OXON HILL, Md. — Andre Dirrell has been here, done that, winning a major fight by disqualification.
Dirrell claimed a vacant interim super middleweight title by eighth-round DQ after Jose Uzcategui drilled him just as the bell rang to end the eighth round and he was ruled unable to continue on Saturday night on the Gary Russell Jr.-Oscar Escandon undercard at the MGM National Harbor.
Maryland police are looking for the uncle of super middleweight Andre Dirrell after he punched Jose Uzcategui, Dirrell’s opponent Saturday, in the face after the fight had ended. Dirrell’s uncle is wanted on two assault charges.
Coming off a 13-month layoff, Gary Russell Jr. was never in danger against interim titleholder Oscar Escandon on Saturday night and gave his hometown fans a dominant knockout victory to retain his featherweight world title.
Dirrell went down hard face-first, and referee Bill Clancy ruled that the punch landed after the bell, although it appeared as though Uzcategui was throwing the punch as the bell was ringing.
In 2010, during Showtime’s Super Six World Boxing Classic tournament, Dirrell won by 11th-round disqualification against Arthur Abraham when Abraham hit him while he was down after he slipped to the mat. That foul was blatant. This one wasn’t.
“I was throwing a three-punch combination, and I didn’t hear the bell,” Uzcategui said. “I didn’t mean to hit him. The third punch wasn’t that hard of a punch. I was surprised he stayed down. He did the same thing against Abraham that he did against me tonight. He quit against me, and he quit against him. I deserve to be the winner.”
Uzcategui was ahead 77-74 and 77-75 on two scorecards, and the third judge had the fight 76-76.
Clancy defended his call.
“The bell rang to stop the round. The round was over, and Andre was knocked out with an illegal punch. So therefore, Dirrell will win this fight by disqualification,” Clancy said. “That’s a blatant foul. Earlier in the fight, I had warned Uzcategui. I warned him. Dirrell wins the fight; he was clearly unable to continue.”
With the win, Dirrell is in line for a rematch with full titleholder James DeGale, who is sidelined because of injuries suffered in his January unification fight — a draw — with Badou Jack.
In May 2015, Dirrell faced DeGale for a vacant super middleweight title, got knocked down twice and lost a unanimous decision. Dirrell was fighting for only the second time since and did not look good despite getting the victory on Saturday.
“All I remember was him throwing a shot at me at the same time the bell rang,” Dirrell said of the final punch. “After that, everything was blurry. I remember a shot, and then all went fuzzy. I forgive Uzcategui. I forgive his camp. I don’t want to win a championship like this. I wanted to win fair and square. But I forgive him.”
Uzcategui had Dirrell seemingly in trouble in the second round, when he cracked Dirrell with a right hand on the chin and had him a bit wobbly late in the round.
Uzcategui, 26, continued to pressure Dirrell and outpunch him as the fight moved along. Uzcategui would land a shot and Dirrell, 33, would shake his head, but the blows were connecting.
Dirrell (26-2, 16 KOs), of Flint, Michigan, who looked rusty in his return from a 13-month layoff, began to box a bit more in the middle rounds and the pace slowed, but Uzcategui still was able to get in some hard right hands and snap Dirrell’s head back with clean jabs.
Venezuela’s Uzcategui (26-2, 22 KOs), whose four-fight winning streak came to an end, was having another good round in the eighth and appeared to score the knockout, until he was disqualified. Dirrell’s corner was yelling at the fighter to stay on the mat, which he did, before receiving medical attention.
“I felt very good. I was hurting him the entire fight,” Uzcategui said. “I felt like I could hurt him anytime I wanted. Nothing he hit me with hurt me.”
Emotions then boiled over as Dirrell’s uncle, Leon Lawson, one of his trainers, stormed Uzcategui’s corner and threw a punch at him, nearly igniting a riot in the ring. Uzcategui’s adviser Sean Gibbons was incensed, screaming to ringside media that they would file charges for assault.
“I’m sorry for what my coach has done,” Dirrell said. “My coach is my family, my uncle, and he was worried. He cares for me. He loves me. Please forgive him. I’m going to stand up like a man. I didn’t win like I wanted to, but I’ll be back. I’m going to come back as soon as they let me.”
Uzcategui was taken to the trauma center at MedSTAR Washington Hospital for further evaluation and was released a few hours later.
Barthelemy outpoints Relikh in eliminator
Former junior lightweight and lightweight world titleholder “Kid Blast” Rances Barthelemy ended an 11-month layoff by moving up in weight and winning an all-action decision against Kiryl Relikh in a junior welterweight world title elimination bout.
The win secured Barthelemy a mandatory shot at unified 140-pound titleholder Julius Indongo (22-0, 11 KOs), who outpointed Ricky Burns to unify two belts on April 14.
All three judges had it for Barthelemy, 117-109, 116-110 and 115-111, but the crowd booed the decision, likely because the fight seemed far closer than the scores would indicate. ESPN.com scored the fight 113-113.
