbutt in the eighth round, was visibly disappointed with the result.

“I positively feel 100 percent that I won that fight,’’ he said. “I was the aggressor and forced the action. All he did was run. I landed the cleaner punches. I definitely felt I won the last round.

“I was stunned by the headbutt [that resulted in the bout being halted while he and the ringside physician discussed the cut]. Sure my left eye bothered me after that and it was blurry. But that’s no excuse.

“I felt I was hurting him. He never hurt me once. I really don’t understand this decision.’’

Earlier Saturday, on SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL, undefeated IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook (34-0, 23 KOs) overwhelmed mandatory challenger Jo Jo Dan (34-3, 18 KOs), dropping the Romanian-based Canadian four times before the one-sided beatdown was wisely halted after the fourth round at Motorpoint Arena in Sheffield, England.

Brook, of Sheffield, was making the first defense of the welterweight title he took from previously undefeated Shawn Porter last August on SHOWTIME and fighting for the first time since suffering a serious injury when he was stabbed in the thigh during a holiday on the island of Tenerife last September.

The exciting welterweight showed no ill effects from the layoff in an emotional return to the ring, registering two knockdowns in the second round, and two more in the fourth, with the final knockdown coming at the closing bell. Dan suffered the first knockout defeat of his career.

 “I’m back, baby!” said Brook, whose devastating performance against the usually durable Dan electrified the hometown fans while paving the way for a major showdown in the future.

“It was truly amazing to walk out in front of all my fans. I didn’t think I would ever walk again, much less  box again. Here I am filling arenas. I can’t put into words how much it means to be back and defending a world title. It means everything to me.

“It was hard there holding it together. But this is where I belong. The leg feels fine. The leg feels as good as the other leg. There is no problem with the leg.

“If you’re watching Amir Khan, then get in here with me. I know you’re delicate around the whiskers. I’ll take you out.’’

 

SHOWTIME SPORTS TO CHRONICLE THE MOST ANTICIPATED EVENT OF THE YEAR WITH “INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO”

Floyd Mayweather

SHOWTIME Sports® offers viewers exclusive access to Floyd “Money” Mayweather and the most anticipated event of the year with “INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO,” an intimate four-part documentary series chronicling the life of the perennial pound-for-pound champion as he navigates his collision course with Manny PacquiaoEpisode 1 premieres on Saturday, April 18 immediately following the live SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® doubleheader featuring Mexican superstar Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.    
 
INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO delivers a unique perspective of the compelling and popular Mayweather in the weeks leading up to the biggest prizefight of this generation.  In the fourth installment, Epilogue, SHOWTIME Sports focuses the distinct and Sports Emmy Award-winning spotlight on the unpredictable drama of fight week, takes viewers inside the ropes on fight night, and into the mind of the fighter in the aftermath of the bout.
 
“SHOWTIME has set itself apart with its coverage of the biggest fights in boxing and our viewers have come to expect the unique access we provide,” said Stephen Espinoza, Executive Vice President & General Manager, SHOWTIME Sports.  “INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO will not only welcome viewers into Mayweather’s camp before the fight, but also give viewers a window into those dramatic and often poignant moments immediately before and after this historic fight.”
 
SHOWTIME cameras are entrenched in Mayweather’s camp in the shadow of the bright lights of Las Vegas.  This unparalleled access allows INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO to peel back the curtain on Mayweather’s opulent public persona while revealing the unrelenting pursuit of perfection that propels the undefeated, undisputed champion. 
 
From the red carpet spectacle of the kickoff press conference in Los Angeles and the rigors of training camp to the intensity of the weigh-in and the calm dressing room after the final bell, INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO offers an inside-out look at an event that has no rival. 
 
Forty-seven fighters have stepped into the ring with Mayweather and all 47 have come away empty.  With complete access to Mayweather and the vast entourage that surrounds and supports him, viewers of INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO come to understand what makes “Money” tick. 
 
