Gary Antonio Russell closed out his sixth year as a pro with his most significant win to date, even if it came with an unsatisfying ending.

A rugged scrap between Russell and former bantamweight titlist Juan Carlos Payano ended with the unbeaten prospect scoring a technical unanimous decision win Saturday evening at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Judge David Sutherland had the contest scored 58-56, while judges Tom Carusone had it Tom Schreck 59-55 for Russell in a bout that was stopped after six rounds due to a cut over Payano’s left eye caused by a headbutt.

Payano vowed to leave no doubt with the judges, which apparently wasn’t convincing enough in his most recent appearance in this venue just 12 weeks ago. The former bantamweight titlist dropped a hotly contested 12-round unanimous decision to recently dethroned unified 122-pound titlist Daniel Roman this past September, dropping back down to his normal weight for Saturday’s showing versus Russell.

A different mission was sought for Russell, the unbeaten prospect from the greater Washington D.C. area who comes from a proud fighting family which recently lost one of their own. Russell’s older brother, Gary Boosa Russell passed away just nine days ago, with Saturday’s fight dedicated in his honor.

Both boxers had their say in a spirited opening round between the pair of southpaws. Payano worked almost exclusively behind his jab, while Russell offered a more varied attack. Payano sought to make it a rough fight, while Russell—the younger brother of featherweight titlist Gary Russell Jr.—did his best to maintain his composure.

A clash of heads produced a cut over the right eye of Russell midway through round two. Payano worked his way inside, dictating and slowing down the pace. Russell did his best to fight his way out of frequent clinches, backing up and popping his right jab.

Russell’s offense was constantly smothered by an onrushing Payano throughout a slow-moving round three. Payano’s excessive holding and leading with his head drew a stern and final warning from referee David Fields in round four. The Dominican southpaw responded with a four-punch combination to catch the attention of Russell, whose offense was limited to jabs and whatever work he can do on the inside in between clinches.

Russell found a way to fight through the clinches, picking up his body attack in round five. Payano continued to plow forward, connecting with an overhand left as Russell sought to create space between the two.

Action picked up considerably in round six, though unfortunately producing an anti-climactic ending. Both fighters were hurt in the spirited frame, with Russell getting the better of the action as he rocked Payano with a counter left hand late in the frame. Payano remained upright but was suddenly left to contend with a gusher of a cut over his left eye.

It turned out that he wouldn’t have to fight through the blood, as the fight was waved off by the ringside physician. 

Russell improves to 18-0 (12KOs) with the win, while Payano has now lost four of his last five starts in falling to 21-5 (9KOs).

The bout served as the opener of a televised tripleheader, headlined by Emmanuel Rodriguez (19-1, 12KOs) and Reymart Gaballo (23-0, 20KOs)

Jake Donovan is a senior writer for Twitter: @JakeNDaBox