Peter Wells reports on a boxing master class from Lomachenko as he outscores Russell Jr in a high quality affair, while Guerrero brawls with Kamegai in a fight of the year contender.
By Peter Wells:
Lessons are learnt for every fighter in every fight, sometimes those lessons are harsher than others, and Vasyl Lomachenko learnt his lesson last time out. This time it was Gary Russell Jr’s time to learn as he lost in his first world title bid against fellow amateur star Lomachenko.
Lomachenko – one of the greatest amateur fighters of all time – swarmed Russell with swift combinations, darting in and out to avoid the supremely fast hands of Russell.
The Ukrainian’s body of work was sensational to watch, and Russell can’t be too forlorn with his own performance, there were mistakes, and his tactics did play right into Lomachenko’s hands, but he played his part in an enjoyable encounter between two of boxing’s rising stars.
The intentions of Lomachenko were clear in the opener as he swarmed Russell after the American’s bright start. Lomachenko darted towards Russell who found himself on the ropes several times.
Russell’s success with the right hook continued in the 2nd but it was Lomachenko’s variety that was eye-catching as he remained the aggressor. The straight left to the head and body was an exceptionally accurate shot for Lomachenko.
Russell came out with more urgency in the 3rd as he backed Vasyl up, swarming the amateur superstar with hard hooks. The two exchanged but it was Lomachenko’s right hook that made the hardest impact.
Russell was in need of offering Lomachenko a different look as the style he was employing was a perfect fit for Lomachenko who had seen his style so many times before in the unpaid ranks, and it was showing as he dominated when Russell didn’t work inside.
Cracks began to show midway through the 5th as Russell was caught by a stiff jab before a left cross sent the American into a shell. Lomachenko went to work in search of an early stoppage, but Russell reclaimed his composure.
Russell regained his position on the front foot to open the 6th, but his effectiveness behind fast right hooks did not match what Lomachenko had done behind a stiff jab and darting combinations in the 5 previous rounds.
Several attacks from Russell went without success before he walked onto a confidence-knocking uppercut, showing the calm Lomachenko had under pressure. Lomachenko’s workload had dropped but Russell’s work was sloppy and rushed. Late in the round body shots broke through as Russell was in big trouble, scrambling across the ring apron while Lomachenko continued to drive forward stepping across the ring with Russell who could not move quickly enough.
Knowing he was down big on the cards, Russell landed a good long left hook in the opening 30 seconds of the 9th. Russell for all his misfortune in the fight put up a great effort and a good display of his own. But it was Lomachenko who handled Russell’s style with ease and that was evident again as Russell’s bright start was blighted by Lomachenko who came back into a round that Russell found his best work in. Russell ended the session strong countering Lomachenko with a solid left hook.
Despite the body assaults he had sustained, Russell was still letting go a high output in short bursts, but Lomachenko neutralised those fast combinations with diligent work behind straight punches. A big right hand snapped the head back of Russell to end the 10th.
After a couple of explosions in the 11th the action continued in the 12th as Russell had to look for the knockout. But Lomachenko stuck to the gameplan, avoiding those flashy, hard punches from Russell before keeping himself busy from range, although in this round Russell’s work wasn’t so sporadic as he put it all on the line. Russell ended the contest out on his feet after another hard right caught him flush.
While an action packed and fun fight where both fighters deserve huge credit, it seemed clear that Lomachenko had done enough to win, and that was the case in two judges’ eyes although one judge scored it 114-114, the other two saw the Ukrainian a 116-112 winner.
Lomachenko moves to 2-1(1) and becomes the WBO Featherweight champion at the second time of asking. Russell Jr who can come again dropped to 24-1(14), while Lomachenko will be expected to move on to face the top Featherweights in the world, which could result in some huge matchups in the lighter weight class in the next few years.
Russell Jr’s speed and own boxing skills will be enough to see him return to the world title picture in the next 12 months or so, but a better development to a world title shot would be valuable.
The official main event saw Robert Guerrero 32-2-2(18) brawl his way to victory against Japanese slugger Yoshihiro Kamegai 24-2-1(21) in a fight of the year candidate.
Both fighters’ chins were checked on several heart pounding occasions as they dug in toe-to-toe for 12 rounds. The close fight was not entirely shown by scorecards 116-112 and 117-111 (twice) all in favour of the rightful winner Guerrero.
Guerrero bounced back from his defeat to Floyd Mayweather by going back to his roots in an all-out war, ripping in uppercuts when in close while snapping left crosses to the non-moving head of Kamegai.
Kamegai was relentless as he sustained punishment throughout but managed to cut Guerrero over his left eye and continued to pound the body of the favourite.
It was Guerrero’s good start and better work on the outside that earned him the victory. One has to believe that Guerrero could have won a lot more comfortably had he landed his bombs from the outside all night, but instead he often chose to engage. Credit still has to go to Kamegai for forcing that decision on Guerrero with his relentless pressure and iron chin.
In a dominating and sometimes enjoyable victory, Devon Alexander improved to 26-2(14) with a unanimous decision win against tough guy Jesus Soto Karass 28-10-3(18).
Alexander dominated the battle-worn Karass off the back foot, firing in flurries of punches constantly while moving around the ring. Karass, who was never allowed to sit down on his punches, took punishment throughout, but dished out some of his own, but only when Alexander allowed him as the two-weight world champion looked to wow the fans.
Devon rightly took a clear decision win; 97-93 and 99-91 (twice), which was greeted by a couple of ludicrous boos.
A crack at conqueror Shaun Porter will be no doubt on the mind of Alexander as he looked far sharper in his ring return, even stinging the Mexican on a few occasions, albeit not hurting Karass.
‘Bad’ Chad Dawson returned to the ring with a first round stoppage of George Blades 23-6(16). Dawson 32-3(18) showed more bad intentions than many fans had come to recognise him for, but Blades offered very little and went down early from a body shot. Dawson never let him off the hook as he poured forward, a quality left hand followed by a straight right sent Blades down again, this time he decided against rising.