WHAT A CARD!
What a card Showtime just put on! I was thoroughly entertained by each fight. Vasyl Lomanchenko proves that you can demonstrate the highest levels of the Sweet Science and not be boring. His defense in the pocket is just amazing.
And the Robert Guerrero-Yoshihiro Kamegai fight was just insane! I hope Showtime gives the courageous Japanese fighter another fight. – Karl
I think you can count on that, Karl. Golden Boy Promotions – Showtime’s main boxing provider – has a close relationship with Kamegai and his promoter (Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions). The Japanese slugger’s previous two U.S. appearances (his draw with Jorge Silva and loss to Johan Perez) were on Golden Boy cards and I have no doubt that his next bout on American soil and TV will be on a GBP/Showtime card. I think the “ultimate welterweight gatekeeper” title I gave to Jesus Soto Karass may have unofficially been passed to Kamegai during Saturday’s card. GBP has a lot of 147-pound players (as well as 140-pound players looking to move up to welterweight) that Kamegai could test. And who wouldn’t want to see Soto Karass-Kamegai (and the Samurai’s opportunity to directly take the Mexican vet’s “gatekeeper” title)?
I agree with your take on Lomachenko, who was absolutely sensational on Saturday. The Ukrainian southpaw is a pure boxer of the highest caliber but he doesn’t stink it out in the ring. His defense did more than limit Gary Russell Jr. to a dismal 10-percent connect rate for the 806 total punches the American threw (according to CompuBox), it set up his offense.
Regarding the Showtime/GBP tripleheader, it was a very good show overall. Each bout featured strong performances by both the winner and loser. Lomachenko’s and Kamegai’s performances were especially memorable (for vastly different reasons).
While watching Lomachenko beat the crap out of Russell Jr., I marveled at just how wrong everyone was to discredit him just because he lost that fight to Salido. When Lomachenko first announced he was challenging for a world title in his second pro fight, pretty much everyone thought “Siri” would be crushed by the amateur kingpin. Then Salido pulls out what I thought was a close win and everyone jumps onto the other side to say Lomy needs to pile up a few more pro wins. But it turns out losing to a tough opponent is way more educational than beating up a bunch of “pro” no-hopers. I thought that Lomachenko really did only one thing wrong in his first title fight, which was misjudge how far his stamina would take him. He wasn't entirely sure of when to turn things on and when to take a break and by the time he'd figured it out, his title shot had come and gone. This time around he knew exactly when to floor it and he completely outclassed Russell Jr., who looked confused as to why his opponent was actually fighting back. Just goes to show how much the vaunted ‘0’ is really worth. And that 114-114 score? Tsk-tsk.
Anyway, this makes me wonder a lot about the Terence Crawford-Yuriorkis Gamboa fight, in that Crawford has really fought only one quality opponent in Ricky Burns, who let's be honest, wasn't the same after he suffered that broken jaw and was lucky not to lose his previous fight. Meanwhile, Gamboa has been up against tough opponents, albeit at lower weight classes and has beaten them all. The only thing that turns me away from Gamby in this one is his size. Are you still picking Crawford to win Dougie?
Where do you think Lomachenko goes from here? A lot of people are still going to be calling him a paper champion until he unifies with someone. I think he'd beat pretty much anyone in the division at this point though, with the exception maybe of Abner Mares…
Anyway, congrats on finally getting the ratings panel to put “Chocolatito” in the P4P list. I know you've been pushing him for a while. Peace. – Abs, Cape Town
Thanks Abs. THE RING’s Pound-for-Pound rankings aren’t perfect (none of ‘em are) but it’s slowly getting better.
Lomachenko-Mares would be a hell of fight, but Abner needs to get back in the win column for a couple fights before we can really start fantasizing about that matchup. The new WBO featherweight titleholder has plenty of worthy dance partners lined up anyway. Lomachenko will probably figure prominently in an informal round robin tournament involving Top Rank-promoted featherweight standouts, such as Nonito Donaire, Evgeny Gradovich, Nicholas Walters, and maybe even RING 122-pound champ Guillermo Rigondeaux.
