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News: Briedis, Russell Jr-Escandon & Gamboa-Castellanos

Gary Russell Jr., Yuriorkis Gamboa boxing photo and news image

By Jim Dower: Marcos Briedis (22-0, 18 KOs) is back in his native Latvia following his impressive 12 round unanimous decision win over former WBO champion Marco Huck (40-4-1, 27 KOs) in winning the WBC cruiserweight title last Saturday night on April 1 in Dortmund, Germany. Briedis beat Huck to win the vacant WBC cruiserweight title. Briedis said he knew he was going to win the fight over the 32-year-old Huck, and the judges agreed with him. They scored it 118-109, 116-111 and 117-110.

Briedis used his jab, fast hands and powerful combinations to win the rounds against Huck. The fight was surprisingly one-sided from start to finish. When Huck did try and open up, he was nailed with a lot of shots from Briedis. The speed and the combination punching was too much for Huck to handle.

“I am grateful to everyone who has trusted in me on my quest to become a world champion,” said Briedis to “There are a lot of people who have been with me since I started as an amateur. Huck is a dangerous boxer, but I knew I could beat him,” said Briedis.

Adding Huck’s name to his growing collection of notable scalps was a great honor for the 32-year-old Briedis. In the past, Briedis has beaten Manuel Charr and Olanrewaju Durodola. It’s unfortunate that Briedis couldn’t get a shot against former World Boxing Council cruiserweight champion Tony Bellew, because it would have been interesting to see how he would have done against him. Bellew lost his WBC title when he chose to move up to heavyweight David Haye last month on March 4.

Bellew was injured in the fight, and the injury is going to keep him out of the ring for a while. With no guarantees of when Bellew would come back down to defend his title, the WBC chose to make him their Emeritus champion. This allowed the WBC title to be available for the Briedis-Huck fight.

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Robinson Castellanos on May 5 in Las Vegas, Nevada

Following his impressive win last month over Rene Alvarado, 35-year-old former IBF/WBA featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa (26-1, 17 KOs) will be facing former WBC Silver featherweight champion Robinson Castellanos (23-12, 13 KOs) in a 10 round bout on May 5 at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Gamboa-Castellanos fight will be televised on ESPN2 and ESPN Desportes.

The 34-year-old Castellanos is similar level opponent to Gamboa’s last guy that he fought in Alvarado. It’s a good match-up, but Gamboa is going to need to step it up after this if he wants to be able to compete with the better fighters in the division. He can’t keep taking tune-ups forever. Gamboa hasn’t fought in a world title fight since losing to Terence Crawford 3 years ago in 2014. Gamboa has fought only 2 times since then. Gamboa’s inactivity has been his biggest enemy in the last 5 years of his career. Gamboa stopped fighting frequently since 2011. That’s 6 years of Gamboa not fighting frequently.

This is a showcase fight for Gamboa to show off his talent to the fans, and let them know that he’s still a high level fighter. If Gamboa can beat Castellanos and look good, it could serve a springboard for him to fight for a world title in the near future.

Castellanos was beaten by Oscar Escandon by a 7th round knockout a year ago in March 2016. Castellanos has been out of the ring ever since. Two years before that, Castellanos was stopped by Rene Alvarado in the 9th round in February 2014. Castellanos won 2 fights after that in beating Ronny Rios and Rocky Juarez. Those were good wins for Castellanos over quality fighters, but they weren’t the level of Gamboa or any of the top guys in the lightweight division.

Gamboa struggles at times in beating Alvarado. He looked overall, but he had problems when Alvarado was letting his hands go.

Gary Russell Jr. vs. Oscar Escandon on May 20

WBC World featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. (27-1, 16 KOs) will be defending his title against Colombian Oscar Escandon (25-2, 17 KOs) on May 20 at the MGM National Harbor in Onion Hill, Maryland. Escandon is the interim WBC 126lb champion. He won that status after beating Robinson Castellanos on March 5 of this year in stopping him in the 7th round. For Russell Jr, this is just the second defense of his WBC title that he won 2 years ago in stopping champion Jhonny Gonzalez in the 4th round on March 28, 2015.

“I’m a gladiator getting ready for a tough battle,” said Russell Jr.

The 28-year-old Russell Jr. is one of the best fighters in the featherweight division. He’s not been active enough in the last couple of years to show how good he is. Escandon will be a very good test for him. Russell Jr. looked very good in his last fight in stopping an over-matched Patrick Hyland in the 2nd round a year ago on April 16, 2016. It’s surprising that Russell Jr. has let a whole year slip away without fighting at least once. The World Boxing Council has been very patient in letting him keep his WBC featherweight title on ice for an entire 1-year period without stripping him of the belt.

This is the second year in a row in which a whole year has gone by before Russell Jr. has defended his WBC title. After Russell Jr. beat Gonzalez in March 2015, he was out of the ring for 13 months before he defended his title against Hyland in April 2016. Russell Jr. will have been out of the ring for 13 months by the time he defends his WBC title against Escandon.

I don’t know how fair that is to the many contenders in the WBC’s top 15 rankings waiting for their title shots. The WBC has been giving Russell Jr. a lot of time in between title defenses. When you look at the short careers of typical fighters, it’s got to be tough on the contenders waiting for their title shots against Russell Jr. in the WBC’s top 15.

Russell Jr. didn’t look bad after his last 1-year layoff, but that was because he was facing a guy with arguably inflated ranking in Hyland. Things might be different this time for Russell Jr., because Escandon can fight and he’s got a lot of talent. Russell Jr. might come unglued in this fight if he doesn’t bring his A-game.

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