Even when he was to defend his featherweight title later Saturday evening, Capitol Heights boxer Gary Russell Jr. placed family first, serving as a corner man for undercard bouts involving two younger brothers at MGM National Harbor.
Both victorious siblings then witnessed firsthand Russell Jr.’s main event against Oscar Escandon in the hometown debut of the World Boxing Council champion who had, by his own stipulation, waited until he owned a major belt before fighting locally.
Russell Jr. made it a clean sweep for the family with a seventh-round technical knockout, leaving the boisterous hometown faithful to chant “Ga-ry! Ga-ry! Ga-ry!” and providing trainer Gary Russell Sr., the patriarch of the fighting Russells, a proper celebration on his birthday.
Referee Harvey Dock halted the fight at 59 seconds in Round 7 after Russell Jr. connected with a vicious right to the temple and another straight right that sent his opponent to the mat for a second and final time. As ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. read the official result, fans ringside began serenading Russell Sr. with renditions of “Happy Birthday.”
“First and foremost, I got to say happy birthday to my father,” said Russell Jr., fighting for the first time in more than a year because a training-camp injury to Escandon forced a postponement from the original date of March 11. “I fought a tough competitor. I knew Escandon wanted to come and bring his best. I knew he was going to come forward. I was ready for him.”
In front of an announced crowd of 2,345, Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 knockouts) kept the fight in close quarters in the early going, a strategy that reaped significant benefits by Round 3. After working the jab, Russell Jr. unloaded multiple combinations that included an uppercut that dropped Escandon to one knee in the center of the ring.
Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) got up but never regained his bearings, with Russell Jr., 28, continuing to administer severe punishment.
That Escandon remained upright for the rest of the round was a feat unto itself. But the barrage also left Russell Jr. somewhat fatigued from the heavy volume of punches, leading to more stalking than landing consistently through the fifth and sixth rounds.
“I’m ecstatic,” Russell Sr. said. “I’m really happy. I got three wins. Three stoppages. It’s my birthday. I’m 15 minutes from home, and I can go home and relax.”
The atmosphere before the main event had turned unruly when an altercation between fans unfolded in the first few rows during Andre Dirrell’s International Boxing Federation super middleweight title bout against Jose Uzcategui. The Venezuelan challenger landed a blow to the chin that dropped the interim champion just at the bell to end Round 8, leaving Dirrell on his back.
After Dirrell sat up and moved to his corner, he was awarded the win via disqualification when referee Bill Clancy determined the punch came after the bell. Moments later, Dirrell trainer and uncle Leon Lawson Jr. charged Uzcategui, swung at him and connected before ring officials intervened.
According to the Showtime broadcast, Prince George’s County police were seeking to question Lawson but could not locate him in the immediate aftermath of the fracas.
“I want to apologize for the gladiators,” Russell Jr. said. “The gladiators are warriors. The Dirrell camp, sometimes emotions build up and take the best of us. Please forgive them.”
In the third undercard bout, undefeated super bantamweight Gary Antonio Russell faced little resistance from Jovany Fuentes on the way to a third-round TKO. Gary Antoinio, 24, scored knockdowns in the second round with a straight right and in the third with a left hook.
The second of those knockdowns prompted Fuentes’s corner to stop the fight 22 seconds into Round 3, running Gary Antonio’s record to 8-0 (six KOs) in his first bout this year. It marked the fourth time in five fights that Gary Antonio has won by knockout.
“We capitalized on everything we worked on in the gym,” he said. “There was never any pressure because we didn’t magnify the fight just because it was at home. We treat every fight like a championship fight.”
Gary Antuanne, 20, was the first Russell sibling to enter the ring during the early portion of the undercard. Russell Jr. helped Gary Antuanne remove his robe during introductions and proceeded to watch the youngest Russell brother dismantle challenger Joshua Ross via first-round TKO.
Gary Antuanne sent Ross to the mat three times in the super lightweight fight before Clancy halted the proceedings.
“I listened, I followed instructions, and it led me to a fast victory,” Gary Antuanne said. “I wish it would have lasted longer. I was looking forward to it being more exciting.”