Gary Russell Jr. vs Patrick Hyland & Jose Pedraza vs Stephen Smith
BY KID HERSH
ShoBox card was up next from Foxwoods Mashantucket, Connecticut. First up on the two championship bout card was Jose Pedraza (21-0, 12ko's) vs Stephen Smith (23-1, 13ko's). In the first round Smith had himself a great upset round against the champion as he surprised Pedraza with right hands that he landed flush a few times as well as show good footwork in blunting Pedraza's output no matter which way he went. In the second round Pedraza landed a right hand to the chin that buckled Smith's legs early. Smith was able to recover fast and land some shots of his own to back off Pedraza but by the end of the round Pedraza showed that he is still clearly in control. He carried this into the third round - which by the end of it he had started a mouse underneath Smith's left eye from constant jabbing. The fourth round was dominated by Pedraza's great movement and defense showing well through the majority of the round as Smith looked a bit confused with the awkward man in front of him that was utilizing his reach advantage to the point where the action was slowed but it was still a high-intensity chess match. The action picked up in the sixth round from both men but Pedraza came on top, showing a little more seasoning in my opinion as his output was consistent and punches set up better. This continued through the coming rounds with a spirited effort by Smith but the champion was just edging the rounds with his length and utilizing the range control of the fight (ring generalship) with his shifty defense and jab combined with constant movement. There was some drama halfway through the ninth round when Smith got caught with a right hand from Pedraza and went down from the shot. He got up and made it through the remainder of the round no problem, Pedraza not being that type of fighter with the killer instinct to take his man out until the time is just right. In the tenth round Smith fought back valiantly while trying to do anything he can to get a knockdown or stoppage as the momentum is on the champions side at this point in the fight and is slipping away from the challenger. In the championship rounds Pedraza was able to widen his lead and would win the UD.
Main event time featuring Gary Russell Jr. (26-1, 15ko's) defending his WBC title for the first time (in thirteen months to boot) vs Patrick Hyland (31-1,15ko's). In the first round it was the hand speed of Russell that was the clear standout, as usual. By the end of the round Russell was turning up the heat with combinations and landing hard power shots. He laid off the gas by the end of the round though because Hyland is not hurt yet and throwing punches back showing aggression when Russell comes forward further looking to do serious damage. Less than a minute into the second round Russell nailed Hyland with a right hook that he did not see coming and put him down hard. Hyland Rose was still clearly hurt and dropped by another right hand he did not see coming against the ropes. Hyland rose again only to be dropped and stopped when his legs went stiff from under him and there was concern for him - rightly so when Hyland answered "New York" to the doctor asking what state he was in. Russell landed his power shots at a 74% clip in this short fight that is extremely impressive. Perhaps even just as impressive is yet another great speech from a big winner (thinking of the Joshua speech also) as Russell said after the fight he only wants the big fights with Leo Santa Cruz and Lee Selby. Aside from that though he stated that he will chase Lomachenko anywhere to any weight - including 147lbs to get the rematch for his only loss. Amazing and well said.
After the Russell fight there was a heartfelt goodbye to Garry Shandling that had Jim Gray tearing up and was very well done. A tearful ten count if there ever was one. Great quote that is so true: "Nice guys finish first. If you don't know that, you really don't know where the finish line is."