Barthelemy got the decision, despite losing wide in every CompuBox statistical category: (248-137 overall in punches landed, 58-46 in jabs and 190-91 in power shots). Relikh outlanded Barthelemy in nine of the 12 rounds.
“It feels great to be going forward. The 11-month layoff really took a toll on my body, and I felt it in the ring,” Barthelemy said. “I knew it was a close fight, but knew I should get a unanimous decision. Relikh was a hard hitter.”
There was plenty of action throughout the fight. In the third round, Barthelemy (26-0, 13 KOs), who regularly switched between a right- and left-handed stance, landed a bad low blow that sent Relikh to the mat. Referee Kenny Chevalier gave Relikh time to recover from the foul, and he quickly shook it off.
Relikh (21-2, 19 KOs) had a huge fifth round, scoring a knockdown and battering Barthelemy. When he knocked Barthelemy hard into the ropes, which held Barthelemy up, Chevalier credited Relikh with a knockdown. And then Relikh was all over Barthelemy, hammering for the final 30 seconds of the round as he rocked his opponent repeatedly. Barthelemy was a wobbly mess and was nearly stopped, but he made it to the final bell.
Relikh, 27, of Belarus, who fighting in the United States for the first time, was having a good eighth round, but suddenly, in the waning seconds, Barthelemy landed a clean right hand to the body that dropped him to a knee. Relikh beat the count, but the round ended before Barthelemy could throw another shot.
Barthelemy, 30, a Cuban defector fighting out of Las Vegas, hurt Relikh with a right to the jaw, as well as a body shot in the 11th round, and had him hanging on in a fight that appeared to awfully close going to the final round — which was another tight one, as both fighters landed hard punches down the stretch.
Relikh has now lost two fights in a row, having also dropped a unanimous decision challenging then-titleholder Burns for his belt in October. He was disappointed by the scoring.
“Of course, I thought I won. Even [Showtime] thought I won,” Relikh said. “I thought it was over in the fifth. The low blows definitely affected me. It definitely takes the wind out of you. This is boxing, not MMA.”
Should Barthelemy go on to win a junior welterweight world title, he would become the first Cuban fighter to win a world title in three weight divisions.
Bantamweight prospect Gary Antonio Russell (8-0, 6 KOs) blew out Jovany Fuentes (7-9, 6 KOs), knocking him out in the third round of a one-sided bout. Russell, 24, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, and the younger brother of featherweight world titleholder and main event fighter Gary Russell Jr., dropped Fuentes, 26, of Puerto Rico, to his rear end with a right hand moments before the end of the second round. Fuentes beat the count, but the round ended before Russell could throw another punch. But Russell was all over Fuentes to begin the third round and landed a left hand that dropped him again. Fuentes was trying to recover, but his corner threw in the towel, and referee Brent Bovell waved off the fight 22 seconds into the round.
“We capitalized on everything we worked on in the gym,” Russell said. “We knew he favored his right hook, so I would walk to it to try to get him to throw it, and he wasn’t really doing it. I just knew I needed to touch him and fire, and that is exactly what I did. There was never any extra pressure, because we didn’t magnify this fight just because it was at home. We treat every fight like a championship fight.”
Junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell (1-0, 1 KO), a 2016 U.S. Olympian and the third of three fighting Russell brothers on the card, made his pro debut in style, as he dropped Joshua Ross (2-4-4), 26, of Monroe, Louisiana, three times in a first-round knockout victory of their scheduled four-rounder.
Russell, a 20-year-old southpaw also from nearby Capitol Heights, Maryland, dropped Ross with a straight left hand early in the round and then again to a knee moments later. Ross was game and continued, but when Russell landed a hard right hand for another knockdown, referee Bill Clancy waved the fight off at 2 minutes, 25 seconds.
“I listened, I followed instructions and it led me to a fast victory,” Russell said. “I wish it would have lasted longer. I was looking forward to it being more exciting. I wasn’t expecting it to be so short. We trained and sparred for 12 rounds, as if I was a professional before my debut, and that’s what I was prepared to do — go the distance. But I executed what my father [and trainer Gary Russell Sr.] told me to, and I got that quick victory.”
Russell, who had older brother Gary Russell Jr. working the corner hours before his featherweight world title defense, was eliminated in the quarterfinals at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August via very controversial decision against Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov, who went on to win a gold medal. Gaibnazarov, who signed with Top Rank, fought his second pro bout on Saturday night at New York’s Madison Square Garden on the Terence Crawford-Felix Diaz undercard.
Romanian bantamweight Alexandru Marin (13-0, 9 KOs), 25, who fights out of Bethesda, Maryland, rolled to a shutout decision against German Meraz (52-44-1, 32 KOs), 30, of Mexico, in an entertaining bout. But Marin dominated and won 60-54 on all three scorecards.
Featherweight Cobia Breedy (9-0, 3 KOs), 25, of Barbados, pounded out a six-round decision win against Wilfredo Garriga (4-7-1, 3 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico. Breedy won 59-55 on two scorecards and 58-56 on the third card.