Featherweight titleholder Gary Russell Jr.’s long overdue mandatory defense against interim titleholder Oscar Escandon is back on the boxing schedule.
Russell will make the second defense of his 126-pound world title when he squares off with Escandon on May 20 in the main event of a Showtime-televised card at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, the network announced.
Russell, a 28-year-old southpaw from Capitol Heights, Maryland, will be fighting in his home area for the first time as a professional.
“I’m a gladiator getting ready for a tough battle,” Russell said. “This is going to be a huge night for my family and I’m glad that the time is here. This will be the first time as pros that I get to fight on the same card as both of my little brothers, Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne, plus my brother Gary Allan will work all of our corners. We’re excited to get in the ring and show the fans what we’re capable of doing in the ring.”
Bantamweight Gary Antonio Russell (7-0, 5 KOs), 24, is a rising prospect and junior welterweight Gary Antuanne Russell, 20, was a 2016 U.S. Olympian who will be making his professional debut. He was eliminated in the quarterfinals via controversial decision against Uzbekistan’s Fazliddin Gaibnazarov at the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.
Russell-Escandon was scheduled to take place on March 11, also at the MGM National Harbor, which opened in December and already has become a busy boxing venue. The card will be the third in two months at the Washington, D.C.-are resort. Russell-Escandon was supposed to headline the resort’s first boxing card but was postponed when Escandon suffered a back injury.
Russell (27-1, 16 KOs), who was a 2008 U.S. Olympian, will be returning to the ring after yet another extended layoff. He won the title by fourth-round knockout of Jhonny Gonzalez in March 2015 but did not fight again until making his first defense via second-round knockout of Patrick Hyland 13 months later. Now Russell will be coming off another 13-month layoff.
“Last time I competed was about a year ago. There is no concern with ring rust,” Russell said. “I am consistently in the gym. I’m never out. I am one of those fighters that if the fight is on Saturday, I’m back in the gym on Monday.”
Escandon (25-2, 17 KOs), 32, of Colombia, will be coming off a 14-month layoff since winning the vacant interim belt by seventh-round knockout of Robinson Castellanos in March 2016.
“I’ve had to wait for this opportunity to face Gary Russell Jr. and I’m going to take full advantage of it,” Escandon said. “It’s going to be a great fight and I know the fans are going to get their money’s worth. I feel 100 percent healthy and now that the fight is here I am ready to knock him out.”
While the co-feature has not been officially announced, it is slated to match Jose Uzcategui (26-1, 22 KOs) and Andre Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs) for a vacant interim super middleweight title, which was made available because titleholder James DeGale is sidelined for several months as he recovers from injuries suffered in his January draw with Badou Jack in their unification fight.
Upon his return, DeGale will be obligated to defend against the Uzcategui-Dirrell winner, although there is a chance he could vacate and move up to light heavyweight. DeGale dropped Dirrell twice and beat him by unanimous decision to win a vacant 168-pound world title in May 2015.
Uzcategui, 26, a Venezuela native fighting out of Mexico, will end a nine-month layoff. He has won four fights in a row since suffering his lone defeat, a unanimous 10-round decision to middleweight Matt Korobov, after which Uzcategui moved up to super middleweight. Dirrell, 33, of Flint, Michigan, will be coming off a 13-month layoff.