By Rick Reeno
Last Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, featherweight contender Gary Russell Jr. (24-1, 14KOs) suffered his first career defeat when he dropped a twelve round majority decision to the ultra-talented Vasyl Lomachenko (2-1, 1KO). They battled for the vacant WBO championship.
Although Russell held the edge in his pro experience, Lomachenko was overall the more seasoned fighter with two Olympic gold medals and an amateur record of 396-1.
Going into the fight, there were question marks regarding Russell's ability to be competitive with a high caliber opponent. Lomachenko's second fight, which took place in March of this year, came against former champion Orlando Salido - who by far eclipsed the fighters on Russell's record.
Russell, even in defeat, proved that he was capable of being competitive with a boxer who many believe could very well be the best fighter in a very loaded featherweight division.
Following the bout, Russell received high praise from Top Rank VP Carl Moretti and Top Rank matchmaker Brad Goodman.
Golden Boy Promotions Vice President Eric Gomez expects Russell to learn from the loss, evolve, and return as a better fighter.
"Russell is going to come back. He showed a lot of heart. It was a tough fight. When you fight the best, and the guys are both highly skilled, both guys win. I don't think he lost anything. I think they thought Lomachenko was going to be a little more aggressive but Lomachenko boxed, he boxed a beautiful fight. Gary kept pressuring him and coming," Gomez told BoxingScene.com.
"It's just two guys who are young, they have lot of skill and there has be a winner and a loser. But I don't think Gary lost anything. I think he showed he's capable of competing in high level fights. I think if it would have been any other featherweight, any of the other champions, I think Gary would have won. But he can into a kid who was highly skilled with a lot of experience."
"When you have two gold medals and that much amateur experience, you can throw [his pro record] out the window. There are guys out there with 30 fights who don't have the fighting quality that Lomachenko does. This guy has more experience than any of the other pros."