I’m still picking Crawford to retain his WBO lightweight title on Saturday. While it’s true the Nebraska native has only faced one truly world-class opponent, and it’s also true that one opponent (Burns) has looked like s__t in his two previous fights, I still favor his youth, size, fundamentals and overall career momentum over Gamboa’s elite amateur experience and athletic talent.
Gamboa’s lack of size isn’t what hurts him against Crawford in my opinion. I think his inactivity and technical flaws will cost him against the 26-year-old boxer-puncher. Unlike Crawford, who fought four times in 2012 and three times last year before scoring the biggest win of his career in March (against Burns), Gamboa has been a part-time boxer for the last two years. The Cuban fought once in 2012 and only once last year, and I was not impressed by the form he showed in winning decisions against Michael Farenas and Darleys Perez.
I think Crawford will box carefully and repeatedly stun Gamboa, maybe even drop the Cuban once or twice, en route to a decision victory.
Regarding Lomachenko’s performance against Russell, I think saying that he “beat the crap” out of the unbeaten-but-untested American talent is a bit of the stretch. Guerrero and Kamegai beat the crap out of each other. Lomachenko outclassed Russell and hurt him a few times in doing so. And the amateur legend did it, in part, with his versatility and superior footwork. Russell was able to compete in spots but he was unable to make adjustment or take over the bout because he lacked versatility. Why is that? You know why: because prior to fighting Lomachenko, Russell never had to do anything different to overwhelm his weak opposition.
I agree that Lisa Giampa’s 114-114 scorecard was a poor one. I scored only two rounds for Russell (Round 6 and Round 9), so I had Lomachenko winning by a lopsided 118-110 tally (as did the AP’s Greg Beacham and RingTV.com contributor Mike Coppinger). However, RING magazine editor Michael Rosenthal saw a close fight and scored it 115-113 for Loma. I was told that other press row media and ringside observers thought it was close. I thought Rounds 1 and 4 were kind of close, so I guess if one gave Russell those rounds (which is giving him the benefit of the doubt), I can see the 116-112 tallies that the other two official judges (Max DeLuca and Pat Russell – two of the best in my opinion). However, anything closer than eight rounds to four is bending over backwards for Russell.
THE REAL LOMACHENKO
Everything I expected of Lomachenko but didn't see in his first two fights, he DID Saturday night – against a very, very good fighter. Good luck to whoever has to fight him next – I don't see anyone at or around his weight class who I'd give any real chance to beat him. Where and how far do you think he can go? – Edward from UK
I don’t know how far Lomachenko go. All I know is that he’s the real deal. I know that he’s an elite talent with world-class skill and ability. I know that he’s a top-five featherweight after just three pro bouts (not counting his World Series of Boxing experience). And I know that he can handle himself over the 12-round distance against a big, brutish pressure-fighting veteran and against an athletically gifted southpaw boxer-puncher.
I don’t know how he will fare against a fellow amateur legend like Rigondeaux or a talented veteran like Donaire or a rugged scrapper-technician like Gradovich or a dangerous puncher like Walters. However, I wouldn’t count him out in any of those matchups. He’s that good.
RUSSELL WAS NOT ‘EXPOSED’
Gary Russell Jr. showed himself to be a very good fighter, as we all suspected. He was tougher than I think anyone, EXCEPT for him, ever knew. He came out with an awful game plan, though. I saw him throwing all those punches – and fused that with Lomachenko's ability to time a fast fighter with body shots – and I knew Russell was in trouble (along with my prediction for the fight). He needed to be first, of course, but you can't keep double/triple jabbing in on a straight line and getting caught with vicious body shots. Russell was aggressive the first half of nearly every round but found Lomachenko to be more elusive than he thought. But, when Lomachenko began stalking Russell during the second half of the round, Russell was either too tired (or didn't know how) to evade the bigger fighter; other than backing up. I'm not sure the Russells took the Lomachenkos seriously enough. They didn't seem to prepare for a right-handed southpaw. Gary seemed surprised every time he got caught with that STIFF right jab – and had no answer for it. It was an entertaining fight between two very talented guys. But, Lomachenko was clearly the all-around stronger fighter. It's not certain that if you're not 20 lbs heavier, a savvy veteran and hitting him in the nuts all night that you get past him. I'd love to see him in with anyone in and around the featherweight division. Thanks for reading, Dougie. Always enjoy the bag. All the best. – JW
It’s going to take a very special featherweight to beat Lomachenko. As you noted, Salido had to come in heavy to beat the Ukrainian, and despite weighing in as a junior lightweight and fighting as a welterweight, the Mexican veteran still barely outpointed him.
