By Ron Harris – Still mourning his father’s death and the recent death of his brother, Antuanne Russell held it together and won a fight against his toughest opponent since turning pro. He scored his 16th knock out in his 16th fight to begin his pro career.
With a clean, perfect right hook, Russell put Cuban fighter, Rances Barthelemy (29-2-1) on the canvas, fifty seconds into the 6th round. When Barthelemy got to his feet, he was on shaky legs. Veteran referee, Shada Murdaugh counts to 8, looked into the eyes of Barthelemy and waved the fight over. Giving Russell a TKO win. Everyone in the Barclays Center in Brooklyn screamed in disbelief. Barthelemy jumped up and down protesting the stoppage. What was not seen were the eyes of Barthelemy. Murdaugh was inches away from the face of Barthelemy and must have seen something in the eyes of a fighter that was on wobbly legs seconds earlier. Murdaugh did not speak after the fight.
Russell is in rare company to have all knockouts in his first 16 pro fights. He is now 16-0 with 16 knockouts. An emotional Russell spoke to his father with the first words out of his mouth after thanking God. “I want to tell my father while the world is watching…. we did it for you. We are going to keep it going pops.” This was his first fight without his father and trainer in his corner. “I stayed with tunnel vision. It was a little leery, but I know I had to get the job done,” said Russell. “My father taught us to be thorough inside and outside the ring. I thank my family and I did what I had to do.” Former world champion and older brother, Gary Russell, Jr took over the lead trainer spot for this fight.
Asked about the stoppage, Russell said, “I know he wanted to continue, but the ref was doing his job. If they had let the fight go on, I’m pretty sure later down the road in the later rounds, the same outcome would have happened.” An angry Barthelemy said, “I told the ref I was OK and could continue to fight. He hit me with a good shot, but I could have continued. I want a rematch but with a different referee.”
Russell started fast as he always does since turning pro. Barthelemy was the taller fighter who switched from right-handed to southpaw and may have confused Russell somewhat. The Russell’s pride themselves on adjusting inside the ring and being prepared for anything. Russell landed some hard shots, but nothing hurt Barthelemy. In fact, Barthelemy landed perhaps the hardest punch of the night. A short, hard right that caught Russell flush and sent him backwards late in the first round. Probably the hardest punch Russell has seen as a pro. The right hook that floored Barthelemy was a punch he never saw. It landed flush in the middle of Barthelemy’s face, and he landed with both hands on the canvas. He got up off balance and his eyes looked glazed. Those eyes were the signal for referee Murdaugh to stop the fight. Russell was ahead on all 3 judge’s cards at the stoppage.
Photo credit: Premier Boxing Champions
Ron Harris is a retired college administrator, coach, broadcaster, Internet and TV sports producer and former radio host of a live call-in show. He is tightly connected to the sports landscape in the Washington, DC metropolitan area and continues to cover Major League Baseball, college sports, boxing and other sports events.