Gary Russell Jr. said that he planned to use Vasyl Lomachenko as "a steppingstone" in their Showtime-televised bout for the vacant WBO featherweight title on June 21 in Carson, Calif., but his Ukrainian counterpart feels "no pressure" in advance of their upcoming bout.
Russell (24-0, 14 knockouts) made his comments during a Tuesday conference call promoting his bout with Lomachenko, which is part of a tripleheader that includes former welterweight titleholders Robert Guerrero and Devon Alexander in separate bouts against Yoshihiro Kamegai and Jesus Soto Karass, respectively.
"If this is the guy that we have to use as a steppingstone to navigate our career to a different level," said Russell, a southpaw who turned 26 on June 5, "then, so be it. I'm prepared and we're ready to take this title."
A 2008 U.S. Olympian, Russell was declared by WBO President Francisco "Paco" Valcarcel in October to be the WBO’s mandatory challenger to face then-beltholder Orlando Salido, a ruling that did not preclude Salido from making a voluntary defense against Lomachenko.
A Ukrainian two-time Olympic gold medalist who turned 26 in February, Lomachenko lost a split decision, but Salido lost his belt at the scales after failing to make the 126-pound weight limit.
Lomachenko had said he had wanted to make history by becoming a titleholder in what was being billed as his second professional fight, after having scored a fourth-round stoppage of Jose Ramirez last October. However, according to Fight Fax Inc., Lomachenko is actually 7-1 because he was paid to take part in six World Series of Boxing contests.
Lomchenko, nevertheless, said that he has no concerns over potentially being 1-2 over the course of his first three bouts.
"You know, I don't feel any pressure. I don't feel anything, because I already have the one loss. I think that it's Gary Russell who needs to be thinking about that loss," said Lomachenko.
"I see that this from one point of view, but on June 21, everybody will see this from a different point of view. We can talk more in detail after the fight is over."