Gary Russell Jr. retained his World Boxing Council featherweight title on Saturday, taking a unanimous 12-round decision over previously unbeaten Joseph Diaz in a showdown of American southpaws.
Judges awarded Russell the victory before his hometown supporters in suburban Washington by scores of 115-113, 117-111 and 117-111.
Russell improved to 29-1 while Diaz suffered his first loss after 26 victories in his first world title bout.
It was only the third time defending the title for Russell, who took the crown in 2015 by stopping Jhonny Gonzalez and waited just over a year to risk it each time.
Russell has won four fights since suffering his lone loss, falling by majority decision to Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko in 2014.
Russell’s jab kept Diaz at bay early, but both fighters landed intense combinations in the second round to set the tone, Diaz working the body and Russell spreading the punishment round after round.
Diaz pushed Russell down to one knee in the 11th and 12th rounds, neither time costing the champion points, as the fighters’ intensified their pace with furious exchanges to the final bell. (Agence France-Presse)