Gary Russell Jr (seen here in July) knocked out Heriberto Ruiz in the first round tonight in Cincinnati. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
The first leg of tonight's split site HBO double-header featured a couple of nasty knockouts in physical mismatch showcases, with one man landing his first major title, and another inching further toward the land of contention.
In the main event from Cincinnati, hometown favorite Adrien Broner improved to 22-0 (18 KO) with a wicked third round knockout of Argentina's Martin Rodriguez (34-3-1, 19 KO), netting the vacant WBO super featherweight title in the process.
Broner, 21, showed his huge hand speed advantage in the opening round, but didn't land much of consequence. In the second frame, it was the gutsy but slow Rodriguez, 26, who brought a ton of pressure, threw all he could at the Cincinnati kid, and may have taken the round on pure activity.
Rodriguez came out in the third to do the same thing: Keep it rough, make it a brawl, and hope for the best. It wasn't the worst strategy by any means, as there was no way he was going to out-box Broner. But it wound up getting him knocked out, as Broner easily dodged a lengthy flurry of hail mary punches from Rodriguez, then caught the Argentinean with a staggering right uppercut.
Seeing his man hurt, Broner went in for the kill. Though Rodriguez threw back and did his best to avoid the oncoming big shots, a body shot hurt him, leaving him wide open for a big left hook that put things away.
While Broner's win isn't exactly enormous (he was a -4000 favorite on one sportsbook today) and certainly wasn't unexpected, it's a big win for him and hopefully, he can turn Cincinnati into a fight city again. Local cities like that are nothing but good for growing boxing on a grassroots level, and worse fighters than Broner have gathered dedicated "small town" fanbases in recent years.
In the Cincinnati co-feature, which would up shown in full on HBO after all via replay, featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr (19-0, 11 KO) wiped out veteran Heriberto Ruiz (47-12-2, 29 KO) in the first round on a right hook to the body followed by a devastating right hook to the head. Ruiz was out instantly, but did recover after the ten count. Russell, 23, is a serious talent, as is Broner. No one questions the physical gifts these two young men have. But there is a worry that we may be seeing two new pet projects from HBO. Hopefully, Ken Hershman won't make the mistake of allowing televised coddling, which has been one of the great criticisms of HBO's last few years.
But that's all in the future, and it's a question mark. Tonight, though both were matched relatively easy, they laid down some memorable knockouts.
Also on the card, American heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder improved to 20-0 (20 KO) with another easy win, a first round knockout of David Long (11-2-2, 7 KO).