Hands of Speed: Gary Russell Jr. decisions Joseph Diaz Jr. to retain featherweight world title


OXON HILL, MD — Fighting one day shy of a year since his last fight in 2017, Gary Russell, Jr. utilized the speed in his hands to attain a decision victory to once again retain his WBC featherweight world title against Joseph Diaz, Jr. from the MGM Grand National Harbor.

The speed of Russell Jr. was the deciding factor in shaping the way the bout panned out over the scheduled 12 rounds. The 25-year-old Diaz Jr. focused on the body for a majority of the fight — indicating that he was attempting to mirror the work of Vasyl Lomachenko (11-1, 9 KOs), who is the only boxer to defeat Russell Jr. in the past.

In addition to the speed of his combination of punches, Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) kept Diaz Jr. at a distance with his jab. Diaz Jr. connected with some good counter shots that had Russell Jr., who was the hometown boy, respect the power and the timing of the South El Monte, California native. Through some of the middle rounds, Russell Jr. seemed to exhibit signs of fatigue after Diaz Jr. would let off a series of combinations to the body and the head. However, the jab and the quick-release hands of Russell Jr. were still able to keep the threat of a fast counter prevalent in the mind of Diaz Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs).

Russell vs. Diaz

Photo: Amanda Westcott/Showtime

As the fight entered the final nine minutes of the contest, the corner of Diaz Jr. made it clear that he needed more activity in order to sway the world title matchup in his favor. But, it was too little, too late, as Diaz Jr. began increasing his punch output toward the final two minutes of the final round, and Russell Jr., even though he was caught watching the television to seemingly check on the time, was able to survive and obtain the scorecards of 115-113 and 117-11 (twice) in a unanimous decision win in his hometown.

The notion of Russell Jr.’s inactivity was a concern entering this bout, but the 29-year-old proved that his skill is still maintained at a high level despite his limited schedule. Russell Jr. will likely find himself in the ring with the winner of next month’s rematch between Leo Santa Cruz and Abner Mares from Los Angeles. Josh Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs) and Oscar Valdez are also options, as both currently hold major world title in the competitive weight class of 126 pounds. Nevertheless, the question is when these unification fights can be made with Russell Jr. — who, including this past Saturday’s recent win, has now officially fought once a year since 2015.


About Albert Baker

Writer/Producer/Director of the Under the Hand Wraps documentary series and owner of Albert Baker is currently based in Fresno, California and has been covering boxing since 2014.

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  1. Pingback: Santa Cruz says Robert Garcia "might" make a difference in the rematch against Mares - Under the Hand Wraps

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