By Cliff Rold
MGM National Harbor, Maryland - The last bout prior to the televised main event featured a young super middleweight looking to rebound from his first career defeat.
24-year old Immanuwel Aleem (18-1-1, 11 KO), 163 ½, of Richmond, Virginia, scored a knockdown and otherwise controlled 30-year old Juan Carlos De Angel (20-9-1, 18 KO), 169 ¼, of Barranquilla, Colombia throughout of their scheduled ten-round contest. The bout was fought at a largely measured pace with De Angel complaining strongly in spots about rabbit punching. Referee Bill Clancy admonished the fighter and his corner for turning his head. At the start of the seventh, De Angel opted not to continue having won few seconds of the contest. It was De Angel’s fourth stoppage loss while Aleem moved on from a third round knockout loss to Hugo Centeno last August.
Entering to the classic sound of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Keep Your Hands to the Sky,” the youngest of the fighting Gary Russell’s appearing on the night came out to an enthusiastic reaction from the local fans. The 2016 US Olympian kept them cheering through a short piece of work in the Jr. welterweight division.
21-year old Gary Antuanne Russell (5-0, 5 KO), 137 ¼, of Washington, DC, scored two knockdowns en route to a first round knockout of 32-year old Wilmer Rodriguez (9-3, 7 KO), 142 ¾, of the Dominican Republic. The first knockdown came on a combination to the head as Russell pounced on his wildly outclassed opponent. Rodriguez tried to make it to round two but a violent right to the body dropped him again in the closing seconds. At the count of eight, it appeared Rodriguez would rise again but his knee buckled and referee Dave Braslow counted him out at 2:54 of the first.
Russell was excited about the local support. "It's my hometown and I expect my hometown to be behind me and support me. This was a great experience competing here at MGM National Harbor. It was electric. It wasn't my first time, but it always feels like home.”
His single round stay at home suited him just fine. “I have no scars or bruises, it was quick and fast…I wasn't worried about how my opponent came into this fight, just that I was at my peak. With that focus, I was able to get the job done.”
It was Rodriguez third loss in four starts and second in a row. All have come via stoppage.
After a break in the action following the first three bouts of the night, fighting resumed in the super featherweight division.
26-year old Cobia Breedy (11-0, 4 KO), 128 ¼, of Bridgetown, Barbados, won his third straight six-round unanimous decision over 31-year old Christopher Martin (30-10-3, 10 KO), 128 ½, of Chula Vista, California. The loss was Martin’s eighth in eleven starts and second in a row. The referee was Bill Clancy.
Breedy didn’t show off much power but there were plenty of other building blocks on display for the Caribbean prospect. Breedy flashed a quick jab, constant head and upper body movement, and a little bit of personality. The veteran Martin never made it easy, landing some crowd pleasing hooks in close quarters and pressing the action from start to finish. Both men showed great respect to each other as a trio of shutout scores, 60-54 across the board, were announced for Breedy.
The first of the three Gary Russell’s on the card got a solid ovation prior to six rounds of scheduled bantamweight action. Then he tried to get home early.
25-year old bantamweight Gary Antonio Russell (11-0, 9 KO), 118 ½, of Washington, DC, dropped 32-year old Jonathan Lecona (17-20-4, 6 KO), 119 ¼, of Mexico City, Mexico, in the first behind a high-pressure attack on the inside. Russell nearly scored a second knockdown with a blazing trio of shots to the head near the ropes just before the bell.
The promising southpaw picked up where he left off in round two. Raining shots to the head and body, it looked all but over but the brave Lecona fought back. Using a jab and working to the body, Lecona landed some decent shots and kept himself in the fight even if he was taking the worst of it.
Lecona kept his feet until the fourth round when, in the final minute, a series of echoing blows sent him to the floor. A defiant Lecona argued it had been a slip and showed no quit when asked by the referee if he still wanted to go for round five. Russell took care of the decision for him, never letting Lecona out of his own corner after the bell, battering away until referee Bill Clancy waved it off at :16 of round five.
Russell has not gone the distance in any fight since 2016 but he stated he could have done more. "I felt as though I showed some versatility, but I could have made it an even easier fight from the inside and the outside. He didn't have the skill that I have.” If Russell has his way, it won’t be a long wait to return. "I'm ready to get back in the ring as soon as possible. We're in the gym 24/7 and staying as active as possible."
As the crowd slowly started to file in for the night, a pair of journeyman middleweights gave them a solid effort.
31-year old local Brandon Quarles (19-4-1, 10 KO), 157 ¾, of Alexandria, Virginia, brought along a friendly cheering section and a winning body attack, using the latter to score a knockdown and then stoppage in five rounds over a game 29-year old Fidel Monterrosa (38-18-1, 30 KO), 160 ½, of Barranquilla, Colombia. It was the fifteenth stoppage loss of Monterrosa’s career but he gave a worthy effort along the way. Monterrosa got up from the knockdown and fought back but another body shot bent him over and referee Dave Braslow waved it off at 2:01 of round five.
The evening’s live action began in the light heavyweight division. The action didn’t last long.
Reuben Simmons (3-0, 2 KO), 166 ¾, of Fort Polk, Louisiana, was awarded a technical knockout when 26-year old Ayron Polk (0-2), 172 ½, of Princeton, West Virginia, was deemed unable to continue prior to the second round. It was an awkward finish. During three lackluster opening minutes, few punches connected but a nasty clash of heads clearly occurred near Polk’s red corner. The doctor checked on Polk after the round the final ruling ended up a technical knockout. The referee was Kenny Chevalier.