WBC Light Heavyweight world champion Adonis Stevenson and former two-division world champion Badou Jack fought to a highly competitive majority draw Saturday at Air Canada Centre in Toronto. At MGM National Harbor in Maryland, and in the opening bout on SHOWTIME, Gary Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) defeated Joseph “JoJo” Diaz Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs)
With the draw, Stevenson retains the WBC belt in what was Toronto’s most significant world title fight in more than 30 years. The judges scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Jack and 114-114 twice. Russell won his fight via unanimous decision, 115-113 and 117-111 twice, to retain his WBC featherweight world title.
The Stevenson-Jack bout was the main event of a split-venue SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING doubleheader.
It was a day that saw SHOWTIME deliver three world championship fights from three countries.
In a bout filled with momentum swings, it was Jack (21-1-4, 13 KOs) who was the busier and more accurate fighter. While Stevenson (29-1-1, 24 KOs) outpointed Jack in the early rounds, the challenger turned it on in round number seven and dominated the champion in the second half of the fight. In rounds seven through ten, Jack out landed Stevenson 114-40. However, a ferocious body shot from the right hand of Stevenson in round ten altered the momentum back in his favor.
Stevenson, who has resided in Montreal since he was five-years-old, was able to gain a second wind in the 11th round, riding the momentum of the body shot that injured Jack. With everything on the line in the night’s final round, both fighters emptied the tank and left it all in the ring. Jack rebounded tremendously and when the final bell rang, it was Stevenson who was struggling to stay on his feet.
“I went to the body and saw that he was fatigued,” said Stevenson, who moves to 9-0-1 in world title fights. “I had to keep the pressure on him. He’s a slick fighter, a two-time world champion but I felt I won the fight.
“I used both hands. I touched him a lot with the right hand on the body and slowed him down. He tried to come and attack me. I feel like I won the fight but I’ll give him a rematch if he wants it.”
Jack, who started the fight sluggishly, thought he did enough in the later rounds to win the fight.
“I thought I definitely won the fight,” said Jack, who drew for the fourth time in his career. “No judge had him winning. I have no idea why I can’t get a decision. It could be that they’re jealous of Floyd and don’t like him. I’m one of his top fighters. I can’t do anything about it. I’m not the judge. I have to respect their decision.
“Maybe I started the fight too slow. I gave away those rounds. He didn’t really hit me. I can’t do anything about it, let’s do a rematch in Las Vegas. I came to his backyard, it’s time he comes out to Vegas.”
In the main event from MGM National Harbor in Maryland, it was a tactical and hard fought battle of two former U.S. Olympians as Russell Jr. (29-1, 17 KOs) defeated Diaz Jr. (26-1, 14 KOs). Russell won the contest via unanimous decision, 115-113 and 117-111 twice, to retain his WBC featherweight world title. The 29-year-old hometown favorite used his hand speed, quickness and relentless attack to overwhelm Diaz Jr., the previously undefeated top-ranked contender.
Russell Jr.’s game plan to dictate the pace and establish the jab was clear, throwing a career-high 587 jabs throughout the 12-round battle. While the number of punches landed were close (199-192 in favor of Russell Jr.), Russell Jr.’s output trumped Diaz Jr.’s accuracy as the champion’s career-high 992 punches thrown were the most ever for him in a CompuBox tracked fight. Diaz Jr. was committed to attacking the body of Russell Jr., but he was unable to break the champion down, who injured his right hand in the third round.
“We train to survive those body shots,” said Russell Jr. “We put the work in every day in the ring. We consistently grind and push ourselves to be great and we push ourselves to the limit.
“I was disappointed in my performance because I wasn’t planning on going the distance. I hurt the right hand, but I still had to use it, because he could not get past my jab.”
Diaz Jr. showed heart and youthful enthusiasm, closing the fight with a strong final round but ultimately, he lacked the creative, diversified attack needed to truly trouble Russell Jr.
“The game plan was to break him down with the body shots and start attacking him more in the later rounds,” said the South El Monte, Calif. native. “But I started attacking him too late and didn’t pick it up until the 8th or 9th round. Gary Russell Jr. is a tremendous fighter and he did a great job keeping me at bay.”
“This will just make me a hungrier fighter. I hope I got the respect of a lot of fight fans. I wanted to become champion against the best featherweight fighter in the world. Tonight wasn’t my night but I’m going to bounce back harder and I’ll be champion soon.”
Earlier in the day of in a live stream on the SHOWTIME Sports YouTube Channel and SHOWTIME Boxing Facebook Page, Josh Warrington became the new IBF featherweight world champion by upsetting Lee Selby in a split-decision victory. The judges scored the bout 116-112, 115-113 and 113-115.