Showtime results: Adonis Stevenson and Badou Jack draw; Gary Russell Jr. beats Joseph Diaz Jr.
Adonis Stevenson and Badou Jack fought to a majority draw, Saturday night, in Toronto, Canada, after 12 rounds of boxing for the WBC light heavyweight title. The contest was the main event of a split-site doubleheader on Showtime.
Stevenson, 29-1-1 (24), retains his title as a result but it was certainly the closest he came to losing it in his ninth defense, culminating over a span of five years. Jack, 22-1-3 (13), was reluctant to let his hands go in the early rounds against the hard-punching southpaw, and it let Stevenson get an early lead off mere activity. Stevenson boxed around Jack for the first few rounds, while cocking his left hand and shooting it, in the few opportunities he had. Stevenson’s jab and lead right hook would score and seemingly control Jack, until the 34-year-old challenger started giving some signs of getting into the fight in the fourth. Jack’s straight hand was the first clean punch landed on Stevenson but he rarely used it after five monotonous rounds of non-action.
Everything changed to start the sixth and, right out of it, Jack attacked Stevenson with a barrage that ignited the fight between two. Good action was to be had and it was really the first signs of the match-up achieving the hype by which it was surrounded, and the visitor was getting the better of it.
Jack changed the pace of the fight not with any special tactic but his willingness to be first. Off his jab, the right hand was being unleashed to Stevenson’s body, along with a few ripping hooks in close quarters. Stevenson started to bend, and after having just went through five rounds of out-throwing his opponent considerably, the 40-year-old was getting winded. In the seventh, Jack stunned Stevenson badly with the right hand and it was the first time in the fight that either man seemed to suffer any pain. Stevenson did his best to weather it as the momentum had slipped by in the previous six minutes but after an eighth round in which his nose was bloodied, the Quebec native was huffing and puffing during his corner breaks, even taking the opportunity to catch his wind after a beltline punch from Jack strayed low. Stevenson would even hold Jack on the inside, in order to bide time, but the early lead was slipping away, and he needed to regain Jack’s respect.
Late in the 10th round, Stevenson did so with a left hand to the body that abruptly halted Jack’s momentum, and had him hunched tight in the final moments. Entering the 11th, Stevenson proceeded to pounce on Jack, once it was clear that he was still feeling the effects. Jack was shelled up and Stevenson went on to let his hands go and slowly turn the tide of momentum. However after a full minute, he gassed out. Jack went on to give his return, as Stevenson was now in retreat and behind his guard. It made for a dramatic round – probably the best in the fight – but, most importantly, it set up a final round in which the fight was up in the air. Both men fought out the 12th well enough to warrant a celebration of what each thought was his own victory.
Jack earned one score of 115-113 in his favor but two scores of 114-114 overruled it. The result was fair, and, overall, the second half of the fight saved the first six rounds but the aftermath of Stevenson-Jack was not really about who might have won but how different the result would’ve been had the fight ignited in the first round and how great a fight it could’ve been had that been the case.
In the opening bout of the Showtime telecast, Gary Russell Jr. defeated Joseph Diaz Jr. by unanimous decision (115-113, 117-111 twice) to successfully defend his WBC featherweight title for the third time. The fight was the main event of a TGB Promotions card held at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
Fighting out of nearby Capitol Heights, Russell, 29-1 (17), showed why he’s one of the top featherweights in the division today, and the contest ended up being a showcase of that in front of his hometown. However it didn’t start out that way. After a first round, in which Diaz rarely threw a punch, the WBC No.1 contender unleashed a body attack that started to wreak havoc on Russell, and threw a wrench into his speed machine. It didn’t help that Diaz was clearly the bigger man in the ring, and the left hooks to the body had Russell overwhelmed at times. Russell’s speed would bail him out in the third but many of his flurries weren’t getting through Diaz’s tight guard and didn’t keep him from pressing forward for position. Early on, Diaz, 25, showed poise under the bright lights, and it seemed like his early patience wasn’t that of reluctance but patience and strategy. On the other hand, Russell was willing to go toe-to-toe with Diaz and take turns with him, making it a tremendous match-up with plenty of action.
Diaz, 26-1 (14), had perhaps his best round in the fourth, when his tremendous body work started to back Russell up. How Russell was able to withstand it all was a wonder, given how often Diaz landed through the fifth. After that round, however, Diaz slowly let the fight slip away. The volume had gone down greatly but, this time, it wasn’t because of patience and strategy but Russell’s boxing skills. Russell’s jab began its dictation in the sixth round, and it set up everything else, as the most important punch in boxing typically does. That punch popping Diaz’s face made it harder for the young contender to catch up with Russell’s dizzying combos afterward, and, many times, all Diaz could do was just sit behind his guard and not let Russell find the big one. Diaz was left guessing and maybe thinking too much, when getting into a boxing match with Russell. The body work he had shown early in the fight was never to be seen in the later rounds, and, although he tried his best to finish the fight with a knockout in the final round, Diaz will likely regret falling into Russell’s type of fight.