The March 2nd edition of Showtime Boxing seemed poised to be a good one. The co-main event showcased a pair of featherweights, as highly-touted prospect Gary Russell Jr. (22-0, 13 knockouts) took on Vyacheslav Gusev (20-3, 5 knockouts) ; and a main event which featured a lightweight championship bout between WBA titlist Richar Abril (18-3-1, 8 knockouts) and Sharif Bogere (23-1, 15 knockouts.
In the opening bout of the night’s telecast, you’d be hard-pressed to find anybody who actually expected the Russel Jr. vs. Gusev bout to be competitive. In a sport that is as unpredictable as boxing, it was interesting to see the bout be just as uncompetitive as many expected. From the out-set of the match, Russell came out showcasing superior footwork and blazing hand speed. Add in the fact that Gusev couldn’t accurately anticipate Russel’s punches, nor land any significant punches all night, and one could see how it ended up being a frustrating night for the Russian.
It wasn’t all bad for Gusev however. While Russell managed to throw everything but the kitchen sink at him, Gusev was able to showcase incredible heart and mental toughness against seemingly hopeless odds. While Gusev was able to show off his in-ring fortitude, Russell showed off just about every other skill a boxer could have. In going all ten rounds for the first time in his career, Russell proved that he has all the makings of a future superstar. As great as he looked there was no doubt that some questions remained.
One of the biggest questions that was asked during the bout concerned Russell’s power. Before Gusev, Russell was knocking out low- to mid-level opponents with ease. This was immediately followed by the well-documented fact that Russell is prone to having his hands broken after fights. This was shown to be true after Russell began depending on right-handed combinations of punches to keep Gusev at bay as the middle rounds passed. Sure, it wasn’t the outcome many desired, but it was the dominant performance one expected. The final judges scored cards had it as a clean sweep on the scores of (100-89), (100-89), (100-89). With another one-sided win under his belt many are calling for a step up in competition. While Russell made it clear that he wanted a fight against Juan Manuel Lopez, don’t be surprised to see him take on another lesser known fringe contender before really taking on the bigger names of the division.
In the main-event of the evening, WBA lightweight titlist Richar (no that’s not a typo) Abril take on Ugandan contender, Sharif Bogere. Coming into this fight, both have talked immense amounts of trash over the Internet. Ever since the postponement of their original November fight date, both have been clamoring for a chance to take on the other as means to prove who is the better fighter most of all. By the beginning and end of the fight, everything could only be described in one word: Ugly.
From the opening bell of the first round, both fighters met each other in the middle of the ring. Bogere would play aggressor, but Abril would play the tactician as he relied on movement and solid technique to exploit any possible openings. These early rounds were close, but largely won by Bogere. With him being the aggressor, Abril wasn’t able to adjust, leaving him to resort to what seemed like constant clinching. As the fights continued on, one couldn’t help but notice that Abril’s clinching may have been a response to Bogere’s decision to coming in charging head-first. It’s this kind of charge by Bogere that led to a bad cut developing over the eyes of Abril. To his credit however, Abril seemed largely unfazed by the gashes.
As the fight went on, Bogere’s inexperience in the later rounds began to show and is ultimately what cost him the fight. With Abril losing a point in the sixth round for excessive holding, Bogere began to grow increasingly tired and frustrated against the Cuban. This would lead to wild, and mostly blocked exchanges that would eventually lead Bogere to lose a point himself on account of his constant charging in head-first. It would be these kinds of mental lapses that would allow Abril to rally a comeback and really run away with the fight. With every wild Bogere combination, Abril would shy away until eventually responding with his own counter-shots to steal the round. With this rinse-and-repeat mentality it mind, Abril was able to walk away the victor with a Unanimous Decision on scores of (115-111), (116-110), (116-110).
There’s no telling where Bogere will go from here. There’s no doubt that fans can expect him fighting for another major title sooner rather than later, but for now the question goes to who is actually available. With all the division champions circling each other, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear of a bout between Bogere and Jorge Linares in the near future. As far as Abril goes, he wasted no time in calling out Broner during his post-fight interview. Whether the fight happens remains to be seen, but there’s little doubt that it will be as interesting as potentially boring. Only time will tell where these fighters paths actually go from here, but for now we at least know that Abril is as game as they come.