Following his loss to Vasyl Lomachenko, Gary Russell, Jr. found himself in a strange place. Despite being prodigiously talented, his inability to deal with a big step up in competition left his potential for greatness in question.
That question was answered rather soundly last Saturday night (March 28, 2015).
Russell (26-1, 15 KO) put his incredible hand speed to excellent use, demolishing longtime veteran Jhonny Gonzalez in just four rounds to earn the WBC featherweight belt.
From the beginning, Russell's speed and volume seemed to give Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KO) fits. Though a terrific puncher, Gonzalez seemed hesitant to throw at all; his signature left hook was nowhere to be found in the opening rounds as Russell jabbed away to the head and body. In the third round, the champ looked to turn it up, only to eat a pair of heavy counters that sent him wobbling to the floor. Though visibly unsteady, he managed to rise in time.
Even with a minute to recover, though, he was still in bad shape to start the fourth. Russell went fully on the attack, unloading blistering combinations. Gonzalez bravely fired back on his own, but was sent to the floor twice more, prompting the referee to step in and save him.
It was an excellent statement from Russell, who earned the biggest win of his career in dominant fashion. It will be extremely interesting to see his future at 126, which includes such powerhouses as Abner Mares and Nicholas Walters.
In the co-main event, former sparring partners Vanes Matirosyan and Jermell Charlo went tit-for-tat over ten rounds, the latter eventually emerging the victor by narrow decision. The bout was a prototypical boxing match, with both men looking to establish their jabs and land right hands. Matirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KO) did some solid work early with body shots, but Charlo (26-0, 11 KO) managed to control the tempo with his jab, landing his fair share of sizzling rights. A clash of heads in the seventh gave Matirosyan a sense of urgency, but his aggression failed to pay sufficient dividends and Charlo walked away with the decision on scores of 97-93 and a pair of 96-94s.
It was a solid night overall, capped off by the emergence of a potential great at featherweight. For quick results and round-by-round coverage of the night's proceedings, click here.