One never can tell how an unbeaten prospect will respond to his first defeat. Gary Russell Jr.'s response on Saturday night was loud and emphatic.
Nine months after dropping a decision to Vasyl Lomachenko in a vacant world title bout that doubled as Russell's first legitimate step up in class after a slow rise up the ranks, the ESPN.com 2011 prospect of the year dominated featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas.
Russell (26-1, 15 KOs) stood his ground in front of a dangerous puncher and floored Gonzalez three times en route to a dominant fourth-round TKO.
"We put the work in at the gym; we grind three times a day, hard," Russell said. "For all the young fighters coming up, never come into a fight questioning or doubting. Always come into a fight ready."
After making a statement in the opening round by stinging Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KOs) with his blistering hand speed, the southpaw Russell scored a pair of knockdowns in Round 3 with counter left hands up the middle. "We knew that he was trying to find the left hook, and the left hand was the key in the fight," Russell said. "We knew that our left hand would beat his wide left hook. I don't feel as though he really recovered from the first knockdown. My father told me to keep my composure, stay off the jab and close the distance."
Russell floored Gonzalez early in Round 4 with a combination before finishing him at 37 seconds in the round on a right hand as referee Tony Weeks stepped in to wave off the fight.
"Being a world champion is funny because it was never one of my goals," said Russell, who spoke after the fight of his desire for a rematch with Lomachenko. "Not until after me not being able to compete in the Olympics. I had a lot of people who genuinely had my support in their hand, and I felt as though the only way for me to make it up to my fans is to come home with this world title."
Charlo takes decision from Martirosyan
In a well-matched bout between aspiring junior middleweights, unbeaten Jermell Charlo did just enough to outslick Vanes Martirosyan in a tactical fight. Charlo (26-0, 11 KOs) relied on a quick jab and clean combinations to win the favor of all three judges by unanimous decision (97-93, 96-94 twice) in a fight that was littered with close rounds.
"This fight I knew I had a game plan," Charlo said. "Vanes wants to come in and attack a little bit with the right hand, and also, he could move a little bit. I was smart in the ring, I did what I had to do and we got the victory. On to the next."
Charlo, 24, a native of Houston and twin brother of fellow 154-pound contender Jermall, outlanded Martirosyan 92 to 79, according to CompuBox, and connected on 30 percent of his punches.
Martirosyan (35-2-1, 21 KOs) overcame an accidental head-butt in Round 8 that opened up a cut above his left eye and caused a lengthy delay as he was inspected by the ring doctor.
"It was blurry, but the doctor told me he was going to stop the fight," Martirosyan said. "I could barely see, but I was OK to fight. We are warriors. We fight."
Martirosyan, 28, had success early by jabbing to the body but was unable to match Charlo's speed and ability to fight from distance late.
"He ran the whole fight," Martirosyan said. "He did land a couple of punches but I was pushing the action. I won the last round, and the fight was close. I honestly did think I won the fight. He ran the whole fight. This is professional boxing."