INSIDE MAYWEATHER vs. PACQUIAO episodes premiere on SHOWTIME with multiple encore presentations, including the cable television premiere on CBS SPORTS NETWORK.  All episodes of the series will be available on SHOWTIME ON DEMAND®, SHOWTIME ANYTIME® and online at SHO.com/Sports
 
Ø  Episode 1 premieres Saturday, April 18 on SHOWTIME, immediately following SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING Chavez vs. Fonfara (10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT). 
Ø  Episode 2 premieres Saturday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME
Ø  Episode 3 premieres Wednesday, April 29 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on SHOWTIME.
Ø  Epilogue premieres Saturday, May 9 on SHOWTIME

Have You Filled Out Your Bracket?

Brook

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

This Saturday, welterweight titlist Kell Brook will make his first defense when he squares off with Jo Jo Dan in Sheffield, England. The bout will be aired on SHOWTIME BOXING INTERNATIONAL prior to that evening’s SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast featuring Jhonny Gonzalez-Gary Russell Jr. and Jermell Charlo-Vanes Martirosyan.

The latter two bouts will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Brook is coming off his impressive win over Shawn Porter, and in December, Dan edged Canadian Kevin Bizier in a rematch.

So where do Brook and Dan rate among the world’s best welters? I’m happily suffering from March Madness, so I thought it would be fun to create a 147-pound tournament without Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.

Here are the brackets and results.

SWEET SIXTEEN

Timothy Bradley vs. Paulie Malignaggi: Distance fight. Fresher Bradley, the aggressor, pulls away late.

Keith Thurman vs. Devon Alexander: Thurman takes it with his big right hand.

Amir Khan-Andre Berto: Khan off the floor to win on points.

Juan Manuel Marquez-Lamont Peterson: Upset! Peterson proves stronger in battle of small welters.

Marcos Maidana-Jo Jo Dan: Fight is even on points when Maidana’s kayo power surfaces.

Kell Brook-Diego Chaves: It’s always close with Chaves. Brook by controversial split decision.

Danny Garcia-Brandon Rios: In first bout as full welter, Garcia wins slugfest. Best fight of first round.

Shawn Porter-Robert Guerrero: Blood everywhere! Porter squeaks by in foul-fest.

ELITE EIGHT

Bradley-Porter: Two short welters muscle each other. Bradley wins battle of attrition.

Thurman-Garcia: Thurman turns pure boxer and wins by decision.

Khan-Brook: Khan wins split decision in tactical battle of countrymen.

Peterson-Maidana: Peterson falls to second Argentine power-puncher. (The first was Lucas Matthysse.)

FINAL FOUR

Bradley-Maidana: The difference: Bradley’s indomitable will.

Thurman-Khan: Bad style matchup for Englishman. Thurman by kayo. 

FINAL

Bradley-Thurman: Thurman keeps it outside and wins on points.

Steve Farhood’s “Destructive Dozen”

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

Jhonny Gonzalez’s first-round annihilation of Abner Mares in August 2013 was overwhelming evidence of the fact that he rates with boxing’s most destructive punchers.

Now the WBC featherweight titlist will defend against Gary Russell Jr. this Saturday on SHOWTIME.

My Destructive Dozen:

Javier Fortuna, 27-0-1 (20), junior lightweight: Perhaps premature to list here, but a personal fave. Especially dangerous in first round.

Gennady Golovkin, 32-0 (29), middleweight: Looked like Martin Murray was gonna be the first to last the distance in a title fight vs. Triple G, but noooooooo…

JHONNY GONZALEZ, 57-8 (48), featherweight: Check out YouTube vs. Hozumi Hasegawa, Roinet Caballero, and Jackson Asiku. The Mares fight was hardly his first highlight-reel kayo.

Wlad Klitschko, 63-3 (53), heavyweight: His right hand was rumored to have knocked down the Empire State Building. Good luck, Bryant Jennings.

