By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Gary Russell Jr.’s year-long layoff likely will come to an end May 20 or May 27.
Showtime executive Stephen Espinoza said that the Russell-Oscar Escandon featherweight title fight probably will be rescheduled for one of those two dates. Either way, it would air along with the re-broadcast of one of two fights Showtime already has committed to televising live from England on those dates.
If Russell-Escandon takes place May 20, it’ll be packaged with the super featherweight title bout between newly crowned IBF 130-pound champion Gervonta Davis (17-0, 16 KOs), of Baltimore, and England’s Liam Walsh (21-0, 14 KOs). Showtime will broadcast the Davis-Walsh clash live from Copper Box Arena in London, and then replay it the night of May 20.
If Russell-Escandon is rescheduled for May 27, Russell’s return will be packaged with the highly anticipated welterweight title fight that’ll pit IBF 147-pound champion Kell Brook (36-1, 25 KOs) against mandatory challenger Errol Spence Jr. (21-0, 18 KOs), of DeSoto, Texas. Showtime is set to air the Brook-Spence showdown live from Bramall Lane, a soccer stadium in Sheffield, England, Brook’s hometown.
Espinoza also said the card headlined by the Russell-Escandon bout still would take place at MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, a new casino resort just outside Washington, D.C. Russell (27-1, 16 KOs) is from nearby Capitol Heights, Maryland.
Russell’s fight against Colombia’s Escandon (25-2, 17 KOs), the mandatory challenger for Russell’s WBC world featherweight title, was supposed to occur March 11 at MGM National Harbor. It was postponed February 28 because Escandon suffered a back injury while training.
The co-featured fight on that March 11 show – WBC world super welterweight champ Jermell Charlo (28-0, 13 KOs) versus Charles Hatley (26-1-1, 18 KOs) – has since been added to an April 22 card at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Showtime will televise Charlo-Hatley before a main event between former welterweight champions Shawn Porter (26-2-1, 16 KOs), of Akron, Ohio, and Andre Berto (31-4, 24 KOs), of Winter Haven, Florida.
The 28-year-old Russell, meanwhile, continues to be plagued by inactivity.
The 2008 Olympian hasn’t fought since he stopped Ireland’s Patrick Hyland (31-3, 15 KOs) in the second round of their title fight last April 16 at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Mashantucket, Connecticut. The southpaw’s easy victory over Hyland was Russell’s only action since he knocked out Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez (62-10, 52 KOs) in the fourth round to win the WBC 126-pound championship in March 2015 in Las Vegas.
Escandon hasn’t been active, either. He has fought just once since losing a split decision to Mexico’s Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KOs, 1 NC) in April 2015.
In that bout, Escandon knocked out Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos (23-12, 13 KOs) in the seventh round to win the interim WBC featherweight title last March 5 in Washington, D.C.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.