The long overdue mandatory fight between featherweight world titleholder Gary Russell Jr. and interim titlist Oscar Escandon is going to take a bit longer to get done.
The fight, scheduled to headline a Showtime-televised card on March 11 from the new MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a suburb of Russell's hometown of Washington, D.C., was postponed Tuesday.
The reason: Escandon suffered a back injury in training about a week ago and could not shake it off enough to go through with the fight.
"Oscar suffered an injury to his back in training and he'll be ready to go in April,'' said Sampson Lewkowicz, Escandon's promoter. "He's very sorry for the delay in the fight, but these things happen in boxing. He's really looking forward to facing Gary Russell Jr., but he wants to be completely healthy when they do meet.''
Russell was disappointed by the postponement.
"It's definitely irritating, but injuries happen, especially when you have somebody pushing their body to the limit for a fight that is potentially life changing," Russell said. "It's disappointing. It might not work out for him because I have a little more time to get ready.''
Although the card was formally announced at a news conference at the venue two weeks ago, which was attended by the main event fighters and promoter Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, the announcement of Showtime's involvement was delayed while the license fee for the card was being negotiated. Then came the injury and the uncertainty if Escandon would be able to fight, further delaying an announcement.
But Showtime Sports vice president and general manager Stephen Espinoza told ESPN that he hopes to still put on the rescheduled card.
"We were informed that Escandon suffered a back injury and they wouldn't be available for March 11," Espinoza said. "Our understanding is it will take a few weeks for him to recover. We'd like to keep the card together and so we're looking at new dates, pending Escandon's medical clearance."
The postponement of the March 11 card will extend Russell's layoff beyond a year. He has not fought since making his first title defense by second-round knockout of Patrick Hyland in April.
Escandon (25-2, 17 KOs), 32, of Colombia, also will see his layoff also extend beyond a year, as he has not fought since scoring a seventh-round knockout of Robinson Castellanos in March 2016 to claim the vacant interim belt.
The postponement also means junior middleweight world titleholder Jermell Charlo's overdue mandatory defense against Charles Hatley will be delayed, as will fights involving two of Russell's younger brothers, bantamweight Gary Antonio Russell (7-0, 5 KOs) and junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell, a 2016 U.S. Olympian, who was supposed to make his professional debut on the card.
Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs), 26, of Houston, the twin brother of Jermall Charlo, who recently vacated his version of the junior middleweight title, is supposed to make his first title defense against Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KOs), 31, of Dallas, since winning a vacant 154-pound belt by eighth-round knockout of John Jackson last May.
The card was supposed to be the first boxing event to take place at the MGM National Harbor and also was going to be the first hometown fight for Russell (27-1, 16 KOs), 28, in his eight-year professional career. Now the first boxing event there will be an HBO-televised tripleheader that Top Rank is putting on April 8.
It will feature three 2012 Ukrainian Olympic medalists: Vasyl Lomachenko (gold), Oleksandr Usyk (gold) and Oleksandr Gvozdyk (bronze).
Lomachenko (7-1, 5 KOs), the junior lightweight world titleholder, will defend his belt for the second time when he takes on former titlist Jason Sosa (20-1-4, 15 KOs) in the main event. Cruiserweight titlist Usyk (11-0, 10 KOs) will be making his second title defense against Michael Hunter (12-0, 8 KOs) in the co-feature, and Oleksandr Gvozdyk (12-0, 10 KOs) will take on Yunieski Gonzalez (18-2, 14 KOs) in the 10-round opener.