Sergey Kovalev, 27-0-1 (24), light heavyweight: Just when it seemed Pascal was getting back in the fight … And who else knocks down Bernard Hopkins?

David Lemieux, 33-2 (31), middleweight: Let’s see if his legit power is sufficient when he moves up to championship level.

Marcos Maidana, 35-5 (31), welterweight: The Broner Owner has impressively carried his power from 140 to 147 pounds.

Lucas Matthysse, 36-3 (34), junior welterweight: Evidence: 1) Humberto Soto’s been down once in 75 bouts, courtesy of Matthysse; 2) What he did to Lamont Peterson; 3) He scored knockdowns in two of his three losses (vs. Devon Alexander and Zab Judah). Does Provodnikov fall next?

Adonis Stevenson, 25-1 (21), light heavyweight: Can it still be said that the southpaw with the huge left hand has kayoed a higher level of opponent than Krusher Kovalev?

Keith Thurman, 25-0 (21), welterweight: Don’t be fooled by his recent decision wins; he scored knockdowns in both of them. He needs to land his right hand only One Time.

Takashi Uchiyama, 22-0-1 (18): Has scored stoppages in eight of his 10 world title fights. Only criticism: He fights solely in his native Japan.

Nicholas Walters, 25-0 (21), featherweight: A combined five knockdowns of Vic Darchinyan and Nonito Donaire have won me over.

 

Middleweight: The Best American Prospects

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

Tonight, Antoine Douglas headlines ShoBox: The New Generation from Westbury, N. Y.

This will be Douglas’ third appearance on ShoBox.

Douglas is 22-years-old, unbeaten, and among the most attractive U.S. prospects in the game.

Four promising home-grown middleweight prospects:

HUGO CENTENO, 24-years-old, 22-0, 1 NC: Has rebounded strongly from his disappointing performance against Julian Williams. Kayo of James De La Rosa in December was eye-opening.

ANTOINE DOUGLAS, 22-years-old, 16-0-1: Exciting style. We’ll see if he learned from his draw with Michel Soro, a fight in which Douglas faded late.

TONY HARRISON, 24-years-old, 20-0: Many could argue he’s more of a junior middleweight. Has looked good in dispatching a string of faded veterans in Bronco McKart, Tyrone Brunson, Grady Brewer and Antwone Smith.

DOMINIC WADE, 24-years-old, 17-0: Heavy-handed puncher who looked good, but not outstanding, in most notable win, vs. Nick Brinson. Has already gotten off the floor to win (vs. Dashon Johnson).

ShoBox Preview: Some 0’s Have To Go

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FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

About the only kind of fighter not seeing action on Friday’s smorgasbord edition of ShoBox is a Swedish meatball.

Included will be a nomadic lightweight who’ll be fighting in his sixth different country in six fights … and a pair of baby featherweights who’ve never fought outside of Texas.

There’ll be a super middleweight who won his last fight while on his knees … a lightweight from a country I’ll bet you never heard of … and in the main event, an exciting middleweight whose mother may be more entertaining than he is.

In all, we’ll see eight fighters, six of whom are unbeaten. The combined records: 105-3-4.

A fight-by-fight look:

Antoine Douglas-Thomas Lamanna, middleweights: Mama Douglas’ cameo was the highlight of Antoine’s last appearance on ShoBox, a draw with French veteran Michel Soro last July.

While I interviewed her between rounds, she showed as strong a jab as her son, and at least in the later rounds, a bit more energy.

That aside, Douglas, 16-0-1, is young (22) and refreshing. Naturally aggressive and quite promising. In Lamanna, 16-0, he faces a tall, tough kid from New Jersey who’s making a monstrous jump in class.

In other words, quintessential ShoBox: two unbeaten prospects who are willing to risk their fistic futures.

Ismael Barroso-Issouf Kinda, lightweights: Barroso’s five most recent fights have been in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, his native Venezuela and Panama. Now, the unbeaten and sharp-punching southpaw fights in the U.S.A. for the first time.

