Showtime World Championship Boxing Preview: Gary Russell Jr. vs. Oscar Escandon
Showtime World Championship Boxing Preview: Gary Russell Jr. vs. Oscar Escandon
By: Seamus McNally
On Saturday night, WBC featherweight champion “Mr.” Gary Russell Jr. (27–1, 16 KOs) of Capitol Heights, Md. makes his long-awaited home debut when he takes Colombia’s Oscar Escandon (25–2, 17 KOs) at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Md.
Photo Credit: Tom Casino/Showtime
The bout caps the night of a split-site four fight broadcast on Showtime Championship Boxing. First up, IBF junior lightweight champion Gervonta “Tank” Davis (17–0, 16 KOs) of Baltimore, Md. travels across the pond into hostile territory to risk his undefeated record against fellow unbeaten Liam Walsh (21–0, 14 KOs) at the Copper Box Arena in London. Once that bout is complete, the televised bouts from the MGM National Harbor will commence.
The first televised fight in Maryland will be a 12-round junior welterweight title eliminator between Cuba’s Rances Barthelemy (25–0, 13 KOs), who will be moving up from lightweight, and Kiryl Relikh (21–1, 19 KOs) of Belarus. The co-feature bout is a 12-rounder for the interim IBF super middleweight title between Andre Dirrell (25–2, 16 KOs) of Flint, Mich. and Venezuelan Jose Uzcategui (26–1, 22 KOs).
Russell, 28, entered the professional ranks in 2009 with high expectations, having won numerous amateur national titles, earning a bronze medal in the 2007 world amateur championships, and making the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team.
Russell was a very active fighter early in his career, and by the end of his third year as a professional, he had accumulated a record of 19–0, 11 KOs and was named 2011 Prospect of the Year by the likes of ESPN, Ring Magazine, and Sports Illustrated.
After padding his record for a few more years against modest opposition, Russell got his first crack at a world title in June 2014 against two-time Olympic gold medalist Vasyl Lomachenko. Russell was outclassed and lost a 12-round decision.
Russell won a shutout decision against Christopher Martin that December and then got his second chance at a world title in March 2015. The outcome was different this time as Russell blitz WBC champion Jhonny Gonzalez en route to a fourth-round knockout win.
In his most recent fight, Russell obliterated the overmatched Patrick Hyland in the second round of their fight, which took place 13 months ago in April 2016.
Escandon, 32, was an Olympian himself, representing Colombia in the 2004 Athens Games. Unlike Russell, Escandon entered the paid ranks inconspicuously, building his record in his homeland save for two fights in Argentina and two in Panama before making his U.S. debut in 2014.
By the time Escandon reached U.S. soil, he sported a record of 23–1, 16 KOs. In his U.S. debut in December 2014 on ESPN Friday Night Fights, Escandon was awarded a very controversial decision over Canadian Tyson Cave that elicited an epic rant from color commentator Teddy Atlas once the decision was rendered.
Like Russell, Escandon fought only once in each of the last two years. In April 2015, Escandon lost a close split decision to the undefeated Moises Flores. In his most recent fight, which took place in March 2016 at the D.C. Armory, Escandon scored a seventh-round knockout of Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos.
For the first time in a long while, Russell will enjoy a height advantage in the fight. Escandon is one of the shortest fighters in all of boxing, standing at just 5’1″. Because of his short stature, Escandon tends to throw looping shots to try and reach his opponents’ heads. He puts constant pressure on his opponents, always moving forward. Escandon does not move his head much, as he usually just holds his gloves up, blocking and eating punches as he tries to walk his opponents down to get in punching range.
Russell has arguably the fastest hands in all of boxing, and knows how to use it. Some fighters rely too much on their speed and are not technically sound and get caught (Amir Khan), whereas Russell patiently sets up his shots, and is almost never out of position.
Escandon has one chance to win this fight. The only knock on Russell is that he always throws his punches at the same speed, never varies them up. The saying is timing beats speed, so Escandon may be able to time one of Russell’s punches and connect flush with a looping shot over the top and hurt Russell.
I look for Russell to establish his sharp jab early, and use good lateral movement to keep the charging Escandon at bay. Russell will take out Escandon in the middle rounds, as the blazing combinations will be too much for Escandon to withstand.
Boxing Insider Notebook: Ward, Kovalev, Pacquiao, Canelo, Chavez, Gamboa, Burns, and more….
Boxing Insider Notebook: Ward, Kovalev, Pacquiao, Canelo, Chavez, Gamboa, Burns, and more….
