Russell Defeats Diaz

By Caryn A. Tate on May 19, 2018
Russell Defeats Diaz
The champion was defending his title for the third time. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

Gary Russell Jr. won a unanimous decision over Joseph “JoJo” Diaz, to retain his WBC featherweight title…

On Saturday night, from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, WBC featherweight world champion “Mr.” Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) faced his mandatory contender, Joseph “JoJo” Diaz (26-1, 14 KOs). The champion was defending his title for the third time just a few minutes from his home, while Californian Diaz was fighting for his first world title on the other side of the country.

In the first round, Russell established the rhythm from the beginning with a crisp jab that didn’t always land cleanly, but kept Diaz’s hands at home. In the second, Russell let a multiple-punch combination go that dazzled the crowd but may have punched out the champion. Diaz came on and began landing multiple shots, particularly to the body, that he let rip with obvious power.

Diaz was clearly the bigger man, looking like he might weigh between 135-140. Russell looked like a natural featherweight comparatively, and one has to wonder how much the size difference played into the early stages of the bout.

As the early rounds progressed, Diaz began landing more frequently, upstairs and down. Going into the sixth, it was a relatively close fight based on the scoring of rounds.

The last half of the fight became the key.

From the sixth, Russell adjusted and went into a different gear. Diaz seemed to have one plan: to move forward and try to “walk Russell down,” as he had repeatedly told the media prior to the match. After Russell adjusted and began using his feet and angles to better effect, Diaz often kept his hands at home. He would turn, after the Russell had already pivoted, trying to find the right angle again for his offense. But Russell controlled the angles, distance, and action, peppering the challenger with multiple shots. Some were blocked by Diaz’s gloves, but many landed cleanly.

In the twelfth, Diaz seemed to realize he was losing the fight and came out more aggressively, trying to walk through Russell’s shots. His heart and determination were impressive, but his game plan just wasn’t right for someone of Russell’s caliber.

In the end, I scored it nine rounds to three for Russell. The official scorecards were 115-113 and two of 117-111 for Russell.

Earlier the same day, we had a new featherweight world champion crowned in Josh Warrington, who upset former IBF title holder Lee Selby in the UK. While a potential contest between Warrington and former champion Carl Frampton is being discussed, it would be fantastic to see Russell unify with one of the other featherweight world champions. If not Warrington, the winner of Santa Cruz-Mares 2 would be another excellent match-up. The sport deserves more unification matches, particularly in a talent-riddled division like featherweight.

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  1. Your Name 05:37pm, 05/21/2018

    Ralph, enough already. You are saying things that are either painfully obvious to even a 10-year-old boxing fan , or patently untrue like Joe Louis fighting back room bouts. Can you please show us the record of those fights?

  2. Balaamsass 06:40pm, 05/20/2018

    All things considered…If you play peek-a-boo with Russell that tells him you’re not ready to punch and he will double, triple, quadruple jab and throw six and eight punch combos as he did in the first two minutes of just about every round last night!

  3. Ralph Fight Fan 11:09pm, 05/19/2018

    Russell showed he is the consummate pro. Ask any great fighter or trainer about the importance of the jab and they all say everything else flows from the jab. The jab is a very necessary tool in any winning boxer’s arsenal.  Russell’s use of his “stick to the face” kept Diaz off balance all fight long, both backing Diaz up touching him up to the face with the jab alone, along with some real good combinations off the jab. Russell repeatedly set up combinations off the jab. Diaz had to set his feet to throw punches and the jab kept him from doing that, tap, tap, tap. I agree with Caryn that Diaz was landing some good shots in the firts half, but when Russell started using angles on Diaz, the kid was mostly hitting air. Russell may not have a knockout punch, but he has all the other tools of a seasoned pro and deserves to be champ. He should fight more, however. Back in the day the “iron men” like Sugar Ray Robinson and Archie Moore fought all the time. Archie fought more than 100 professional fights. I met an older guy, a huge fight fan, in a bar in Detroit back in the 70’s who showed me his handwritten listing of all of Joe Louis’ “club fights”- these were fights in rings in back rooms of bars that were never officially recorded. A far cry from these fight-once-a-year boxers of this era, like Adonis Stevenson.

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