At 32, Barroso isn’t really a prospect. And he’s hasn’t yet done enough to have secured contender status. What he’ll gain from a win over the tough Kinda is invaluable American television exposure.

By the way, Kinda is from Long Island via Burkina Faso, which used to be Upper Volta.

If you can find that country on a map, you’ve probably traveled even more extensively than Barroso.

Jerry Odom-Andrew Hernandez, super middleweights: In January, the big-punching Odom was a sizzling and unbeaten prospect when he faced Hernandez, 8-0-1 with 1 ND, at Madison Square Garden.

Odom remains a sizzling prospect, but he’s no longer unbeaten.

In the fourth round, Odom was on the verge of scoring a stoppage when he threw punches while Hernandez was down.

Odom, 12-1 with 1 ND, was disqualified. This rematch is about one thing: cleansing his record, so he can move forward.

Anything less than a kayo win will be disappointing.

Pablo Cruz-Adam Lopez, featherweights: There are so many similarities between these two: both are Texans; both are unbeaten, but have fought squishy-soft opposition to date; both have low kayo percentages; both are six-round fighters jumping to eight.

They’ve even sparred together.

The difference?

Lopez has a much deeper amateur background. We’ll see if that’s neutralized by the fact that Cruz is the naturally bigger fighter.

Cruz, 11-0, marches forward, while Lopez, 9-0, counterpunches. This should be a good style matchup between young 126-pounders who are looking to begin to establish names and reps.

See you Friday night in Westbury, N.Y.!

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ III: SOMEHOW, BETTER YET

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ISRAEL VAZQUEZ AND RAFAEL MARQUEZ: BOXING AT ITS BEST

FROM SHOWTIME BOXING ANALYST STEVE FARHOOD

You can be sure a ring rivalry is special when the intensity of the competition overshadows the significance of the results.

… When the names of the fighters are bonded by what they gave us and what they took from each other.

… When possession of the pairing belongs not to the fans or the fighters, but to history.

Robinson-LaMotta. Pep-Saddler. Ali-Frazier. Barrera-Morales. Gatti-Ward.

Vazquez-Marquez.

Distinguished and accomplished lighter-weight champions, Vazquez and Marquez fought four times from March 2007 to May 2010. The first three bouts were world title fights, and with the fourth bout anticlimactic and lacking in what made the matchup unforgettable, Vazquez-Marquez is remembered mostly as a trilogy.

Vazquez-Marquez shared characteristics with the two lasting trilogies that preceded it. Like Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward (2002-2003), the three fights were jammed into a single year and were fought in one division (junior welterweight).

And like Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales (2000-2004), Vazquez-Marquez pitted Mexican rivals and world titlists against each other.

What separated Vazquez-Marquez were the changes in momentum, not only from fight to fight, but from round to round, and the utter unpredictability of each outcome.

“As the Vazquez-Marquez fights played out,” said SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein, who worked all four fights, “it became obvious to me that it was actually an honor to be ringside chronicling these events. With that honor came responsibility, the kind that can weigh heavily on your psyche.

“These two amazing boxers were doing extraordinary things in the ring. We wanted to do justice to that by not skewing the story in any way, and certainly not by overshadowing it.

“We all knew the first fight would be great, and it more than lived up to expectations. The second fight was exciting, and when fight three came, I didn’t think they could top numbers one and two, but they did just that. It’s one of the top five fights I’ve ever announced or seen. The ebb and flow was tremendous, and you almost felt it didn’t matter who ended up getting the decision because they both had been so great.

“I can’t admire two boxers more than these two men.”

VAZQUEZ-MARQUEZ III: SOMEHOW, BETTER YET

March 1, 2008, Carson, Calif.

It is among the most vivid memories in my 37 years covering fights: A few minutes after 12 of the best and most brutal rounds I had ever witnessed, I walked into the dressing room of Rafael Marquez, whose rubber match with Israel Vazquez had been decided by the 12th and final round, and by a single point on the cards.