Compiled By: William Holmes
The following is the Boxing Insider notebook for the week of April 4th to April 11th, covering the comings and goings in the sport of boxing that you might have missed.
Andre Ward vs. Sergey Kovalev Press Conference Quotes
Andre Ward (31-0) and Sergey KOvalev (30-1-1) recently held a press conference to announce their upcoming rematch on Saturday, June 17th at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bout will be produced and distributed live on HBO Pay Per View.
Below are some select quotes from their press conference:
Andre “S.O.G.” Ward – Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion
“I want to thank everybody for coming out today – the media, obviously, HBO, Peter Nelson and their whole team, these guys work tirelessly to get these kinds of things done. I appreciate my team, James Prince, Josh Dubin, Roc Nation and everyone at Roc Nation, JAY Z, Juan and Desiree Perez, Michael Yormark. It’s important to have a good team. We talk a lot about fighting, we talk all about matchups, but when we talk about support, it’s frowned upon. When we see fighters 10, 15, 20 years from now shuffling in a room, nothing to show what they fought for, that’s okay. By the grace of God and by way of my team, that’s not going to happen to me.
“Unfortunately, there’s perception and there’s reality. Perception is every one thing that’s written, every opinion but as you grow and learn this business, it’s not about perception. Nobody can point to a fight where I turned. Not one point. That’s not in my track record. So, I don’t mind the perception. I don’t care about Instagram. This is chess, not checkers. You can make all the rules you want to make, but it’s about the checkmate. That’s when the game is over.
“My team is working on life after boxing. Educating me on the ins and outs. A lot of people talk about money, but they don’t talk about the upside. They’re not talking about the personal sponsorships for the fight, and your obligations for the sponsorship. They’re not talking about the television rights and foreign rights, the merchandise. ‘Be tough, keep focus, destroy the fight’. I’m not with that man. I want the whole thing, I want to understand everything. The fight is not the end.
“They have to understand, there’s nothing scary about this man. You realize we just fought 12 rounds four months ago? Everyone wants to highlight the knockdown, that’s probably one of the most beautiful moments of my career. And did you guys see the other 10 rounds? Nobody’s talking about that. But that’s what makes us who we are. It’s hard concrete down there, we don’t want to fall. We’ve got another drive, we’ve got another gear we’ve got to tap into when we hit adversity and hit the cannons. You guys saw that, in the biggest moment of my career.
“I didn’t get to where I’m at because there’s something unique about me. I didn’t get to this point by happenstance. Some may not like it, but you got to respect it. You don’t have to, but we’ve earned the position that we have. We don’t mind being understated. The fight is academic. When my team green-lighted it, I said go ahead and announce it. The reality is, you’ve got to see me on June 17. That’s the reality of the situation. I love to talk, it’s all good. We knocked heads for 12 rounds, that’s the reality of the situation. He felt me, he knows. On June 17, that’s how we’re going to do. We’re going to get started a little early. Whether you’re with me, or whether you’re against me, tune in. Appreciate everybody’s time. Don’t miss this fight, June 17. You got what you asked for.”
Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev – Former Unified Light Heavyweight World Champion
“Hello everyone. I am thankful the fight will take place on June 17. Well, will take place on paper for now. I’m appreciative of my team and Team Ward that this fight will actually happen. I want to apologize to my fans for my performance the last time but we’re going to get this squared either way. We’re going to see who is the best fighter. I’m very excited for June 17. The only thing I hope is that a week or two before the fight, Andre Ward does not get injured and he has enough balls to come out and fight me on June 17.”
Pacman Ready to Go Down Under to Turn Horn’s World Upside Down!
Add Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane, Australia to the list of venues on foreign soil that will play host to a MANNY “Pacman” PACQUIAO fight. Boxing’s only eight-division world champion and the reigning Fighter of the Decade, Pacquiao has accepted the challenge of undefeated No. 2 world-rated contender JEFF “The Hornet” HORN to defend his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title, Saturday, July 1 (Sunday, July 2, in Australia). Promoted by Top Rank® and Duco Events, “The Battle of Brisbane” is expected to attract 55,000 fans and a record pay-per-view audience in Australia. It will also be seen live in the U.S. Look for details on the U.S. telecast in the following weeks.
“Manny has been a pioneer, bringing world title fights to Cowboys Stadium, The Venetian Macao’s Cotai Arena and now Suncorp Stadium. We’re boxing’s version of Lewis & Clark, discovering new markets,” said Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum. ” Manny knows who will be the crowd favorite on July 1, but he can’t wait to give Australia and the world a great performance. It’s going to be unbelievable event.”
