Gary Russell Jr's annual ring appearance - and the planned family reunion - will have to come at another point in 2017.
The reigning featherweight titlist was due to make a mandatory challenge versus Oscar Escandon on March 11 at the newly minted MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, less than 30 minutes from his Capitol Heights hometown. The show won't go on, however, as Escandon suffered a back injury while training for his second career title fight and was forced to withdraw from the Showtime-televised event.
"Oscar suffered an injury to his back in training and he'll be ready to go in April,'' said Samson Lewkowicz, Escandon's promoter. "He's very sorry for the delay in the fight, but these things happen in boxing. He's really looking forward to facing Gary Russell, Jr., but he wants to be completely healthy when they do meet.''
The show was supposed to include a super welterweight title fight between unbeaten beltholder Jermell Charlo and Charles Hatley, as well as two of Russell's brothers - Gary Antonio and Gary Antuanne - in separate bouts. While the show as a whole seemed strong enough to survive the fallout of the originally scheduled main event, Showtime brass decided to scrap the card altogether and push back to a yet-to-be-announced future date.
"We're working with the venue and the network to find the earliest date that we can reschedule the show,'' said Tom Brown of TGB Promotions, whose company was to serve as lead promoter for the event. "I feel terrible for the fighters who have been training so hard and now have to wait.
"Gary is really disappointed, but he understands that injuries are all a part of the sport. But Gary will be ready to go on the rescheduled date.''
Russell Jr. (27-1, 16KOs) has been out of the ring since a 2nd round knockout of Patrick Hyland last April. He has only fought once in each of the past two years, both in title fights as he won a belt in his second try with a 4th round stoppage of Jhonny Gonzalez in March '15. The win came nine months after he fell well short versus Vasyl Lomachenko in their June '14 vacant title fight.
The gaps in activity is in part due to a previously scheduled attempt to defend versus Escandon. The two were supposed to clash in Nov. '15, but it was Russell Jr. who had to withdraw due to injury, leaving him with just one fight in 2015. His win over Hyland last April wasn't supposed to be his lone appearance of 2016, but he became one of many casualties of the executive level at the Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) series to scale back its spending and cancel all of its 4th quarter dates.
This bout was due to top the first-ever card at the MGM National Harbor. That honor will now go to Russell's lone conqueror, as Lomachenko faces Jason Sosa atop an April 8 HBO-televised show.
Even closer to home than the venue itself, Russell was looking forward to being a part of a special night that would have included the pro debut of younger brother and 2016 U.S. Olympian Gary Antuanne Russell. It also would have marked just the second time that he would appear on the same card as younger brother and unbeaten bantamweight prospect Gary Antonio Russell.
All of that will now have to come at another point this year.
"It's definitely irritating,'' Russell said. "But injuries happen especially when you have somebody pushing their body to the limit for a fight that is potentially life changing. It's disappointing. It might not work out for him because I have a little more time to get ready.''
In addition to a date not yet established, it also wasn't made immediately clear whether this bout and Charlo-Hatley will be packaged together, or if the super welterweight title fight will find another home