This past Saturday night, the co-main event at the Stub Hub center in Carson, California saw undefeated contender Gary Russell Jr. and the two time gold medal winner for Ukraine, Vasyl ‘Hi-Tech’ Lomachenko face off for the vacant WBO featherweight title. Lomachenko was getting his second consecutive title shot, after have just fought 2 professional fights prior — A KO win over Jose Ramirez followed by a unanimous decision loss to Orlando Salido. Russell Jr. has been one of the most talked about prospects in the sport for a few years now, and after amassing a 24-0 record, he was now getting his shot at a world title.
The fight started at a steady pace, both showing a lot of respect to each other. Lomachenko was utilizing a lot of footwork, moving in and out and laterally, and that kept Russell from being able to time him properly. Vasyl was more active and was landing the more accurate shots — especially to the body, and that gave him the edge in rounds 1 and 2.
In round 3 Gary Russell came out looking to establish some offense and pushed forward with a much faster pace. Although Russell did have a strong beginning to the round, Lomachenko was picking his shots more effectively and avoided the fast combinations from Russell Jr.
Round 4 was where Gary Russell managed to take the fight into his control for a brief period. He was more active than Lomachenko and used effective aggression to keep the 2 time Olympian on the defensive.
Just as the tide seemed to be turning in Russell’s favor, Lomachenko answered in round 5 with a solid overhand left that stunned Russell Jr, and then proceeded to land a series of sweeping hooks to the head and to the body.
Like he had done in previous rounds, Gary Russell came out looking to sway the fight back into his control by rushing Lomachenko — pressing the action. Lomachenko spent the majority of round 6 on the defensive, not taking many shots but not landing many himself.
The fight was very technical and both fighters were constantly making adjustments, but it felt like Lomachenko was just a step ahead of Gary Russell Jr. As soon as Russell had some success, Vasyl found a way fire back and neutralize him. In round 7, Russell again had a fast start and held command of most of the round until Lomachenko hurt him for the second time in the fight and landed a flurry of shots to finalize the round. There was no doubt that Lomachenko inflicted the most damage that round.
Rounds 8 was controlled largely by Vasyl Lomachenko, but in round 9 Gary Russell showed he was not out of it and came back to have a more successful round, working some fast combinations.
The final rounds would be crucial and it was interesting to see if either man would start to slow down after having fought at such a frenetic pace for 9 rounds. Going into round 10, ‘Hi-Tech’ came out and was less mobile than he had in previous rounds, whereas Russell Jr. still had the same speed he had in round number 1. Gary Russell pressed forward for most of the round, but like we had seen earlier in the bout, Lomachenko seemed to have an answer for everything Russell did. In the latter portions of the round, Lomachenko landed a hard right hook which snapped the head of Russell back and might have very well stole the round with that punch.
Going down the stretch, both fighters came out aggressively, wanting to take command of the fight. Lomachenko may have been at a slight disadvantage in the speed department, but he clearly had the sharper technique, and it showed as he was able to pick the right angles to land crisp combinations, mixing shots to the head and the body.
In the final round of the bout Lomachenko ended any doubt of who the winner would be on the night as he had one of his strongest rounds. Much like his previous round, Vasyl came out strong, looking to end things without going to the judges score cards. Lomachenko repeatedly scored to the body and head and seemed to stun Russell as the final bell rung. The scores for the bout were 114-114, and 116-112 116-112, with Vasyl Lomachenko getting announced as the new WBO featherweight champion via majority decision.
With the win, Lomachenko proved that the buzz surrounding his potential was not just hype, and in a weight class that has Nonito Donaire now holding a belt, there will be some interesting opinions going forward for the 26 year old champion.