by Cliff Rold
24-year old 2008 U.S. Olympian Gary Russell (21-0, 13 KO) of Capitol Heights, Maryland, continued his steady rise as a professional with a highlight reel third-round knockout of replacement foe 21-year old Roberto Castaneda (20-3-1, 15 KO) of Mexicali, Baja California, Mexico, on Friday night at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California.
Both men weighed in near the Featherweight limit on 126 lbs., Russell at 126 ¾ and Castaneda at 125.
Russell landed a booming left cross from his southpaw stance and knocked Castaneda off balance but Castaneda quickly got his feet back set. Russell boxed patiently from there, controlling the action with his right jab through the remainder of the opening frame. The same was true through most of the second, Russell scoring points and waiting for his opening.
He got it in round three. Landing quick combinations, and mixing in quick shots to the body, Russell built the opening he’d exploit and explode through for the finish. Landing a left to the body, Russell brought down the guard of Castaneda and landed a perfect left hook to the chin. Castaneda dropped to his back like he was shot, referee Pat Russell immediately signaling the fight closed at 1:25 of round three. Castaneda was attended to on the deck as Russell went to the corner to celebrate.
Russell is currently rated by three of the four most prominent sanctioning bodies in the Featherweight division, standing at #7 in the WBC, #4 in the WBA, and #10 in the WBO. Fans will look to see if Russell, a fine talent, makes the big move many have been waiting for in 2013.
Russell was joined on the televised card by five more members of the American Olympic fraternity, all members of the 2012 team in their professional debuts. Their search for professional gold begins after becoming the first competing U.S. Olympic team not to medal.
Due to involvement in the World Series of Boxing (WSB), a program that featured fights for pay, some of the evening’s debutantes already have professional records recognized by the Association of Boxing Commissions. The fighters believed the fights were contested with an exemption, as they were all allowed to continue to compete as amateurs through the Olympics, and were introduced in the ring at mark of 0-0.
Official records are utilized here.
25-year old 2012 Olympic Middleweight Terrell Gausha (6-2, 2 KO), 164, of Cleveland, Ohio, made a big impression with a knockout in his Olympic opener. After a controversial second-round exit, Gausha returned to U.S. television with power again on display in the professional Super Middleweight division, scoring three knockdowns to stop Dustin Caplinger (2-4, 1 KO) in the second round.
Gausha came out looking to fire but found Caplinger waiting with open arms. Caplinger used multiple clinches in the first couple minutes before Gausha found the range and started to mount the punishment. Caplinger beat the count after being dropped in the first and made it to the corner. He’d rise again in the second round after being felled with a right to the head but the corner would only be reached with a bell. A body shot dropped Caplinger near his corner and, as referee Thomas Taylor reached the count of four, a white towel waving in the corner gave him all he needed to halt the action at 1:55 of round two.
22-year old 2012 Olympic Welterweight Errol Spence (1-0, 1 KO), 149, of Dallas, Texas, made his first start a memorable one thanks in part to a gutsy try from 19-year old Jonathan Garcia (3-4, 1 KO), 149 ½, of Aguada, Puerto Rico. Spence took some shots and delivered more to score a stoppage in the third round.
Spence, a southpaw, got in some quick early lead hooks but Garcia shook them off and kept him uncomfortable with an aggressive approach and willingness to keep throwing. Using a thudding body attack, Spence eroded that willingness in round two even if Garcia still kept trying. In the third, a succession of the three left uppercuts hurt and finally dropped Garcia. Game, Garcia rose on shaky legs but was overwhelmed by Spence and referee Pat Russell pulled the plug at 2:41 of round three.
Spence garnered media attention at the 2012 Games for a controversial second round loss that was ultimately overturned on appeal. Spence moved on the Quarterfinal only to be eliminated for a second time, the closest any of the Americans came to medaling at the London Games.
21-year old 2012 Olympic Light Heavyweight Marcus Browne (1-0, 1 KO), 175 ¾, of Staten Island, New York, showed off a consistent jab and solid hand speed, easily handling 33-year old Codale Ford (2-1), 176 ¾, of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma en route to a third round stoppage.
The tall southpaw had little trouble getting his right jab going against Ford, the shorter man’s offense limited to lunging single haymakers. In the second round, Browne loaded up on rights to the body and head as Ford rested on the ropes but couldn’t land the flush bomb he wanted. A Ford tackle halted the attack for a moment late in the round. Again with his back to the ropes in the third, Ford absorbed rights well only to be dropped with a nasty left to the belly. Ford beat the count but couldn’t take much more with Browne stepping to force the stoppage from referee Thomas Taylor at 1:04 of round three.
27-year old 2012 Olympic Super Heavyweight Dominic Breazeale (1-0, 1 KO), 248, of Anaheim, California, wasted little time in posting his first win, walking through 28-year old Curtis Tate (4-4, 4 KO), 238, of Oakland, California in just more than a minute.
A right hand dropped Tate in a neutral corner less than a minute into the round and referee Pat Russell began the count. Tate rose but seemed to say to Russell that he couldn’t see. Russell started to wave off the fight but changed the call when Tate said he was fine. The fight lasted only seconds more as Breazeale stepped in with another right and sent Tate to the floor again. Russell waved the bout closed at 1:06 of round one.
Breazeale, who came late to boxing after playing football through college, showed off a strong jab in his debut. While a work in progress, it’s a good tool to grow on.
In the televised opener, 25-year old Bantamweight Rau’shee Warren (9-0, 8 KO), 117 ½, of Cincinnati, Ohio, showed off exceptional speed and used a mix of body and head shots to dominate 20-year old Puerto Rican Luis Rivera (1-3) all but a single second of the four scheduled rounds.
Pursuing Rivera aggressively, Warren did his best to score the stoppage with an onslaught of lead right hooks and uppercuts. He hurt Rivera near the ropes but Rivera covered well enough to recover and keep going. Near mid-ring, Warren missed wildly with a right hook to the head and spun himself out of position as Rivera landed at best a glancing blow. Warren’s glove scraped the canvas and referee Thomas Taylor ruled a knockdown. Warren disagreed with the call and took it out on Rivera in the closing seconds with some vicious, clean hooks. Warren was awarded the obvious decision at 40-36 once and 38-37 twice.
Warren was a three time U.S. Olympian, representing the team twice at Light Flyweight and once at Flyweight. He is recalled for exiting all of his three Olympiads in the opening round and will look to leave a far different mark on the pro ranks.
The card was televised in the U.S on Showtime as part of its “ShoBox” series, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Cliff Rold is a Managing Editor at BoxingScene, and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]