Featherweight Gary Russell Jr. said he wants to make a statement as a representative of Al Haymon-advised fighters against Top Rank-promoted rival Vasyl Lomachenko in a planned June 21 bout for the WBO's vacant title, in accordance with a purse bid that was won by Golden Boy Promotions over Top Rank Promotions this past Friday.
Golden Boy promotes Russell, of Capitol Heights, Md., and Top Rank is behind Lomachenko, of Ukraine. The promotional companies have become bitter rivals and Top Rank's Bob Arum and Haymon are also adversaries.
"I'm glad that we did win the purse bid. I also feel good that there hasn't been a Top Rank fighter to fight against an Al Haymon fighter for I don't know how long," said Russell, who will turn 26 on June 5. "Now that it's coming about and I'll be one of the first to do that in a while, we're definitely pleased and looking forward to that situation."
A 2008 U.S. Olympian, Russell (he qualified for the team but never competed due to missing the weigh-in) was declared by WBO President Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel in October to be the WBO’s mandatory challenger to face then-beltholder Orlando Salido.
The ruling did not preclude Salido from making a voluntary defense against Lomachenko, which he did on March 1. Lomachenko fell by split decision but Salido lost his belt at the scales after failing to make the 126-pound weight limit.
As a result, the title became vacant. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer reportedly considered Russell-Lomachenko for the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., on the undercard of a main event to be determined on Showtime.
"Winning the purse bid, that's very favorable to us. You don't want to be caught behind the eight-ball whereas though we have to go out there and look for a knockout," said Russell.
"If the fight is a little closer than what it is or what people think that it might be, you know, sometimes, it can be tricky. There are a couple of decisions that have been made that I feel were completely ridiculous. We don't want to put ourselves in that same situation."
Russell pointed to Manny Pacquiao's being dethroned as WBO welterweight titleholder by Tim Bradley in June 2012 following a disputed split decision loss, one Pacquiao avenged on April 12 by unanimous decision.
"I personally believe that Pacquiao beat Tim Bradley the first time they fought but there were a lot of politics involved," said Russell. "That was a really iffy decision. But now that we're in control of the purse bid and where the fight's going to be held, etc., let's make it happen."