Photo: Michael Coleman
Photo: Michael Coleman

Fight Night Thrills at MGM National Harbor

MGM National Harbor hosted a raucous, rowdy and relentlessly entertaining fight night this Saturday, May 20 as hometown hero Gary Russell Jr. knocked out Óscar Escandón in the seventh round to retain his World Boxing Council featherweight title.

Backed by an enthusiastic local cheering section of friends and family, Russell (28-1 with 17 knockouts) used a devastating array of jabs and combinations to send Escandón (25-3 with 17 knockouts) to the mat twice before referee Harvey Dock stopped the fight just one minute into the seventh round of the 12-round fight.

After the match, a jubilant Russell, 28, joined the crowd in an impromptu birthday singalong for his father.

“First and foremost, I got to say, ‘Happy birthday’ to my father,” he said in the microphone after Dock stopped the fight. “I fought a tough competitor. I knew Escandón wanted to come and bring his best. I knew he was going to come forward. I was ready for him.”

The main event was one of a half-dozen intense boxing matches in the MGM’s sparking new theater Saturday afternoon and evening. The theater and ring exploded into momentary chaos during the undercard preceding the Russell fight.

Andre Dirrell seemed to lose his International Boxing Federation super middleweight title bout against José Uzcátegui when the Venezuelan challenger landed a vicious blow to Dirrell’s chin that sent the champion to the mat at the end of the eighth round.

But referee Bill Clancy later determined the blow came after the bell, and awarded the victory to Dirrell on a disqualification. Shortly afterward, Dirrell’s trainer charged Uzcategui and landed a punch on him before being subdued by ring officials. The shocking turn of events led to scuffles inside and outside of the ring, but order was soon restored.

The fights were broadcast nationally on Showtime, which helped lend a festive air to the entire event. Afterward, excited spectators – many dressed to the nines – poured into the MGM’s gleaming, gilded lobbies, still buzzing about what they just saw.

MGM National Harbor has already proven itself as a draw for top-flight musical entertainment. Saturday’s nationally televised fights proved that the facility is more than worthy of championship boxing as well.

MGM National Harbor Resort & Casino: 101 MGM National Ave. Oxon Hill, MD; 301-971-5000; www.mgmnationalharbor.com