Check out the "Oh shoot" face on the lady at lower right. (Tom Casino).
We might have just have witnessed the knockout of the year from Gary Russell Jr. Saturday night. There’ve been some very good knockouts this year, namely Kessler’s of Green and Garcia’s of Morales, but what separates this one from the rest is the way in which the knockout came –the way it was set up.
Here, I’d like to highlight exactly why I thought this knockout had that little something extra that the others didn’t and why I feel it should go down as the knockout of 2012.
Firstly, at 5’5’’ and with a 61’’ reach, it was obvious to everyone that Gary Russell Jr. needed to get inside and beyond the height and reach of Roberto Castaneda. During the first and second rounds, Russell Jr. operated mainly on the front foot, releasing speedy jabs and combinations from his southpaw stance. Despite winning both rounds easily, Russell Jr. hadn’t really imposed himself on Castaneda yet, who was using his length as best he could in order to stifle and keep Russell on the outside. Russell Jr. made a subtle tactical adjustment and the knockout transpired soon after.
The knockout took place in three phases.
Russell Jr. began moving away on the back foot. Castaneda immediately followed. As Castaneda threw a jab up top, followed by a right hand to the body, Russell Jr. stepped away, avoided the shot and reset. Notice how Castaneda succeeded in getting his lead foot beyond the lead foot of the southpaw, Russell Jr. Even though he missed the mark with the right hand, there were some moments of encouragement here for Castaneda. But was Russell Jr. merely giving him false hope?
Again, Castaneda lunges in with a right hand. This time though, Russell Jr. lands a short, compact left hook the body before stepping back out of range. Notice how Castaneda no longer has the outside position as he’s stepping in. This time as he’s trying to land his right hand, Castaneda ends up inside of Russell’s right – shoulders and feet. In his eagerness to get forward and touch Russell Jr. Castaneda has forgotten about his positioning.
Castaneda is now becoming defensively irresponsible and overly aggressive as he’s coming forward. As he steps in for a third time, Castaneda attempts to land a jab followed by a right hand. Russell Jr. is onto this. As Castaneda sticks his jab out, Russell Jr. slips inside and lands a grazing left hook to the body and moves to the outside position using Castaneda’s follow up right hand to roll under with the punch. All of a sudden, Russell Jr. now finds himself with the perfect angle to come back across with a right hook as Castaneda is stranded because his hands are by his waist with his feet square and glued to the mat. Needless to say, as Castaneda was throwing another right, Russell Jr. came back across and landed a perfect right hook which snapped his head back and rendered Castaneda unconscious before he hit the canvas.
All of this took place within the blink of an eye. Although the actual knockout blow was extremely violent and will likely be the focus of most people’s attention, the set-up from Russell Jr. beforehand was simply stunning. Russell Jr. managed to force his opponent into forgetting the plan by becoming overly aggressive and then used his opponent’s aggression against him. It was a perfect example on how to get inside on a longer opponent without the need to apply pressure; the same results can also be achieved by making an opponent come to you. It takes intelligence and timing to orchestrate such a cerebral finish. Gary Russell Jr. seems to have this in abundance.
Of course, everyone knows how extremely gifted Russell Jr. is. His speed, power and athleticism are what have caught the eye so far, but Saturday night, I found myself even more impressed with Russell’s boxing brain. Sure, Roberto Castaneda isn’t a world beater, but it still required a lot of skill and thought from Russell Jr. to be able to set a fighter up and take him out in that way.
There’s often more to a knockout than just a hard punch. As Gary Russell Jr. showed in the knockout of 2012 last night, there’s a science involved too.
And it sure was sweet.