As of Saturday afternoon, Vasyl Lomachenko was 1-1 since leaving the amateur ranks. Gary Russell, Jr. was 24-0. But all of Russell’s pro fights against hopeless opponents weren’t enough to prepare him for how good Lomachenko was on Showtime Saturday night, as Lomachenko — who was fearless in taking on Orlando Salido then Russell — won a majority decision that should’ve been unanimous.
Lomachenko was brilliant, mixing up angles, punches, defenses, speeds, everything. If you’re a fan of classy boxing, he put on a show. And he was the one landing the harder shots throughout. I viewed the first six rounds as close — I had it even, whereas most everyone else had it for Lomachenko easily. But over the back half of the fight, Lomachenko just beat the hell out of Russell, and he did it with a boxer-puncher style that was very appealing to watch, and fascinating to study.
Russell was faster of hand, and when he threw more punches, he was in those rounds competitively. But Lomachenko wasn’t outclassed on speed, and his footwork was superior. Russell wasn’t able to win on pure speed alone, and when he sat down on his punches, Lomachenko saw it coming. Russell, too, was a touch reluctant to sit down on his punches like he had against the no-hopers he had faced before, so his explosive power never really came into play. By the end of the 12th round, he was on the verge of getting knocked down. The judges had it 116-112 times two, reasonable but generous scores, and Lisa Giampa had it 114-114, which was unreasonable and generous.
Here’s the thing: Russell didn’t get “exposed.” He showed grit to stay in the fight, made adjustments here and there, and got more schooling — in the good sense of the term — in this bout than he got in his whole pro career. If he can keep his head up, watch what he did wrong, steal some tricks from Lomachenko… he can still become a player at 126. He’s got building blocks in his speed and power, and now we know he’s got some toughness. It’s all about what he does now that he’s gotten a smidge of seasoning.
But Lomachenko — man, that was masterful. Put him in against any featherweight now and he’s no worse than even money.