The most buzzed about bout of the three scraps to be presented on Showtime's slate for Saturday night is the Gary Russell Jr vs. Vasyl Lomachenko bout.
Loma will be the best and most well compensated 1-2 pro if he loses to to the fleet-fisted and much dissed in Twitterland Russell Jr., a hitter who has generated loads of frustration among fans who wonder why he and his management have been lacking aggressiveness when it comes to seizing the day. Bouts set against TBD and TBA, against journeymen and down on their luck elderly sorts, year after year has made Russell a minor laughingstock in some circles. That may or may not be fair…he contends with hand injuries and if he beats Loma, and continues that run, and clears out the featherweight division, then his laugh will be last and loudest.
Thing is, if Russell wins, he still might not get ample credit, because folks will chirp that Loma wasn't all that, that he was an amateur superstar whose style hasn't translated to the pros.
Loma disappointed some of his backers when he didn't see Orlando Salido for the seasoned and dangerous pugilist that he is, and he allowed himself to lose a battle of will and desire. Salido came in overweight and with a ship on his shoulder, while Loma came in on weight, but with a courteous and amateurish mindset. This week, Loma admitted that Russell will have a hand speed edge and he will enter the ring without a clear concept of how to beat the Marylander. Is that a laudable admission or a surprising lack of direction and confidence? We shall see after the battle for the vacant WBO feather title, set for 12 rounds or less, plays out…
The Boxing Channel's Al Bernstein offers this lowdown on the matchup.
He notes that Russell has met some "pretty weak" opponents, and has above average hand and foot speed. He has looked "spectacular" in spots but Loma, he says, is one of the superb batch of Ukrainians doing their thing in the ring. Both have question marks dogging them, he states.
This could be a technical stinker, with two refined hitters who don't get into a pleasing rhythm, and stare at a fellow southpaw, and feint and clinch and the like. Or, one or both men could enter the ring with a little extra zing, because one comes in off a loss and the other looking to prove that the Twittersphere is full of punks and know-it-alls.
Readers, talk to me…you think Russell is truly a pound for pound top 20 talent who just needed to be given the opportunity to fight a top level pro to prove it, and he will show that in Carson? Or will the amateur stud Loma prove what his Top Rank backers believe, that he can be just as deadly in the for-pay ranks as the freebie realm?