NEW YORK – Emmanuel Rodriguez didn’t get the definitive conclusion he sought Saturday night, but the former IBF bantamweight champion proved his superiority over Gary Antonio Russell.
Fourteen months after an accidental clash of heads caused their first fight to result in a no-contest just 16 seconds into it, a head-butt again abruptly brought their rematch to a halt. This time, however, Rodriguez had built a large lead over Russell, whom he dropped toward the end of the eighth round, and won a technical decision on the Deontay Wilder-Robert Helenius undercard at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Judges Bernard Bruni (100-90), Tom Schreck (99-91) and Ken Ezzo (99-93) all credited Rodriguez for a decisive victory in their 12-round IBF/WBA 118-pound elimination match. Referee Benjy Esteves stopped their bout only two seconds into the 10th round, before Rodriguez and Russell even began to box, on the advice of a New York State Athletic Commission physician.
Puerto Rico’s Rodriguez (21-2, 13 KOs, 1 NC) suffered a cut beneath his right eye when Russell head-butted him with less than 20 seconds on the clock in the ninth round. Rodriguez was in obvious pain as he fell to his gloves and knees once their heads collided.
The 29-year-old Russell, of Capitol Heights, Maryland, lost for the first time as a pro (19-1, 12 KOs, 1 NC).
After dropping and badly hurting Russell toward the end of the eighth round, Rodriguez tried to finish him off in the ninth round. With under 20 seconds to go in the ninth round, however, Russell moved forward and butted Rodriguez.
Rodriguez reached his feet and finished the round, but a ringside physician examined him between rounds and determined he shouldn’t continue in the 10th round.
Esteves gave Rodriguez time to recover from a low blow with 16 seconds to go in the eighth round. Almost as soon as Rodriguez left the corner, however, he blasted Russell with a counter right that knocked Russell flat on his back and made him roll over before he beat Esteves’ count.
Esteves allowed Russell to continue, but Russell appeared to have been given much more than a minute in between the eighth and ninth rounds to recover.
A right hand by Rodriguez wobbled Russell again with just under 50 seconds to go in the sixth round. Rodriguez otherwise landed mostly jabs in that round.
An aggressive Rodriguez pressured Russell throughout the fifth round. Russell took Rodriguez’s hardest shots better during the fifth round than in the fourth round, but Rodriguez was in complete control during those three minutes.
Rodriguez rocked Russell with a right hand barely 40 seconds into the fourth round. That shot sent Russell backward, into the ropes. Later in the fourth, Rodriguez knocked Russell off balance with a left hook on the inside.
Russell stumbled away from Rodriguez, but he regained his senses soon thereafter. Another right hand by Rodriguez landed with about 30 seconds to go in what was a good fourth round for him.
Rodriguez’s right hand landed to the middle of Russell’s face with just over 1:10 to go in the third round.
A stronger Rodriguez first got Russell’s attention with a counter right to his forehead, which momentarily stunned Russell with less than 20 seconds to go in the second round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.
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