Gary Russell Jr. Retains WBC Featherweight Championship with Unanimous Decision over Joseph Diaz Jr.
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: May 20, 2018
Oxon Hill, Maryland - It has been almost a year to the day since Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) last stepped inside the squared circle. At the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, Russell made a successful third title defense of his WBC featherweight championship against Joseph Diaz Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs).
Russell came out in the first round on his front foot establishing his jab. The WBC champion may have the fastest hands in the sport, and his hand speed was bothering Diaz. In the second round, Russell came out throwing what looked like a ten-punch combination. Diaz, however, was not intimidated and began to become more aggressive landing a fair share of body shots. The next few rounds were tightly contested with Russell throwing more punches in volume and Diaz walking down Russell landing more body shots.
After six rounds Showtime’s Steve Farhood had the fight scored 58-56 in favor of Russell. The momentum of the match changed in the seventh round with Russell utilizing more lateral movement to keep Diaz out of range thus reducing the number of times Diaz attempted to get inside and attack. The young California native kept each round competitive by landing left hands to the body and an occasional left hand to the top. The Maryland native was able to win rounds with his volume of punches. By the twelfth round, it was clear that Diaz needed a knockout to earn a victory. Diaz put everything he had into the final round by pushing Russell back and walking him down with a non-stop assault. If Diaz had attacked Russell in this fashion in the majority of the rounds, he might have had a better chance at gaining a victory.
All three judges scored the fight in favor of Russell with scores of 115-113 and 117-111 twice. Russell nearly threw 1,000 punches landing 199 out of 992 total punches at a 20 percent connect rate. Diaz was able to land 192 out of 491 total punches at a 39 percent connect rate.
For Diaz, there was no shame in his defeat, as more title opportunities will be made available to him throughout his career. It’s likely that Diaz improves after the loss to Russell and takes the bout as a learning experience.
Russell’s performance was impressive and will only grow the number of people that want to see him perform more than once a year. After the fight, Russell stated that he injured his right hand during one of the early rounds in the match. Russell may be the best featherweight on the planet, and hopefully, he will get the opportunity to prove it for himself and all boxing fans.
(Featured Photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime)