Credit: Brian Mazique
Gary Russell Jr. vs. Oscar Escandon
It's not a matter of will Gary Russell Jr. (27-1, 16 KO) defeat Oscar Escandon (25-2, 17 KO), the only question is will he become the first fighter to stop the sturdy Colombian. Russell defends his WBC featherweight title in his home state of Maryland so you can bank on seeing a raucous crowd at the MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill.
On skill level alone, Russell is one of the seven best fighters in the world, but he hasn't been the busiest man in his sport.
My colleagues Josh Katzowitz and Peter Kahn and I still see a KO win in Russell's future, but I think it's going to happen earlier in the fight than they do.
Credit: Brian Mazique
Russell vs. Escandon
In over 30 years of watching boxing, I've seen one man with hand speed on par with Russell, and that's former feather gold medalist, super lightweight and welterweight champion, Meldrick Taylor. When you compare the speed and athleticism of Russell and Escandon, it's like sizing up a race between a gazelle and a rhino. Only in this competition, that gazelle has some pop in his gloves.
Escandon is tough as nails and he has a powerful lead left hook. He's a professional who has been in the ring with good competition, but he's out of his league when it comes to talent in this one. So long as Russell doesn't get caught looking ahead to a potential rematch with Vasyl Lomachenko, he should score a highlight-reel stoppage of one of the most rugged fighters in his weight region.
Here's what Kahn had to say about the fight:
Russell is clearly the better fighter in every way. It’s not even a discussion. Look for Russell to use his height advantage and superior skills to outwork and out power punch Escandon. Russell will be looking to impress in front of his hometown crowd. However, the Colombian challenger might find a way to stick around longer than expected and that could be simply because Russell has fought just twice in the past two years and needs to work off some ring rust.
The vast majority of boxing fans probably don't know who Escandon is, and there's a pretty good reason for that. So far in his career, he hasn't shown he can beat a top-level fighter. Russell is a far superior boxer and technician, and he should have very few problems with Escandon.
It's been 13 months since Russell has fought, and he might have to battle through some ring rust (though Russell hasn't been the most active fighter during his career, so he's probably used to it). Also, Escandon hasn't fought in 14 months, so Russell's inactivity shouldn't hurt him any worse than Escandon's will hurt him. It's not often we get to see Russell fight. Which is a shame, because he's a really good fighter. He told Forbes this month that he wants a rematch with Lomachenko, the only loss of his career. This fight won't tell us if he can actually beat Lomachenko, but he'll have to win to keep Hi-Tech in sight.
We'll find out on Saturday night if Escandon can make it through 12 rounds, or perhaps shock the world with a monumental upset. As of publishing time, he was listed as a massive plus-1400 underdog.
Take a look at the latest from Katzowitz:
This Week In Boxing Biz: Where Will Canelo-GGG Be Fought, Is There a Rematch Clause? Canelo PPV Buys
Oscar De La Hoya Redeems Himself With Canelo Vs. GGG And Takes Jab At Mayweather
Also, be sure to check back next week to see our ongoing prediction point standings. We each get five points for picking the winner, three for picking the method of victory and another three if we pick the right round.
Follow Brian "FranchisePlay" Mazique on Twitter @UniqueMazique and subscribe to his gaming YouTube channel: FranchisePlay Sports