Vasyl Lomachenko delivered handsomely on Saturday night as he dismantled a capable and game but hopelessly over-matched Gary Russell Jr. The fight lived up to the expectations to some extent as boxing logic triumphed but Russell was swamped by a superior force from the start and could not bring drama and glamor to the encounter. Vasyl Lomachenko is the new WBO featherweight champion and he is only the second boxer to win a title in his third prize fight.
Loma is making some progress with the judges’ attitude, they grudgingly gave him the nod (116:112, 116:112, 114:114-?!?). The even score produced by one of them would have been hilarious rather than mysterious….if it hadn’t been grotesque. The punch stats indicate Lomachenko out landed his opponent 183:83 overall. He also landed the harder shots and held the initiative although Garry Russell Jr. threw more and missed much more. Missing so much is the definition of punching yourself out – it tires you more than landing.
The bout started without much initial probing and testing and Lomachenko immediately sat in the driver’s seat. Garry Russell Jr. realized what he is up against after a minute and his body language changed. He froze a little and appeared to be paralyzed with fear which kept him restrained midway through the fight.
The main difference between them was not size or power; it was deeply rooted in the footwork and body position. Russell leaned a little forward and kept his weight on the front foot permanently cocked for a lead hook but depriving the back hand from leverage. This kind of weight distribution also curbed his freedom of movement – he “depressed the brakes” all the time, stepped on a flat front foot and often went heel first “digging the vineyard” like a novice.
Make no mistake about Garry Russell Jr.; he is a professed pugilist, a hardcore boxer who speaks Boxing before English. If he was driving and saw a truck coming, he’d probably duck and slip before he hit the brakes and steered, if a dog jumped him he would throw a hook rather than a kick. Lomachenko was simply the bigger and better boxer who had a fundamental advantage over a fellow craftsman.
Vasyl had better weight distribution and better mobility due to his correct unconscious habits. As a result his body movement and defensive variety was far superior to anything Russell had encountered. The range of motion Loma used was outside Russell’s level of competence. When you add to that the range play, the angle and position taunting and the diagonal power of Loma’s offense, Russell faced things he didn’t have words for, he saw moves that he could not name let alone solve. He showed carbon-fiber durability however, he took shots to the head and body that rattled him to the core but he stood tall.
Body punching already transpires as a trademark in Loma’s game. He uses body shots not just for general tactical variety but with the intention to inflict harm. A body shot hurts more than a head shot and it hurts longer. Vasyl knows enough to dig a little deeper with body punches – he pokes to the body but bangs to the head. Russell’s hand speed did not help him in defense, in fact it mislead him because he relied on it too heavily as a deterrent and Lomachenko would not be deterred. He used Garry’s spectacular speed flirts against himself. Lomachenko proved to be the faster boxer, not necessarily with his hands but fundamentally and functionally faster. His functional speed overwhelmed Russell’s awareness level.
Russell had moments of desperate offensive inspiration but it was mostly Lomachenko until the 9th round in which he went down after he was hit to the head. He wasn’t hurt and he lost his balance because Garry stumbled on his foot and tripped him, he could have been given a count however. The referee called it right and ruled it a slip but even a KD should not have influenced the outcome. The referee had an easy night as the fight was clean (two purists competing) but he deserves admiration for keeping a low profile and not spoiling the fight by imposing himself on the show.
Loma finished strong and swiped the championship rounds when he stepped up the pace and connected at a staggering rate knocking around his opponent form pillar to post. Perhaps he tried too hard to look professional for the critics and went overboard in conserving energy and impersonating a cool and composed pro. He has plenty of time for that in his bright future. He comes across as too disciplined/constipated at times and should learn how to “lose his head” in a controlled manner once in a while. Show business dovetails on intrigue – If the boxer is having fun in the ring, the fans will have a ball.