Rodriguez Wins Title Eliminator Over Russell In Odd Fashion

Emmanuel Rodriguez Wins WBA/IBF World Title Eliminator

Emmanuel Rodriguez flexes at weigh-in for bout with Gary Antonio Russell
Emmanuel Rodriguez flexes at weigh-in for bout with Gary Antonio Russell

Emmanuel Rodriguez Defeats Gary Antonio Russell in Title Eliminator!

At Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the rematch happened between rising contender Gary Antonio Russell (19-1, 12 KO’s) and Emmanuel Rodriguez (21-2, 13 KO’s) in a twelve-round WBA and IBF world bantamweight title eliminator. Their first fight, in August 2021, ended before the action could even heat up. A clash of heads just sixteen seconds into the first round busted and bloodied Rodriguez’s nose. The damage was so severe that he could not continue. A no contest was ruled.

Russell is the younger brother of ex-WBC featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr. Many pundits see him as one of the rising talents in the lower-weight divisions. Ranked #2 (WBA) and #4 (IBF), the 29-year-old first showed real promise when he scored a seventh-round technical decision win over ex-WBA champ Juan Carlos Payano in December 2020.

Ranked #6 (IBF) and #7 (WBA), Rodriguez is the former IBF champion. He won that title with a split-decision victory over Jason Moloney in December 2018. But in his next fight, he was iced out in two rounds in a unification showdown against reigning unified champ Naoya Inoue in May 2019.


After fighting the majority of the round in standard feel-out fashion, Russell was clipped and buzzed with a stiff right. The troublesome blow landed in the final twenty seconds of the period which allowed him to escape without much consequence. The second round saw Russell settle back into a good grove nestled in the pocket behind his reliable jab. Rodriguez was not without his success though. He was landing a fair share of thudding shots with a consistent right hand.

Those steady right hands hit pay dirt once again in the beginning of the fourth when yet again he buzzed Russell with a short counter-right. This time it was undeniable that damage was done. Russell recovered well but it was a spot in the round for him. As the rounds wore on, it was clear that the biggest difference in the fight was Rodriguez’s punching power which was largely muting anything that Russell was attempting to do.


Things went from bad to worse when Russell was clipped with another hard right and dropped hard in the eighth. Referee Benjy Estevez allowed a wobbly Russell to continue as the incident took place in the closing seconds of the round. Then in the ninth, the two had a similar clash of heads in their first encounter that left Rodriguez crumbling to the canvas. After a moment to regroup, the round concluded without further incident.

The oddities continued when the fight was halted instead of completing the tenth and final round. This was due to Rodriguez not being able to continue as a result of the headbutt. This resulted in the fight going to the cards. When the final tallies were in, Emmanuel Rodriguez prevailed by UD to the tune of 100-90, 99-91, 99-93 in this title eliminator.

By: Bakari Simpson

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