Gary Antonio Russell Barely Squeaks By Rugged Alejandro Santiago
At the Park Theater in Las Vegas, Nevada, Gary Antonio Russell took on former world title challenger Alejandro Santiago in a scheduled 10-round bantamweight contest.
Russell is the younger brother of current WBC world featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. Like his younger sibling, the 28-year-old is known for his fast hands and boxing skills. He’s dominated his opponents up to this point. The sanctioning organizations have taken notice as he’s now ranked second by the WBA at 118 pounds.
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He faced a sturdy and tough Santiago who was no slouch. Observers of the lower-weight divisions may remember him from a disputed draw against current IBF world junior bantamweight champion Jerwin Ancajas in September 2018. He entered this bout not having lost since November of 2014.
NOT AN EASY NIGHT
A southpaw, Russell established the tone early by getting the right jab popping from the outside. Santiago is the shorter fighter who understood his best path to victory was to get inside and work the body. There were moments early where he was able to connect with shots. Russell’s response was to use his jab and feet to spin his opponent then land with the left hand and right hook counterpunches.
Santiago applied steady pressure and found some success in the middle portion of the fight. In the sixth, he found success jabbing and bull-rushing his way in, then landing body shots around the guard. He followed that up with left hooks to the head. Russell is someone who can’t fight on the inside. Instead of working inside, he often held in hopes of the referee breaking the action. As a result, he was getting outworked during this part of the fight.
Sensing the fight may be up for grabs, Russell rallied in the last round. He landed with a left-hand that got Santiago’s attention. The two men stood toe-to-toe and went to war to close out the fight.
That last burst from Russell may have been the difference as the judges scored it in his favor by a razor-thin majority decision ( 95-95, 96-94 (twice)). After the fight, the victor said he’s ready for any of the bantamweight world champions. Based on his performance against Santiago, Russell has a lot of work to do.
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By: Michael Wilson Jr.