By Keith Idec
As expected, Gary Russell Jr.’s return from a long layoff has been rescheduled for May 20.
Russell will make a mandatory defense of his WBC world featherweight title that night against interim champion Oscar Escandon. Showtime will televise the Russell-Escandon encounter as the main event of a “Showtime Championship Boxing” doubleheader from MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.
The co-featured fight will match Andre Dirrell against Jose Uzcategui in a 12-round fight for the interim IBF super middleweight championship. An official announcement from Showtime is expected to be released soon.
Russell (27-1, 16 KOs), of Capitol Heights, Maryland, was supposed to encounter Escandon on March 11 at MGM National Harbor. Their fight was postponed February 28 because Colombia’s Escandon suffered a back injury during training camp.
Neither fighter will have boxed in more than a year by the time they meet May 20.
The 28-year-old Russell 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. That was the 2008 Olympian’s only action since he knocked out Mexico’s Jhonny Gonzalez (62-10, 52 KOs) in the fourth round to capture the WBC 126-pound championship in March 2015 in Las Vegas.
Escandon also has competed just once since losing a split decision to Mexico’s Moises Flores (25-0, 17 KOs, 1 NC) in April 2015. That bout took place last March 5, when Escandon knocked out Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos (23-12, 13 KOs) in the seventh round to win the interim WBC featherweight title in Washington, D.C.
As for the bout between Dirrell (25-2, 16 KOs), of Flint, Michigan, and Venezuela’s Uzcategui (26-1, 22 KOs), they’ll fight for an interim title because IBF 168-pound champion James DeGale is temporarily unavailable to make a mandatory defense against Uzcategui. DeGale (23-1-1, 14 KOs) suffered ear, mouth and nose injuries during his draw with Badou Jack in their championship unification fight January 14 in Brooklyn.
Uzcategui is ranked No. 1 by the IBF at 168 pounds. Dirrell, who lost a unanimous decision to DeGale in May 2015 in Boston, is rated No. 3.
Showtime will broadcast three fights altogether May 20.
Earlier in the day, the network will provide live coverage of the Gervonta Davis-Liam Walsh fight from London. Baltimore’s Davis (17-0, 16 KOs) will make the first defense of his IBF world super featherweight title against England’s Walsh (21-0, 14 KOs) at Copper Box Arena.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.