By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – He was in with an overmatched opponent, but Gary Russell Jr. didn’t show any signs Saturday night of ring rust during what has become his annual appearance in the ring.
Russell’s superior speed, intelligence and power overwhelmed Kiko Martinez for four-plus rounds, before Russell took him out in the fifth round on the Deontay Wilder-Dominic Breazeale undercard at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Russell (30-1, 18 KOs) was beating up Martinez (39-9-2, 28 KOs) before their scheduled 12-round fight was stopped due to a nasty gash over Martinez’s left eye.
Referee Ricky Gonzalez stopped the action at 2:52 of the fifth round.
The 30-year-old Russell made just the fourth defense of the WBC 126-pound championship he won four years ago. The 2008 U.S. Olympian made just one title defense per year in 2016, 2017 and 2018 after knocking out Jhonny Gonzalez in the fourth round of their March 2015 fight.
His victory over Martinez marked his first fight in almost exactly a year. In his previous appearance, Russell out-boxed then-unbeaten Joseph Diaz Jr. (29-1, 15 KOs) in their 12-rounder last May 19 at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
With one relatively easy
The 33-year-old Martinez, a former IBF junior featherweight champion, has lost by TKO to Russell, Santa Cruz, Carl Frampton and Scott Quigg.
Russell’s advantage in hand speed was obvious immediately, as he landed at will on Martinez in the first two rounds. By the second round, Martinez had suffered a cut over his left eye.
A left hook by Russell knocked Martinez off balance with about 40 seconds to go in the second round.
Russell battered Martinez with a crisp combination with about 1:15 to go in the third round. Martinez tried to pressure Russell and went after his body late in the third round, but he didn’t have much success.
A right uppercut by Russell stopped Martinez in his tracks with just over a minute to go in the fourth round.
Martinez caught Russell with an overhand right at about 1:10 of the fifth round. Toward the end of the fifth, however, Martinez bled badly from a cut that opened three rounds earlier.
With blood smeared across his face, Gonzalez asked a ringside physician to take a look at the cut. He decided to stop this one-sided fight after taking a brief look at Martinez’s face.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.