Ron Harris (November 27, 2021)
Las Vegas, Nev. – The question posed to the fighting Russell family is when World Boxing Council featherweight champion Gary Russell, Jr will get back in the ring to defend his title. The word is he will fight at the beginning of 2022. In the meantime, Gary Jr’s brother, Gary Antonio Russell keeps climbing up the bantamweight division in hopes of a title shot, maybe next year.
Antonio, from Capitol Heights, Maryland, got by a rugged fighter from Mexico the other night at the Park MGM Hotel in Las Vegas with a majority decision over Alexandro Santiago, 25. The judges scored the fight, 95-95 and 96-94, twice. This was the toughest fight of Antonio’s career. He improved his record to 19-0 and went 10 rounds for the second time in his career. He is currently ranked number 2 by the World Boxing Association. Although Russell had a towering height advantage over Santiago (24-3-5), he still had to keep the shorter fighter off him. “I gave myself about a C- on this fight,” said Antonio. “It was some missed opportunities. He was a rugged little fighter. He had no choice but to try to make the fight rough. I was displaying my jab a lot, keeping him at the end. He is a short guy, and I was conscious of the head butts that happened in my last 2 previous fights.” His last fight lasted only a few seconds before the ref stopped the fight and ruled it a no contest. “I wanted to keep it clean and get some rounds in.” Head butts occur many times when a southpaw fighter is fighting an orthodox (right-handed) fighter. Santiago is 5’ 3”.
The crowd booed the decision of the judges. Professional judges can see what the people in the stands can’t see. Because a fighter is aggressive, does not mean he is landing effective punches. Defense is apart of the judges ruling. Santiago pressed Russell from the 4th round on, but he ate some clean shots from Antonio along the way. “He got some good shots in. Nothing hurt me or anything. It wasn’t so much of what he did, it was me on defense and missing some opportunities,” recalls Russell. Thus, his grade of C-. “I should have pressed him earlier in the fight and maybe the outcome would have been different,” said Santiago through an interpreter. Santiago was fighting in Las Vegas for the first time.
“People may look at this performance and think I am not be ready for a title shot, but I know I am ready. I just hope one of the champions gives me a shot,” said Russell.
Photo credit: Sean Michael Ham
Ron Harris, retired college administrator, coach, broadcaster, Internet and TV sports producer and host. Former radio host of a live call-in show. Extremely close to the sports landscape in the Washington, DC metro area. Former radio sports reporter, covering MLB, college sports, major boxing events and much more.