After a delay of more than a month, the Russell family-all named Gary after their father Gary Russell, Sr.- did nothing to disappoint boxing fans at MGM National Harbor. World Boxing Council (WBC) Lightweight Champion Gary Russell Jr., Olympic bronze medalist Gary Antuanne Russell, and Gary Antonio Russell were knockout winners on their homecoming fight card.
Oscar Escandon, left, and Gary Russell Jr. compete in the WBC Featherweight Championship fight in Oxon Hill, Md. Saturday, May 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally)
However, those three impressive victories were marred by an embarrassing fiasco in a match before one of the evening’s main matches (undercard fight). A late punch in the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Interim Super Middleweight elimination bout between Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui led to a disqualification and a premature end to the match.
In the last fight on the undercard before Russell Jr.’s successful title defense, Dirrell and Uzcategui battled with the intensity of a championship on the line. They fought in the middle of the ring and each man was in attack mode. Dirrell, a two-time former champion, is a notorious slow starter but opened by effectively using his left jab to pepper Uzcategui through the first three rounds.
Uzcategui’s confidence in his game plan was personified by his devilish grin, and he delivered power and punishing blows in the early rounds. His right jab had more thunder than his opponent’s, consistently backing Dirrell off and eventually rocking him in the second round. Dirrell seemed to find himself after another notorious slow start, but still trailed on all three judge’s scorecards when the fight ended after the eighth round.
Uzcategui could not control his lack of discipline and his penchant for throwing punches after the bell. During the fight with Dirrell, he was twice warned by referee Bill Clancy for throwing late blows following the official conclusion of a round.
“Earlier in the fight, I had warned Uzcategui,” Clancy said via a statement distributed by the event’s publicist. “I warned him.”
Over the last 30 seconds of the eighth round, Uzcategui backed Dirrell into a neutral corner. Dirrell deftly maneuvered away from trouble with a two-punch combination, and ducked a sweeping hook as the bell rang. But Uzcategui followed with hook that caught Dirrell on top of his head, knocking Dirrell out and leading to Uzcategui’s disqualification.
“All I remember was him throwing a shot at me at the same time the bell rang,” said Dirrell. “After that everything was blurry. I remember a shot and then all went fuzzy.”
“I was throwing a three-punch combination and I didn’t hear the bell,” said Uzcategui. “I didn’t mean to hit him. The third punch wasn’t that hard of a punch. I was surprised he stayed down.”
As Dirrell was treated by the ringside medical staff, a fight started in the stands behind his corner. A security source told the AFRO that there had been growing tension between the two fighters’ camps all week, and it boiled over following the altercation in the ring.
Eventually, that skirmish was brought under control, and Dirrell became coherent enough for a post-fight TV interview. But Dirrell’s uncle and trainer, Leon Lawson Jr., then ran across the ring to deliver a punch combination of his own to Uzcategui’s face. Another embarrassing fight ensued, which in subsequent days has defined what should have been an epic evening of boxing in the DMV.
Despite the undercard melee, the three Russells were at their best in front of their home crowd. Each showed ring generalship, hand speed, and power by making quick work of their opponents with early knockouts. They delivered on their promise of a world-class performance but it was the out-of-town undercard that left the evening’s lasting impression.