Bizarre boxing night overshadows Gary Russell Jr. victory

May 20, 2017

By Joseph Hammond

Oxon Hill, Maryland -- In the main event Saturday night, Gary Russell Jr. defeated Oscar Escandon of Colombia via a seventh round TKO.  But that fight was overshadowed by what happened on the undercards in Oxon Hill, Maryland, this past weekend, as Andre Dirrell won the interim IBF Super Middleweight Championship via a disqualification after the eighth round.

Somewhere former heavyweight champion Jark Sharkey is smiling.

Famously Max Schmeling won the heavyweight title in 1933 when Jack Sharkey was disqualified for a low blow.  It was the first time the modern heavyweight title was decided via disqualification for a low blow.

Boxing writers question referees all the time, but here it was a good decision by the referee to award the disqualification.

What happened after the disqualification can only be described as chaos at ringside.

Dirrell’s corner was angry about the repeated fouls from his Venezuelan opponent, Jose Uzcategui. This fight was the second time Dirrell has won a fight via DQ (the other was against Arthur Abraham in 2010).  Frustration began to brew among many in the arena observing a boxer of Dirrell's caliber being hit multiple times at the end of the round.

As the crowd booed and hissed, Anthony Dirrell, himself a former champion boxer, turned and shouted into the crowd, and Claressa Shields, the world’s most famous female boxer, was in the thick of it as well.

Both Willie Dirrell and Anthony were restrained at ringside from attacking Uzcategui's team after the stoppage. Dirrell was struggling in the fight at times and may have lost without the stoppage.

While police intervened to quiet the scene, Leon Lawson Jr., the uncle and trainer of Andre Dirrell, entered the ring.  Lawson Jr. approached Uzcategui’s corner, and as Uzcategui leaned against the ropes, distracted by the turmoil, Lawson Jr. suddenly threw a two-punch combination, stunning the Uzcategui.  Lawson, Jr. then fled the scene and is currently under investigation by authorities.

It was the biggest ringside kerfluffle, or perhaps I should say "cofveve," that this writer has witnessed since 2006 when I was ringside for the Zab Judah versus Floyd Mayweather IBF welterweight title fight.  In the 10th round of that fight, a frustrated Judah threw a low blow against Mayweather, prompting similar chaos after the bell.

In well over a decade covering boxing, it has been rare when an undercard bout has out-shown the main event.

Kudos to referee Bill Clancy, if he had been the ref for the David Lemieux versus Gennady Golovkin fight, then Lemieux might be the present middleweight champion of the world.

In the main event, Gary Russell Jr. put on a boxing clinic over seven rounds against Escandon.  Russell is so fast you have to watch him on TV. His hands (but not his reflexes) are faster than Vasyl Lomachenko.

The Daily Sports Herald spoke to Escandon's corner before the fight.

“The key is timing to deal with his speed and for him to be the boxer he is," said a representative from Escandon’s team.  “We have to be on him from the opening bell and not let up.”

Escandon tried that strategy, but did not have the energy, speed, or ability to cut off the ring. He survived an early knockdown only to be finished off in the 7th by a relentless and fast-handed Gary Russell Jr.

After making his third defense of the WBC featherweight title, Gary Russell Jr. called out Vasyl Lomachenko for a rematch. That appears unlikely to happen anytime soon given that Lomachenko is headed up in weight, rather than down.

Gary Russell may have the fastest hands in boxing, but there is little to make this reporter feel he has improved to the point where he could beat boxing’s pound-for-pound king at the moment.

It was a good night for the Russell family. Gary Antonio Russell (brother of the main-event champion) improved to  8-0 (6 KOs) with a third round knockout of  Jovany Fuentes of Puerto Rico. Fuentes' corner stopped the fight after the third knockdown. Fuentes wore a pink ribbon to show support for defeating breast cancer, but Russell proved to be a bigger concern. Fuentes' knees buckled dramatically on the third knockdown and it was a good corner stoppage.

In the other notable undercard fight, Super Lightweight Rances Barthelemy (formerly of Cuba) somehow convinced all the judges he defeated Kiryl Relikh of Belarus. It was a bad decision which needs to be reviewed by boxing’s authorities.

Between the Relikh loss and the fracas following the IBF interim Super Middleweight fight, there will be much for boxing authorities in Maryland -- and elsewhere -- to sort out in the coming weeks.

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