But the slow, cautious pace of his development has caused him to drift out of the spotlight in the past few years. When he lost his initial world title bid to Vasyl Lomachenko last year, many fans took it as a sign that his limitations had been exposed.
In Las Vegas this past weekend, he finally became truly relevant, when he knocked out Jhonny Gonzalez in Round 4 to capture the WBC featherweight title. The tough Mexican veteran had no answers for Russell’s speed and tricky attacks. Featherweight is arguably the hottest weight class in the sport, so hopefully Russell will defend the belt against other emerging stars, instead of cherry picked fringe contenders.
On the undercard of the Russell-Gonzalez fight, light middleweight Jermell Charlo came away with a unanimous decision against fellow contender Vanes Martirosyan. This was an extremely well-fought, technical chess match and most of the rounds of the fight could have gone in favor of either man. I had Charlo winning six rounds to four, but wouldn’t have cried robbery if the fight had been scored the other way.
It’s the biggest victory of Charlo’s career and should be his last stop before a title fight. There are no easy wins at the world-title level at 154-pounds, so things will just get tougher from here for the prodigy.
In Britain, IBF welterweight champion Kell Brook made quick work of the over matched Ionut Dan Ion, stopping him in Round 4. It was Brook’s first fight since winning the belt from Shawn Porter last August, and since suffering a bizarre machete attack last year. Brook’s next fight should be a major fight against another big star. He’s said he wants the winner of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao and it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he’ll get that fight.
WBA and WBO flyweight champion Juan Francisco Estrada defended his belts by TKOing Rommel Asenjo in three rounds. It was another impressive performance from a rising star.
The legendary Roy Jones Jr. continued his Quixotic quest to win a cruiserweight world title by stopping 10-6-1 nonentity Paul Vasquez in the first round.