I found it odd that Marquez sat in an otherwise empty room. His wounds of war were plain to see, but instead focusing on the bruises and welts and blood, my eyes locked with his.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen as heartbroken a fighter.

“Gran campeon,” I said to him.

“Si,” he responded, “Pero no … “

Motioning with both hands, Marquez held his thumbs and index fingers about an inch apart and ran them from his belly button to his sides.

He was indicating that he had no championship belt, which still belonged to his rival. That was all that was important to him at the moment. And at the moment, it was destroying him.

What I should’ve said to him was, “It doesn’t matter. This fight won’t be remembered by who won and who lost. The really great fights never are.”

But I sensed he didn’t want to hear it, and I left him alone.

Time has spoken for me.

Three fights in 363 days, and before the 12th and final round of the third fight, which was the best of all, the 8,104 fans at the Home Depot Center stood and screamed.

The bout remained in the balance, but most weren’t cheering in support of one fighter or the other. They were simply saying thank you.

In the first three minutes, and in every subsequent round, Vazquez and Marquez challenged each other, move for move and man to man, as they had done in every second of the previous fights. Given what they had been through, there could be no other way.

“I knew from the first second of the first round that I was involved in something special,” said veteran official Pat Russell, who refereed the bout. (Russell worked as a judge for Vazquez-Marquez I.)

Vazquez moved forward and Marquez, seeking distance, pumped his left hand. There wasn’t a breakthrough until the fourth, when Marquez struck with a pair of rights. Vazquez, who had dropped Marquez in both of the previous fights, crashed to the canvas, and to no one’s surprise, that made him fight back only harder. Before the bell, he staggered Marquez, instantly creating a candidate for Round of the Year.

As the middle rounds mounted, every punch became more significant. Every jab was purposeful; every right cross was perfectly straight; and every hook had knockdown potential.

“They were setting each other up,” Russell said. “So much was technical and subtle.”

It was boxing at its highest level and a rubber match to remember. But how would it end?

Vazquez suffered cuts over both eyes, and Marquez’s vision was impaired by swelling under his left eye. Down the stretch, the difference was largely Vazquez’s ability to score with his right, which to that point had not been a primary weapon.

“We kept telling him, ‘Throw your jab, move right, and throw the overhand right. He can’t see it,'” Vazquez’s manager, Frank Espinoza, told “The Ring’s” Ivan Goldman.

In the 10th, Marquez lost a point for punching low, and the momentum clearly belonged to Vazquez. But it was still a very close fight, and SHOWTIME analyst Al Bernstein, amazed by what he was watching, spoke for much of the audience when he said, “I almost don’t care how they score this fight.”

As if it were necessary (as if it were possible!), Vazquez and Marquez punctuated their trilogy by giving us one final round of drama.

“When the bell [for round 12] rang,” recalled Russell, “Vazquez went to work, pounding Marquez in a corner and going after him with a ferocity I hadn’t seen before.”

Marquez was stunned only 12 seconds into the round. He dutifully sponged punches until, with six seconds remaining, Vazquez drove him into a neutral corner with a huge right. Stepping backward and about to fall, Marquez reached with his right hand and grabbed the top rope for support. Russell correctly ruled a knockdown, and by the time his mandatory count was over, so was the fight.

As it turned out, the point deduction in the 10th, and Vazquez’s 10-8 round in the 12th, determined the outcome: Vazquez by split decision.

Again they had combined to produce the Fight of the Year.

Two years later, Vazquez and Marquez would fight for a fourth time, with the latter winning on cuts via third-round TKO. It didn’t really matter–except for the fact that Marquez’s victory evened the score at two fights apiece.

Fair, no? After all, after four fights, 28 rounds, four knockdowns, a career’s worth of cuts and bruises, and thousands of punches, there was virtually nothing to choose between them.

With the Vazquez-Marquez rivalry, the results fade with time, but the memories will forever endure.