Gary Russell Jr had a major hand speed advantage tonight against defending WBC featherweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez, and the once-beaten American put it to good use, thrashing Gonzalez and taking his title with a fourth round stoppage victory in Las Vegas.
Russell (26-1, 15 KO) scored by far the best win of his career tonight, showcasing the blinding speed early and keeping Gonzalez (57-9, 48 KO) from establishing anything offensively in the first two rounds. As Gonzalez started to move forward a bit in the third round, Russell was there waiting for him, and found him with a clean right hook counter late in the frame, putting the Mexican veteran on the canvas.
Gonzalez did get up, and the round was over when he did, but there wasn't a lot left, and Russell, 26, knew he had Gonzalez's number. The 33-year-old Gonzalez was dropped again early in the fourth round, and referee Tony Weeks told him that he was giving him a shot to fight through it. Russell had other plans, though, swarming immediately and taking the fight to Gonzalez, forcing Weeks to step in as a dazed Gonzalez was just a sitting duck.
While one could argue -- and I (this one) would -- that Gonzalez was overrated coming into this fight thanks to a fluky sort of 2013 win over Abner Mares, and that his decline in skills the last few years has been quite obvious, that's not to take away from the job Russell did tonight, either. It seemed pretty obvious that he probably could have pot-shotted his way to a wide 12-round decision win, but when he got a chance to close, he closed, and he won this fight impressively.
The most likely next fight for Russell would seem to be a bout with Abner Mares (29-1-1, 15 KO), who has looked iffy in three fights since the loss to Gonzalez, though he has gone 3-0 in those bouts. Does Russell have the right style for Mares, or is Abner a tougher matchup for the new titleholder?