Pacquiao (59-6-2, 38 KOs), from General Santos City, Philippines, is in his third reign as WBO welterweight champion. He regained the title on November 5, winning a dominant unanimous decision victory over defending champion Jessie Vargas.
Horn (16-0-1, 11 KOs), from Bisbane, Queensland, Australia, enters this fight having won his last three fights — all in 2016 — against Ali Funeka, Rico Mueller and Randall Bailey inside the distance. They had a combined record of 105-14-4 when he fought them. Horn is world-rated No. 2 by the WBO and the International Boxing Federation (IBF).
Robin Krasniqi vs. Arthur Abraham Super Middleweight Title Eliminator
The World Boxing Organization (WBO) Super Middleweight title eliminator, featuring two-time world title challenger Robin Krasniqi taking on the three-time, two-division world champion “King” Artur Abraham, will be available to watch April 22 on pay per view in North America, starting at 2 p.m. ET/ 11 a.m. a.m. PT, live from Congress Center in Ekfurt, Germany. The two fighters have a combined record or 91-9 with 47 knockouts.
“Krasniqi vs. Abraham”, promoted by SES Promotions, is a presentation of Integrated Sports Media and FITE.
Integrated Sports Media will distribute “Krasniqi vs. Abraham” live in North America, starting at 2 p.m. ET / 11 a.m. PT, on cable, satellite and internet pay-per-view via iN Demand, Vubiquity, and DISH in the United States, as well as Rogers, Shaw and Sask Tel in Canada, also on the FITE app and website, for a suggested retail price of only $24.95.
Outside of North America, “Krasniqi vs. Abraham” is being licensed by leading boxing television rights distribution firm, Protocol Sports Marketing Ltd.
Born in Kosovo, the 29-year-old Krasniqi (46-4, 17 KOs) is a former European and WBO International Light Heavyweight Champion, who resides in Munich, Germany and packs a thunderous punch. Three fights ago, he moved down in weight from Light Heavyweight to Super Middleweight, winning all three bouts at the new weight class and looking highly impressive.
In 2013, Krasniqi lost his first world title shot by way of a 12-round unanimous decision to defending WBO Light Heavyweight World Champion Nathan Cleverly (25-0), in London, by way of a hard-fought 12-round decision.
Following his first career defeat, Krasniqi went on to capture the WBO International Light Heavyweight Title with a seventh-round knockout of previously undefeated Emmanuel Danso (20-0), and has since defended that belt. Krasniqi won the vacant World Boxing Association (WBA) Continental Light Heavyweight Title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Oleksandr Cherviak (14-3-1).
In 2014, Krasniqi successfully defended those two championships, taking a 12-round unanimous decision from Dariusz Sek (21-1-1), which set up his second world title shot, March 21, 2015 in Germany, against long-time defending WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion Juergan Braehmer (45-2) in a massive all-German world title showdown. Krasniqi was unable to answer the bell for the 10th round but learned that he should drop a weight class. Since moving down to Super Middleweight, Krasniqi has looked impressive but Abraham will surely be the biggest test of his career.
Rated No. 2 by the WBO, Abraham (45-5, 30 KOs) has positioned himself for another world title shot as the winner of his Apr. 22nd eliminator with Krasniqi will become the mandatory challenger for reigning WBO Super Middleweight World Champion Gilberto Ramirez, of Mexico. Abraham lost his WBO crown by way a 12-round unanimous decision to Ramirez in Las Vegas in 2016 but must win against Krasniqi to have an opportunity at regaining his title.
The 37-year-old Abraham, a native of Armenia who lives in Berlin, Germany, is a two-time WBO (World Boxing Organization) Super Middleweight Champion, as well as the former International Boxing Federation (IBF) Middleweight World Champion. The knockout artist has a remarkable 18-4 (9 KOs) record in world championship bouts and is 7-4 (4 KOs) against former or current world champions. Noted victims during his 16-½ year professional career reads like a Who’s Who of Boxing in the 160 and 168-pound divisions, including world champions Raul Marquez, Hector Javier Velazco, Jermain Taylor, Robert Stieglitz thrice, and Giovanni De Carolis. Abraham has also defeated world-class opponents such as Martin Murray, Paul Smith twice, Lajuan Simon, Edison Miranda twice. Khoren Gevor, Sebastian Demers, Kofi Jantuah, Kingsley Ikeke and Howard Eastman.
Four of Abraham’s five career losses have been to world champions Carl Froch, Andre Ward, Robert Stieglitz and Gilberto Ramirez. Stieglitz is the only opponent to stop Abraham, who has won nine of his last 10 fights, the most recent an eighth-round technical knockout of Tim Robin Lihaug (15-1) this past July in Germany for the vacant WBO International Super Middleweight Title.
Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. Defends His Belt Against Oscar Escandon on May 20th
WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. will make the second defense of his title when he faces top challenger Oscar Escandon Saturday, May 20 in themain event of SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING from the recently opened MGM National Harbor in Maryland live on SHOWTIME.
The Maryland-native Russell Jr. (27-1, 16 KOs) and the WBC Interim Featherweight Champion Escandon (25-2, 17 KOs) will battle in one of boxing’s most talented divisions that continues to deliver exciting action fight after fight. A lineup of exciting co-featured attractions will be announced next week.
“I’m a gladiator getting ready for a tough battle,” said Russell Jr. “This is going to be a huge night for my family and I’m glad that the time is here. This will be the first time as pros that I get to fight on the same card as both of my little brothers, (unbeaten bantamweight) Gary Antonio and (2016 U.S. Olympian) Gary Antuanne, plus my brother Gary Allan will work all of our corners. We’re excited to get in the ring and show the fans what we’re capable of doing in the ring.”
“I’ve had to wait for this opportunity to face Gary Russell Jr. and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” said Escandon. “It’s going to be a great fight and I know the fans are going to get their money’s worth. I feel 100 percent healthy and now that the fight is here I am ready to knock him out.”
Tickets for the live event promoted by TGB Promotions are priced at $200, $150, $100 and $50, and are now on sale. To purchase tickets go to http://mgmnationalharbor.com/. The main event is co-promoted by Sampson Boxing. This bout was originally scheduled to take place on March 11 but was rescheduled after Escandon suffered a back injury in training camp. Fans who bought tickets for the March 11 show will have their tickets honored on May 20.
“This is going to be a great night of boxing,” said Tom Brown, President of TGB Promotions. “The featherweight division is very hot right now with the recent wins by Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares. There is something very special going on in the division and this will be another memorable fight. Escandon is a tough warrior who has proven time and again that he doesn’t care about going on the road or where he fights. There are great boxing fans in the Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia region and they are in-store for an exciting night on May 20.”
A speedy and supremely talented boxer, Russell Jr., was impressive in his fourth-round stoppage of the battle-tested Jhonny Gonzalez that earned him the title in March 2015. The 2008 U.S. Olympian had scored important victories over Vyacheslav Gusev, Juan Ruiz and Miguel Tamayo before losing a majority decision to Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBO 126-pound title in June 2014. The southpaw, of Capitol Heights, Md., most recently scored a dominant second-round TKO victory over Patrick Hyland in his first title defense in April 2016.
Fighting out of Ibague, Colombia, Escandon turned pro in 2008 and was undefeated in his first 22 professional bouts. Escandon won an interim world title at super bantamweight in 2014 when he defeated Tyson Cave in his U.S. debut. He earned his shot at Russell Jr. last March when he survived an early knockdown to score a knockout victory over Robinson Castellanos in the seventh round of their showdown in Washington, D.C.
Golden Boy Promotions Throw Cinco De Mayo Triple Header on Canelo vs. Chavez Weekend
On Friday, May 5, one day before the mega-fight between Canelo Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. goes down in Las Vegas, Golden Boy Promotions will throw a Cinco de Mayo fiesta at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Fans will get a full afternoon and evening of activity starting with the Official Canelo vs. Chavez, Jr.Weigh In, an action-packed night of Golden Boy Boxing onESPN fights headlined by Former Three-Division World Champion Yuriorkis Gamboa taking on the longtime contender Robinson Castellanos, surprise fighter appearances, DJs, sponsor giveaways, entertainment and much, much more!
First, the MGM Grand Garden Arena doors will open at 1:00 p.m. PST for the official Canelo vs. Chavez, Jr. and full undercard Weigh-in with fighters hitting the scales at 2:00 p.m. PST/5:00 p.m. EST, main pay-per-view-view undercard to weigh in beginning at 2:30 p.m. PST/5:30 p.m. EST. Soon after the weigh-in, the Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN fights will begin, leading into a special televised tripleheader of fan-friendly action live on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes.
As a special treat to the fans, Golden Boy Promotions will be giving away exclusive VIP seating and entrance to the Canelo vs. Chavez, Jr. Weigh-in with purchase of a ticket to Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN: Gamboa vs. Castellanos.