However, going those 12 hard rounds with a constantly roughhousing Salido helped evolve Lomachenko from a star amateur boxer into a tenacious professional fighter. Likewise, I think going 12 challenging rounds with Lomachenko will finally evolve Russell from a talented prospect to a real contender.
Team Russell may have overlooked Lomachenko. If they did, one of the key lessons they learned from Saturday’s experience is not to do that with world-class fighters.
RUSSELL VS. LOMA – BEFORE AND AFTER
Pre-Fight (22:15pm EDT)
It’s the day of the fight, and here are my thoughts on what to me is the most interesting fight of the night, the Lomachenko-Russell scrap.
There are a lot of questions about both fighters, I have not seen enough of Loma in the pro ranks to have an honest assessment of him (the Salido fight revealed some things), and Russell’s competition has been abysmal. So I’m just basing this on skill set, which is why I picked Rigo over Donaire some time back.
I see Russell running through Loma, and possibly stopping him, or if not what ‘should be’ a wide decision. Based on what I saw in his fight with Salido, I don’t think that Vasyl will be able to deal with Gary’s hand speed and rhythm, and this is the wrong fight for Loma. Of course I could be dead wrong, we will see after the fight, but although Loma is a smooth fighter with good technique, I think that Vasyl is too slow for Russell. His height, reach and technique should help him a lot, but I ultimately seeing him getting outclassed, with his only chance being if he can catch Russell in an exchange and hurt him. This is definitely a cross-roads fight for both cats, looking forward to it.
Post-Fight (01:34am EDT)
For me, this was the marquee fight of the night. Two up and coming prospects going at it, this is why I love this sport, they have to fight the fights.
Now we know why Russell was brought along so slow. From round 1 Lomo took over! By round 2 Lomo was feinting, going upstairs and downstairs, and taking Russell completely out of his game. No more speed from Russell, no more combinations, and backing up. Russell could not get off at all, and his face was reddening by the second round, I mean Lomo was touching bruz up within 2 rounds. This was my kind of fight Doug. Some serious skill on display here. Lomo changed the distance very effectively while Russell’s defense was seriously leaky.
The look on Gary’s face at the beginning of the 5th was classic. “I have not been here before!” And Vasyl proceeded to seriously work the brother over in the 5th.
Timing and technique beats speed. No versatility to Russell’s game, probably due to his weak ass competition over the course of his career. In round 7 Russell stopped throwing completely after he got stung to the body. Lomo’s defense was superb, mostly using his legs to change distance, blocking shots and effective upper body movement. Russell got dogged again in the 10th, Lomo was beating all the confidence out of Russell (but Gary didn’t stop trying). By the 11th, Russell was tired and throwing wide with his chin up in the air, and I could have sworn that he was going to get stopped. Lomo was hummin’ on all cylinders, connecting downstairs and upstairs. And Russell almost did get stopped in the 12th. Their faces after the fight told the story. Russell said before the fight that Vasyl was a good amateur, but Lomachenko was the vet in this fight. Russell got wiped out.
The ref Jack Reiss was excellent throughout this fight. But as you can see from the judges’ scores, one paid-off Golden Boy judge tried like hell to give the fight to Russell – incredible! Before the fight I thought that Russell would win, but that 114-114 draw card was ridiculous. Top Rank lost the purse bid, and almost paid for it. But this fight was not close, Lomachenko won by a landslide. Gary’s was in denial in his interview (proud fighter). Jim Gray cracks me up with his questions. I was waiting for Gary thank Al Haymon for the loss!
Julian Williams tweeted: “Lomenchenko is landing a slide left hand because Russell never changes speed which makes it easy to time.” And I agree, Russell never really did anything different other than get more aggressive at times. I was really impressed with Lomenchenko, seriously impressed.
Alexander fought better than I thought he would and deserved the win over Soto Karass.
