During a conference call earlier this month in advance of Saturday's bout at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., for the WBO's vacant featherweight title against Vasyl Lomachenko, Gary Russell Jr. called their clash a potential "breakthrough" in the long-running "Cold War" that has prevented Top Rank Promotions' fighters from facing those promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and advised by the powerful Al Haymon.
Golden Boy President Oscar De la Hoya addressed Russell's comments during a similar call on Tuesday promoting the Showtime tripleheader featuring welterweight main-eventers Yoshihiro Kamegai and ex-beltholder Robert Guerrero, the latter of whom will be ending a 13-month ring absence.
"I think that it's wonderful to hear that from a fighter like Gary Russell that he wants to engage in these big major fights regardless of the promoters. That's what it's really all about. It's not about promoters and egos; it's about the fighters and the fans. So I'm optimistic that in the near future, the fight fans will get what they deserve…Golden Boy just wants to make the biggest and the best fights," said De la Hoya, who has quashed past differences with Top Rank CEO Bob Arum.
"If that means making the most money and making the best fights happen and that the fight fans want to watch, then that's what's going to happen. We're all about the fans and giving them the best fights that we have to offer and obviously, we know that Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero is one of the few elite fighters that boxing has today. So whether Golden Boy has an opponent or whether any other promoter has an opponent where we can make the biggest fights happen, then, you know, that's what must happen for the fans."
Guerrero (31-2-1, 18 knockouts), 31, was last in action for a unanimous decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. in May of last year. Guerrero had won 15 consecutive fights before falling to Mayweather, having previously lost by a split decision to Gamaliel Diaz in December 2005 only to win their rematch with a sixth round knockout the following June.
"I had the three fights fights back-to-back," said Guerrero, a former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder. He entered the Mayweather bout following consecutive unanimous decision victories over Selcuk Aydin in his 147-pound debut and former titleholder Andre Berto in July and November 2012, respectively.
"The fight with Aydin was a tough, 12-round fight with him; you know? He was a hard puncher. Then, I had the tough fight with Berto too and we went at it for 12 hard rounds and then also the Mayweather fight. Those training camps were brutal and they were really close together. So it took a little bit of time to recover and to recoup and now we're back. January 1, I was back in the gym training and I'm excited to be back in."
Kamegai (24-1-1, 21 KOs) will pursue his third straight victory since falling by unanimous decision to Johan Perez last June at the StubHub, then known as the Home Depot Center. Kamegai, 31, was last in action for April's fourth-round knockout of Jung-Hoon Yang.
"By watching film, the type of guy that Kamegai is is that he's a fighter and he comes to fight and he doesn't back down. He wants to win and he wants to win in good fashion. He'll come and try to bang you out if he has to and if he has to move, he will move a little bit but you have to come ready for everything," said Guerrero.
"That's one of the things that I learned from fighting Floyd is that you've got to be ready to move or to bang it out or to change things up, change direction, change your game plan. It makes you grow as a fighter and that's one of the things that having the layoff does is give you a fresh start. You go back and you assess everything and you start from the beginning."
Like Russell, Guerrero is advised by Haymon, having signed with him in March after having earned a career-high $3 million for his loss to Mayweather, which ended his seven-and-a-half-year undefeated streak.
De la Hoya and Guerrero declined to go into detail regarding the fighter's contractual status with Golden Boy, from which Guerrero had attempted to gain separation beginning in January.
"When you have the legal action, you want to take care of that and my manager, they take care of a lot of stuff," said Guerrero. "I leave that stuff to my management and they'll take care of all of that. I'm back in the ring and on Saturday, I'll be ready to fight. That's where my focus is, on being in shape and ready to go."
Kamegai is 1-1-1 on American soil and would like to erase the memories of his last visit to Carson, Calif., by defeating Guerrero.
"What I remember about the last fight is that I remember the arena. It was a very large arena and I do recall that I had some challenges, communication-wise, because my team and I did not speak the same language. So, coming back this time, I have a different team and we speak the same language and we're in a lot better position than we were before," said Kamegai, through a translator.
"In terms of styles, I think that we have very interactive styles. Any time that you get in with a top-level fighter like Guerrero, to me, I'm looking at it as a challenge. I have not gone in with anyone at this high of a level, so I'm looking at it as going into a challenge. As far as his ring rust, he's had a long layoff before and I saw his fight after that and he came in in very good condition, so I expect him to be in the same condition that he has been in. I've trained to face the best Robert Guerrero that's out there."