In the co-feature to Wilder v Breazeale, WBC Featherweight World Champion Gary Russell Jr. (30-1, 18 KOs) put on yet another professional display.
He defended his belt for the fourth time against a valiant Kiko Martinez (39-9-2, 28 KOs). Due to a gash that opened up over Martinez’s left eye, referee Ricky Gonzalez stopped the fight in the fifth round upon the advice of the ringside physician, resulting in a technical knockout.
Russell, who was fighting for the first time in a year, showed no signs of ring rust and displayed his full skillset including his trademark lightning quick hands. The 30-year-old Capitol Heights, Md. native was dominant from the opening bell and landed on a remarkable 40% of his power punches. In an all-action fight with little downtime, Martinez did more than enough to play his part. The Spaniard constantly came forward but Russell continued to target the cut that opened up over his eye after a right hook in the second round. The ringside official called for the stoppage of the fight at 2:52 of round number five.
“I did pretty good,” said the 2008 U.S. Olympian Russell to SHOWTIME ringside reporter Jim Gray. “We stayed behind the jab and he couldn’t get past it. Also, we knew that intellect over athleticism would get it done.
“We want [WBA Featherweight Champion] Leo Santa Cruz,” Russell continued while wearing a shirt that read ‘Leo Next’. “We want to make this fight happen. The fire is all the way hot on this side of the field. You will get burned. I would love for that fight to happen this year. Let’s make it happen.”
“It was a good stoppage for a very tough fight,” said the former world champion Martinez. “I’m definitely a visual fighter so the cut made it tough. Gary was in great physical condition and it was a very hard fight.
“I’m going to rest a little bit now, but I’ll be back. I thought I had some good moments and had a good division. I think I’ll drop back down to 122-pounds to win a world title there.”
In the telecast opener, undefeated prospect Juan Heraldez (16-0-1, 10 KOs) and former world champion Argenis Mendez (25-5-2, 12 KOs) fought to a highly competitive majority draw. Two judges scored the fight 95-95, while a third had Mendez winning 97-93.
Fighting in front of his mentor Floyd Mayweather, Las Vegas’ Heraldez controlled many of the early rounds by setting the pace and establishing his jab.
Heraldez outlanded Mendez 126-108 in total punches and 70-30 in jabs throughout the 10 rounds. Falling behind early, Mendez, a seasoned veteran and 2004 Dominican Republic Olympian, used his experience to grow back into the fight.
The tempo picked up in the fifth round, as both fighters landed several heavy blows but the momentum shifted towards Mendez. The 32-year-old Mendez, who has fought seven current or former champions, closed out the fight exceptionally strong, winning the final round on all three judges’ scorecards. Without doing so, Mendez would have lost the fight.
“I thought I won the fight,” said a disappointed Mendez. “He didn’t do anything to me. How did he win the fight? If I have to prove I beat him in a rematch, I’ll be ready. I won’t leave it up to the judges.
“My speed and my power made it difficult for him. I thought my counterpunching was really good. He tired toward the later rounds and that let me get a little closer to him to get my offense going.”
Similarly, Heraldez thought he did enough to win the fight which he viewed as a potential coming out party.
“I thought I won a close decision,” Heraldez said. “I didn’t think it was a draw. He didn’t do anything that hurt me at any point.
“He wasn’t really engaging with me. I think he was just trying to move around and pick his shots, but it wasn’t anything I wasn’t ready for. I’ll either take the rematch with Mendez or move forward toward my goal of a world title.”
Preceding the telecast, SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING COUNTDOWN featured three undercard attractions streamed live on the SHOWTIME Sports social platforms. A battle between heavyweights Robert Alfonso (18-0-1, 8 KOs) and Iago Kiladze (26-4-1, 18 KOs) ended in a split-draw after eight rounds of action. While one judge scored the fight 77-75 for Alfonso, another had it 77-75 for Kiladze, with the third judge scoring it 76-76, resulting in the draw.
Also entering the ring was 2016 U.S. Olympian Gary Antuanne Russell (9-0, 9 KOs), the younger brother of the featherweight champion Gary Russell Jr., who dropped Marcos Mojica (16-4-2, 12 KOs) twice to earn a stoppage 2:13 into the third round. Rounding out the action was Brooklyn-native and 2016 Haitian Olympian Richardson Hitchins (9-0, 5 KOs), who scored a TKO of Alejandro Munera (4-2-3, 4 KOs) after Munera was knocked down in round three and unable to continue despite making it to the final bell of the round.