I was disappointed that Robert Guerrero turned down the fight with Keith Thurman (saying he only wanted big fights) and then fights this cat Yoshihiro Kamegai. That being said, this was a grueling fight. Guerrero won, but whatever Robert was before this fight, I think he left a big part of it in the ring in this fight, even if his crazy-ass pops enjoyed it. Again in the post fight interview, Robert ducked Keith Thurman. Based on the way he fought this fight, I think that is a smart move, as Robert was the one that looked the worst after this fight was over, he should stay away from Thurman. Both cats showed heart, but Kamegai surprised me, because I didn’t know anything about him before this.
Actually 3 good fights, but for my tastes I enjoyed the Lomachenko-Russell fight the most, although Guerrero-Kamegai was intriguing and exciting, but I thought those scores were too wide. In all of these cases, it seems that the Golden Boy fighters came into the ring with 2-3 rounds in the bank from the get go. Peace. – Steve
Was it the “Golden Boy fighter” or the “Al Haymon fighter” who came into the ring with two-to-three rounds in the bank, Steve? Guerrero, Russell and Alexander are all with Haymon. And Russell doesn’t have a contract with Golden Boy Promotions. He never has and he probably never will, which means I’m gonna consider Lisa Giampa to be a “Haymon judge” should she give another Haymon-managed fighter a gift scorecard in the future.
Reiss is the best referee in California, in my humble opinion, and one of the best of the U.S.
Like you and many other hardcore heads, I thought the Lomachenko-Russell fight was the best matchup on the Showtime/GBP tripleheader. It was the most difficult fight to predict a winner for the reasons that you detailed. Lomachenko, the more accomplished amateur boxer, was the more battle-tested of the two talented southpaws but his only pro experience was against rugged come-forward fighters (Salido and Jose Ramirez). Russell is the polar opposite of Salido.
And I’m familiar with Russell. He was one of the prospects featured on the three-year (2009-2011) Fight Night Club series and he was heads-and-shoulders above the others in terms of raw ability. Russell does possess the kind of talent that trumps experience and dogged determination. The problem with Russell, as everyone knows, is that the level of his competition did not increase much beyond that Fight Night Club level.
Although both men had some big question marks hanging over them, I had to go with Lomachenko over Russell due to his better amateur experience, the tough 12 rounder with Salido and his superior footwork/movement (which I identified as one of his keys to victory in the Friday mailbag). In the spirit of your before-and-after prediction, here’s a video interview Igor Frank did with me at last Thursday’s final press conference for the tripleheader. I picked Lomachenko by close decision, thinking that Russell would give him more trouble than he was actually able to.
I thought Alexander boxed sharp and fought very well (I had him winning nine out of 10 rounds like two of the official judges). I liked his increased (but smart for the most part) aggression and the fact that he didn’t resort to holding and grabbing (tactics that he overused in the past).
Why were you disappointed that Guerrero turned down a fight with Thurman? Apart from having more of a name because of his loss to Mayweather and his accomplishments at featherweight, how was Guerrero any different than Soto Karass? Guerrero became a welterweight player (and “earned” his shot at Mayweather) by outpointing Selcuk Aydin and Andre Berto. Soto Karass also beat Aydin and Berto, only he outboxed Aydin (and boxed the Turk a lot better than The Ghost) and knocked out Berto.
Guerrero would have been a “name” on Thurman’s record but I don’t think beating the former featherweight and junior lightweight titleholder at welterweight would have advanced (or proven) the undefeated contender’s status in the 147-pound division any more than beating the 2013 version of Soto Karass. Just my opinion.
I think Kamegai is a fresher gatekeeper than Soto Karass. Thurman blasted through the “gate” by knocking JSK the f__ out in December, thus proving that he’s a top welterweight. Guerrero got through the “gate,” but he didn’t do so unscathed. He’s still a 147-pound contender but I think he’s lower top-10 (RING currently ranks him at No. 8).
Time will tell if Guerrero (as well as Kamegai) left a piece of himself in the ring on Saturday. That was one of the more punishing and brutal 12-round fights that I’ve witnessed in recent years.
Video: Dominic Verdin
Email Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer