SAN DIEGO, May 20, 2017 – Gervonta “Tank” Davis of Baltimore lived up to his moniker, rolling right over Liam Walsh of Great Britain in three rounds to remain the IBF super featherweight champion and America’s youngest titleholder at age 22.
Davis dictated a deliberate pace, testing the distance with his signature left hook in between jabs and body shots. Walsh seemed to let Davis lead the dance, but it wasn’t the smartest decision.
After just two round of sizing up his opponent, Davis moved in and snapped a left hook across Walsh’s temple halfway through the third round. David moved in, aiming additional hooks from both sides along with body work to put Walsh on the canvas. Walsh beat the count on unsteady legs. Referee Howard Foster let him continue, but stepped in quickly to stop the fight seconds later at 2:11 of the round after Walsh took several more hard shots from Davis.
Davis (18-0, 17 KOs) said after the fight he had a great training camp in Las Vegas and thanked his mentor Floyd Mayweather for training with him. Mayweather joined Davis in the ring, and said, “I thought that it was gonna take a couple more rounds to get the guy out of there … Only thing we want to do is continue to let this young fighter grow,” promising Davis would be back in the ring within a few months. “We want to take one fight at a time, there’s no rush. He’s still young, there’s a lot of fight left in him,” said Mayweather.
As for Mayweather getting in the ring anytime soon against MMA star Conor McGregor? Mayweather said he thought it would happen, and he wants Davis and super middleweight Badou Jack on the undercard.
Fans watching on Showtime jumped back to the MGM National Harbor Theater for the rest of Saturday’s televised events.
In the main event, Gary Russell Jr. fought his first professional bout in front of his hometown fans. It was a crowd-pleasing firefight, with Russell Jr. (28-1, 17 KOs) prevailing with a seventh round TKO over a tough Oscar Escandon (25-3, 17 KOs) of Colombia.
Russell Jr.’s hand speed is his best asset and his 13-month layoff from the ring did not affect it in the least. He blasted Escandon with hooks, upper cuts, and body shots from left and right, dropping him early in the third round for the first time. But Escandon proved himself tough and he dished out some punishment of his own. Both fighters were on a pace to throw one-thousand punches in 12 rounds.
But Escandon took a left hook, then a follow-up right hook one minute into the seventh round, and as Russell Jr. moved in to try and stop the fight, Escandon looked as if he would take a strategic knee to avoid anything worse. Referee Harvey Dock decided Escandon had taken enough punishment and stopped the fight 59 seconds into the seventh round. It was a good stoppage. As Russell Jr. said, “It’s up to the referee’s discretion to protect the fighters at all times, I’m grateful for that as well.”
Russell Jr. fought more rounds Saturday than in the 26 months in two bouts. He’s had layoffs due to problems with brittle hands and an ankle injury. No such problems Saturday. Russell Jr. is back and ready to take on the top names. When asked whether he’d like to avenge the single loss on his record to Vasyl Lomachenko, Russell Jr. said, “That’s a no-brainer. I don’t want to do it for the fans, I don’t want to do it for the media, I want to do it for myself.” But Russell Jr. said he wants his fight with Lomachenko to end his career. Before then, he wants a unification fight against anyone with a title. The short list is Lee Selby, Abner Mares, and Leo Santa Cruz. Russell Jr. said he will move up a division if he can’t get a unification bout.
The action picked right up with the junior welterweight title elimination bout between Rances Barthelemy (25-0, 13 KOs) of Cuba and former world title challenger Kiryl Relikh (21-1, 19 KOs) of Belarus. The bout was all about aggression, not much about the art of boxing. Fans didn’t mind as the fortunes of both fighters swung wildly back and forth. Relikh dropped Barthelemy with a body shot in the fifth round; Barthelemy returned the favor in the eighth round.
As the fight ground into the later rounds, Relikh showed he was better conditioned, throwing and landing nearly double the punches of Barthelemy. Nevertheless, Barthelemy kept his feet and kept Relikh honest by landing good shots to the body and head right down to the closing bell. Most observers believed Relikh would win a close one on the cards, but the bout when to Barthelemy. Judges scored it 115-111 (Henry Grant), 116-110 (John Gradowski) and a ridiculous 117-109 (Don Risher).
The Cuban now becomes the mandatory challenger for surprise star Julius Indongo of Namibia, who scored our knockout of the year in 2016 against Eduard Troyanovsky and who defeated Ricky Burns by decision last month.
Super middleweight contender Jose Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs) of Venezuela via Mexico was giving Andre Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs) of Flint, Michigan all he could handle as they battled for the vacant interim IBF title in the co-main event. It was a surprisingly tough fight and the momentum was on Uzcategui’s side in a close bout.
Just before the bell sounded ending the eighth round, Uzcategui landed an excellent left hook, followed by a body shot. He should have stopped there, but in his excitement threw a second left hook after the bell, knocking Dirrell out. Referee Bill Clancy stopped the bout, and per regulations with Dirrell unable to continue, Uzcategui was disqualified.
If Clancy had instead gone to the cards, Uzcategui would have won by majority decision. Instead, Dirrell wins the title and now becomes the mandatory challenger for world titleholder James DeGale.
Dirrell’s uncle and co-trainer Leon Lawson Jr. and Dirrell’s brother Anthony, also a pro boxer, took issue with Uzcategui and his corner, climbing into the ring. Lawson landed several punches on Uzcategui, and the group was escorted out of the arena. Later, Maryland Police officials said they were investigating, looking for Lawson Jr. and would arrest him for the assault.
Dirrell said later he was OK. “Honestly, all I remember was him catching me with a shot at the same time as the bell rung. After that, it’s blurred vision. I love Uzcategui, and I love his camp … But please forgive him. This is just how it goes, man. I don’t want to win a championship this way, I want to win the right way. I’ll come back as soon as you all let me and put on a hell of a show.”
This is the second time Dirrell has won a fight via disqualification due to an illegal punch. In the 2010 Super Six tournament eventually won by Andre Ward, Arthur Abraham hit Dirrell when he was down on the mat after slipping in the 11th round, a much more clear cut issue.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, Fellow PRSA, is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities and for boxing fans worldwide. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. She is owner of the Falcon Valley Group based in San Diego, California. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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