Featherweight world champion Gary Russell Jr. will look to defend his featherweight world title against top challenger Oscar Escandon this Saturday, May 20 live from MGM National Harbor in Maryland. The Showtime telecast begins at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT features super middleweight contenders Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui battling for the IBF Super Middleweight World Championship plus two-division world champion Rances Barthelemy taking on Kiryl Relikh in a 140-pound world title eliminator. In the telecast opener, from Copper Box Arena in London, Gervonta Davis puts his IBF Jr. Lightweight Title on the line against Liam Walsh.
Tickets for the live event at MGM National Harbor, promoted by TGB Promotions, are priced at $200, $150, $100 and $50, and are now on sale. To purchase tickets go to http://mgmnationalharbor.com/.
Top 168-pound contenders Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs) and Uzcategui (26-1, 22 KOs) are set to meet in a 12-round matchup with the winner in line to face IBF champion James DeGale, who is currently recovering from injuries sustained in his draw against Badou Jack in January on SHOWTIME.
“This fight is a massive step towards my journey to success in 2017,” said Dirrell. “To me, this is my championship fight leading up to the rematch with the current champion, James DeGale. Jose has all of the tools of a champion, so he’s fierce competition for me. But I will show the world that I’m up for the task. This is my year!”
“I’m very excited to be facing a fighter the quality of Andre Dirrell,” said Uzcategui. “These are the types of fights that I’ve wanted and I look forward to coming out victorious. This fight will be another step on the way to my dream of becoming a world champion.”
The 2016 U.S. Olympian Gary Antuanne and unbeaten bantamweight prospect Antonio Russell (7-0, 5 KOs) will compete in separate undercard attractions on May 20 as the three brothers will fight on the same card for the first time as pros.
Here is what the participants had to say Thursday from the Enigma Gym in Capitol Heights, Maryland:
GARY RUSSELL JR.
“My weight is perfect. We did a 30-day weigh-in and I was about 132. I’m about 128 right now. I feel comfortable. If we can’t get a unification bout, I’ll move up in weight though. I understand why people haven’t wanted to fight me. It’s a business and I understand that.
“The postponement didn’t bother me. I can’t get upset about stuff that I can’t control. When you have two elite athletes pushing themselves to the limit, injuries occur. It gave me more time to rest my body properly. We’re definitely ready now.
“I haven’t fought anyone as short as him, but that’s the purpose of training camp. We bring people in who have a similar style to Escandon. We’ve gotten great work in and I feel prepared.
“It’s easier against a more aggressive guy. It’s hard to go after someone who is retreating. He’s going to bring it right into my face.
“We come to the gym and grind every day so we can be the best we possibly can. On fight night, it’ll all come to fruition.
“It’s going to be history in the making. We’re in familiar territory with making history. We were the first set of four brothers to win the National Golden Gloves and I don’t see anyone breaking our record any time soon. I believe in a dynasty and I’m excited for my dad to see all of his hard work come together on fight night.
“When you focus on the magnitude of an event you take away from the true focus that we’re supposed to have. My goal is to become victorious. But it’s definitely cool that the people from my hometown will be able to be a part of the event.”
GARY ANTUANNE RUSSELL
“We plan on giving our father a gift that he can’t buy on his birthday May 20. There’s been a lot of sets of two brothers but there’s never been three as far as I know. There have been the Klitschkos, the Dirrells and the Charlos, but those are just two. We’re breaking new ground.
“This sport is brutal. Anyone who steps into that ring has to have a certain amount of intelligence, heart and character. It takes a different kind of individual to get in there alone knowing the other person is trying to take your head off.
“Gary Jr. is my vision. I needed a role model and there he is. I needed someone to keep my humble and keep me out of trouble.
“Me and my whole family talk a lot and about everything. Not just about the sport of boxing. Boxing is what I do, but it’s not who I am. I’m a class valedictorian and I graduated with the highest GPA in Prince George’s County. Don’t just look at me as a jock. That’s what we tell anybody.
“Real estate is in my future. We’re going to own our own properties and be the shot callers. I’ve been getting educated from my brother and my father.
“It’s amazing what my dad did, but you can’t forget about my mom. Behind every king is a strong queen. My mom is the most important woman in my life. Other than that, it’s tunnel vision. Tunnel vision in school and in the gym or anything else I do in my life.
“I want to give back to my brother. A lot of families leave their children with nothing. We’re all working to leave something with substance for our families.
“What makes the Russell brothers different is that we’re all equal and we get our energy from each other. It’s never about being better at something than your brother, we all want to get through every obstacle together.
“I’d say I should be on the world title level in the next five years. This is a business. We’re going to do this well. That’s what my team talks about.
“We’re looking to build a dynasty and I believe that May 20 will be a memento to our dynasty building. I hope I’m at the championship level in the next five years. We’re going to run this thing correctly.”
GARY ANTONIO RUSSELL
“It means a lot but it was all expected. We put in hard work in the gym so I expected us to reach these levels.
“It’s even better to be able to come home and compete. Not all of our fans could make it to our other fights. But being at MGM in Maryland, it’s all coming together.
“I watch everything that my older brother does and I learn from his mistakes. He makes sure that I don’t make those same mistakes. He critiques me every way, through life and in the gym.
“My career is going up. I know my father has my best interest at heart. He’s going to get me the right fights and put me in good positions.
“There is a sense of order in our house. Iron sharpens iron. We all help each other no matter what. We’ll all be victorious on May 20 and it’s going to be a wonderful birthday present for our dad.”
GARY RUSSELL SR., Father and Trainer for the Russell brothers
“The D.C. and Maryland area has always produced great boxers. Right now it’s their time. With Gary, Jarrett Hurd and Gervonta Davis, this is as good as it’s ever been. They represent the sport as gentlemen.
“Gary Antuanne is coming in fresh off of the Olympics. We know he won that fight in Rio, but politics got him. He’s not a normal young fighter. He was a class valedictorian which I don’t think a lot of boxers can say. Antonio has a lot of talent as well and he’s on the rise. It’s going to be a great opportunity to show their skills.
“I’m really excited. It’s unique to have all of these guys from the area showcasing their talent at the same time. I’ve known Jarrett and Tank since they were kids and I’m proud of how far they’ve come.”
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ABOUT RUSSELL JR. vs. ESCANDON
Gary Russell Jr. vs. Oscar Escandon is a featherweight world championship showdown that headlines SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING on Saturday, May 20 from MGM National Harbor in Maryland. Televised coverage begins on SHOWTIME at 6 p.m. ET/3 p.m. PT and features super middleweight contenders Andre Dirrell and Jose Uzcategui in a matchup for the Interim IBF Super Middleweight World Championship plus two-division world champion Rances Barthelemy in a WBA 140-pound world title eliminator against Kiryl Relikh. In the telecast opener, from Copper Box Arena in London, Gervonta Davis puts his IBF Jr. Lightweight Title on the line against Liam Walsh.
For more information, follow on Twitter @MrGaryRussellJr, @TGBPromotions, @MGMNatlHarbor and @Swanson_Comm or become a fan on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/SHOBoxing and www.Facebook.com/MGMNationalHarbor. The event is sponsored by Corona Extra, La Cerveza Mas Fina.
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