Palms Casino Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada-– Few active fighters have been as maligned on their road to a championship as the 26-year-old Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15 KOs). But all of that talk about being spoon fed a series of soft touches in spotlight squashes has to end with his fourth round TKO over veteran defending WBC featherweight champ Jhonny Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KOs) Saturday night on Showtime.
Russell, who was making his second attempt at winning a world title, fought the perfect fight against the Mexican puncher. He boxed cautiously from the perimeters early on in the contest, gradually inching forward as he gauged Gonzalez’s hand speed.
But it appeared to be Russell’s mere existence as a quick southpaw that pushed Gonzalez out of his game as the defending champ seemed tentative and clumsy from the opening bell to the final, fight-ending flurry.
By the end of the third round, Russell was stepping directly to Gonzalez, confident that his hand and foot speed were more than enough to keep him out of danger.
A powerful left hand followed by a wicked right hook dropped Gonzalez at the end of the third round and their effects carried over to the fourth where Gonzalez was dropped two more times. By the third knockdown of the fight, it was clear that Gonzalez was in no condition to continue and referee Tony Weeks did the right thing in waving off the contest.
Russell now steps forward to join the elite of a top-heavy featherweight division that features his one-time conqueror Vasyl Lomachenko as well as Nicholas Walters, Evgeny Gradovich, Abner Mares, and soon-to-arrive junior featherweight champ Leo Santa Cruz.
In the televised opener, Jermell Charlo (25-0, 11 KOs) beat Vanes Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KOs) via ten round unanimous decision in a junior middleweight bout by scores of 97-93, 96-94, and 96-94.