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In the main event from MGM National Harbor in Maryland, it was a tactical and hard fought battle of two former U.S. Olympians as Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) defeated Joseph Diaz Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs). Russell won the contest via unanimous decision, 115-113 and 117-111 twice, to retain his WBC featherweight world title. The 29-year-old hometown favorite used his hand speed, quickness and relentless attack to overwhelm Diaz Jr., the previously undefeated top-ranked contender.
Russell Jr.’s game plan to dictate the pace and establish the jab was clear, throwing a career-high 587 jabs throughout the 12-round battle. While the number of punches landed were close (199-192 in favor of Russell Jr.), Russell Jr.’s output trumped Diaz Jr.’s accuracy as the champion’s career-high 992 punches thrown were the most ever for him in a CompuBox tracked fight. Diaz Jr. was committed to attacking the body of Russell Jr., but he was unable to break the champion down, who injured his right hand in the third round.
“We train to survive those body shots,” said Russell Jr. “We put the work in every day in the ring. We consistently grind and push ourselves to be great and we push ourselves to the limit.
Josh Warrington became the new IBF featherweight world champion by upsetting Lee Selby in a split-decision victory. The bout was streamed live to U.S. audiences via the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube Channel and SHOWTIME Boxing Facebook Page from Elland Road Football Ground in Leeds, U.K. The judges scored the bout 116-112, 115-113 and 113-115.
Warrington (27-0, 6 KOs), from Leeds, used the energy of the home crowd and established control of the fight from the onset. He was the more aggressive fighter, catching Selby with a clean left hook to the jaw and an equally powerful right hand in the second round. In the same round, Selby, who was making the fifth defense of the IBF title that he earned in 2015, suffered a substantial cut above his left eye from an accidental headbutt. The cut would plague him for the remainder of the fight. In the middle rounds, Warrington continued the barrage to the head of Selby, who was taken to the corner in the sixth round for inspection after a second accidental headbutt but was allowed to continue. (Click HERE to watch the accidental headbutt)
Selby (26-2, 9 KOs), of Cardiff, Wales, showed the experience and skills that made him champion in the later rounds despite the blood flowing down his face. He was able to regain his composure, establish his jab and land several impressive combinations, doing enough to earn the win in the eyes of one judge. But in the eyes of Warrington, who becomes Leeds’ first ever world champion, it was clear who the victor was. (Click HERE to watch Warrington’s reaction to victory)
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