The third fight was the charm for Vasyl Lomachenko (2-1). On Saturday night, one of the greatest amateur fighters in history won the WBO featherweight title by taking a majority decision over Gary Russell Jr. (24-1) at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.
It was just Lomachenko's third professional fight. With the win, he tied the record for fewest fights before winning a world title.
With an awesome mixture of body punching, lateral movement and ring generalmanship, Lomachenko outboxed Russell Jr.
ESPN Boxing has the official scorecards:
Scorecards: 114-114, 116-112, 116-112, all to the winner by majority decision, Vasyl Lomachenko.— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) June 22, 2014
Some were critical of the 114-114 card, which was submitted by Lisa Giampa:
We go to cards: 114-114 (pathetic!!!!), 116-1112x2 for the winner and now 126 titlist Vasyl Lomachenko!!!! #boxing— Dan Rafael (@danrafaelespn) June 22, 2014
But it wasn't as preposterous as some might make it seem. Russell threw a lot more shots, and there were rounds where Lomachenko simply didn't do much. However, when he did work, he did more damage.
After the bout was over, Lomachenko was elated to have reached his goal:
Lomachenko: "I'm very happy and excited to be a world champion. I just repeated the guy from Panama who became a champion in third fight."— ESPN Boxing (@ESPNBoxing) June 22, 2014
Russell was gracious in defeat and gave credit where it was due to his opponent:
"He had good lateral movement. I take my hat off to him." Russel Jr— Isaac Estrada (@RealBoxingNews) June 22, 2014
In the first three rounds, Russell Jr.'s hand speed was apparent, but Lomachenko's defense proved difficult to penetrate.
By snapping Russell Jr.'s head back with a few shots in a hotly contested, but strategic first round, Lomachenko seemed to earn the frame. The second and third rounds were close, with Lomachenko still trying to gauge the swiftness of Russell Jr.'s shots.
In the fourth through sixth rounds, Russell Jr. asserted himself early. He wasn't landing a ton of effective shots, but he was outworking the Ukrainian. The rounds were difficult to judge, but Russell looked to do the better work.
Lomachenko's superior technique took over in the middle rounds. Despite being the fighter with less professional experience, Lomachenko's game appeared to have more layers. He changed levels with an efficient attack concentrated on Russell Jr.'s midsection.
In the championship rounds, Lomachenko hurt Russell Jr. on a few occasions.
In the 10th round, a hard left hand sent Russell Jr. back into the ropes, but to his credit, he took the shots well. He simply couldn't find a way to land his shots consistently enough.
If Russell Jr. is to have a major regret, it should be that he didn't throw the uppercut enough. The punch may have been there for him, but he didn't turn to it until the final round.
Max Boxing's Steve Kim acknowledged Russell Jr.'s effort but tipped his cap to Lomachenko:
Russell tried hard but Loma was simply too big, strong and precise. I had it 117 112 Loma #Boxing— Steve Kim (@stevemaxboxing) June 22, 2014
From here, Lomachenko is in the mix to take on just about anyone of stature in the featherweight division. He displayed an expert skill level and enough athleticism to thwart one of the fastest fighters in the sport.
His skill set, conditioning and mental makeup have him poised to continue winning against good competition.
Not many champions will be in a hurry to put their titles on the line against the new WBO featherweight champion.
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