This weekend at Carson, California’s StubHub center undefeated (24-0) Featherweight Gary Russell Jr faces his most difficult test to date as he faces Ukrainian Vasyl Lomachenko for the vacant WBO Featherweight title in the main event of a card that also features Devon Alexander and Robert ‘The Ghost’ Guerrero. The sport books have set Vasyl Lomachenko (-165) favorite over Russell, who returns (+145). The match-up is truly an interesting one in terms of amateur boxing pedigree. Russell has been a professional since 2009, turning pro after an impressive amateur career that saw him rack up national accolades. His pro career has seen him remain undefeated, and he has been brought along in a favorable manner. This is his first shot at a world title in the professional ranks, and there is the feeling that Russell is ready for the challenge at this point in his career. Standing in the way is Lomachenko, who is 1-1 as a professional and has already lost his first bid at a world title in the pro ranks. His unusual career trajectory is due to his overwhelming amateur career, with a claimed 396-1 record and Olympic gold in two different weight classes. He went 6-0 in the World Series of Boxing event and won his pro debut before losing a split decision to veteran Mexican World Champion Orlando Salido. Salido has been around the block and remains one of the top fighters in the world, and Lomachenko went the distance with Salido, winning the match on one judge’s scorecards. Lomachenko entered the professional ranks to win now, and the Salido fight turned into a war because Salido is a fighter who thrives in a dogfight. And that is what it is going to take for Russell to win the fight. Salido turned in a twelve round war to beat Lomachenko, and it is unlikely that Russell has that type of war of attrition in his game plan. More than likely, he will try to match skill for skill with the Russian, and that is a crap shoot. The line accurately reflects the amateur career of the two fighters, as Lomachenko’s resume is far stronger than Russell’s. In fact, a dogfight could also be to Russell’s detriment. Though he is widely respected for his skill and his amateur accomplishments, he has his critics that point to weak competition in building his 24-0 record. There is no one on Russell’s professional resume anywhere near the caliber of Salido, which may leave Lomachenko near even on professional experience. Russell’s only weapon in this fight is his athleticism and technique. He must establish himself as a better boxer than Lomachenko, and he has to do it over the long haul if need be. That is a tall order, and if Lomachenko had put in 12-15 pro fights already, the line would likely be a lot wider.
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