“On the eve of the Mexico vs. Mexico superfight that is Canelo vs. Chavez, Jr., it was only fitting we throw the ultimate fan fiesta on Cinco de Mayo in Las Vegas,” said Oscar De La Hoya, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions. “There is no better way to enjoy this special holiday than to come out and watch some top quality, action-packed fights, listen to the sounds of the mariachi bands and wave your Mexican flags.”
Cuban standout and Olympic gold medalist Yuriorkis “El Ciclon de Guantánamo” Gamboa (26-1, 17 KOs) of Miami, FL will be making a rapid return to the ring to face rugged Celaya, Mexico fighter Robinson “Robin Hood” Castellanos (21-11, 13 KOs) in a main event lightweight fight scheduled for 10 rounds transmitted on ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes beginning at 5:00 p.m. PST/8:00 p.m. EST.
In the co-main event, Abraham “El Chamaco” Lopez (22-0-1, 15 KOs) of La Puente, CA will put his WBA-NABA Featherweight title and undefeated record on the line, as he squares off in a 10 round bout against dangerous fighter Jesus Rojas (24-1-2, 17 KOs) hailing from Caguas, Puerto Rico.
Opening up Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN televised fights, someone’s “0” must go as Sao Paulo, Brazil’s own Yamaguchi Falcão (12-0, 6 KOs) faces his toughest challenge yet in the sturdy Morgan “Big Chief” Fitch (18-0-1, 8 KOs) of Pittsburgh, PA in a 10 round middleweight match.
Ricky Burns to Meet Julius Indongo on Saturday April 15th
Ricky Burns and Julius Indongo will clash in a bout that will unify the WBA and IBF 140-pound world titles. The match-up takes place on Saturday, April 15th and will be featured live and exclusively on AWE, A Wealth of Entertainment and www.klowdtv.com in the United States.
Burns will have the home fan advantage. The bout originates from the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. The undercard fights begin at 2:30 PM EST / 11:20 AM PT.
“We’re thrilled to bring this very exciting world unification fight to our fans,” stated Robert Herring, CEO of AWE.
Burns of Coatsbridge, Scotland has been a world champion in three weight-classes, and has been competing in world title bouts for seven years.
The 33 year-old has a record of 41-5-1 with 14 knockouts. He has taken part in 12 world title bouts with a record of 10-1-1 in those contests.
Burns has wins over Colin Bain (8-0), Graham Earl (22-0), Haider Ali (4-1), Osumanu Akaba (21-4-1), Yakuba Amidu (16-1-1), Michael Gomes (38-9) and Kevin O’Hara (16-4).
On September 4, 2010, Burns won the WBO Super Featherweight title with a 12 round unanimous decision over Michael Katsidis (28-4). He won the full title with a 12-round unanimous decision over Paulus Moses (28-1). Burns defended that title 3 times with wins over Kevin Mitchell (33-1) & Jose Gonzalez (22-0) and a draw with Raymundo Beltran (28-6), before dropping his title to Terence Crawford.
Burns became a 3-division champion with an 8th round stoppage over Michele Di Rocco on May 28, 2016. He has made one defense, which came on October 7th with a unanimous decision over Kiryl Relikh.
“When Julius Indongo knocked out Eduard Troyanovsky he was immediately an opponent I was interested in,” says Burns. “Indongo can clearly punch and that’s an impressive way to win a World title, especially in Russia. It was some shot he hit Troyanovsky with.
“It’s a huge fight in the division and the kind of fights I need to be involved in at this stage of my career. There were other names talked about but I wanted the toughest, most dangerous fight out there. Indongo with his two belts was that man.
“He is a big tall, rangy, southpaw but bring it on – I have no fear of anyone and it is only the massive fights for me now.
“Fighting in Glasgow is special for me, the crowd at the SSE Hydro has been electric the last two occasions and I expect it to be no different this time round.”
Indongo of Windhoek, Namibia has a perfect mark of 20-0 with 11 knockouts.
The 34 year-old is an eight-year professional, who was the WBO African Super Lightweight champion as he had wins over Zolani Marali (4-5), Ibrahim Class (12-1) and Ishmael Kuchocha (12-3).
On December 3, 2016, Indongo scored one of the biggest upsets of the year, when he scored a stunning and explosive 40 second knockout over classy and undefeated IBF Champion Eduard Troyanovsky (25-0) in the former champion’s backyard of Moscow, Russia.
Indongo added: “It’s an absolute honor for me to fight Ricky, who I regard as an accomplished champion. I respect what he has achieved so far but I’m going to Scotland to rob him of his belt. I know it won’t be easy but I’m comforted by the fact that I have a good team and passionate Namibian fans, and I have every intention of making them smile and unifying the division on April 15.”