Featherweight Gary Russell Jr. ripped the WBO's decision to grant Vasyl Lomachenko a second-consecutive title shot, even though he welcomes the chance to beat the two-time Olympic gold medalist in accordance with an organization mandate.
WBO President Paco Valcarcel announced on Thursday that Golden Boy and Top Rank have 30 days to negotiate a fight between their respective fighters Russell and Lomachenko for the vacant title.
A 2008 U.S. Olympian [Russell qualified for the team but never competed due to missing the weigh-in] who is coming off a knockout of Miguel Tamayo in January, Russell (24-0, 14 KOs) was declared by Valcarcel in October to be the organization’s mandatory challenger to face then-beltholder Orlando Salido.
The ruling did not preclude Salido from making a voluntary defense against Lomachenko, 26, which he did on March 1. Lomachenko fell by split-decision to Salido, who lost his WBO belt at the scales after failing to make the 126-pound weigh-in limit.
As a result of Salido's failure, the title became vacant, though Lomachenko was eligible to win it if he had been victorious.
Lomachenko had said that he wanted to make history by becoming a titleholder in what was being billed as his second professional fight. According to Fight Fax Inc., Lomachenko is actually 7-1 because he was paid to take part in six World Series of Boxing fights.
Russll expressed his views on the WBO's decision along with his thoughts on how a fight against Lomachenko will transpire, below.
Gary Russell Jr. on the WBO's decision:
"The WBO title is definitely something that we want, but there's no question that politics played a big part in this situation. First of all, I think that it's completely disrespectful to the sanctioning body.
"It's also disrespectful to all of the other fighters for this guy to have an opportunity to compete for a title after only one fight. Then, he loses, and he gets an automatic shot at the title again in only his third fight?
"I don't think that it's fair at all to the other fighters. I think that the whole purpose of the sanctioning bodies is to have a structure as far as the No. 1 and the No. 2 and the No. 3 in order to prevent stuff like this.
"It's just very clear that you have someone who is pushing some things behind the scenes as far as this goes for this situation. What about these guys who have worked their way up, and who have strategically fought guys and worked their way up by taking certain fights to work their way up the rankings.
"When it comes to those guys who have worked their way up, and who have earned their shot to be in position for a world title, I don't think that it's fair. They've worked their way into the top 10 or the top five the hard way.
"All of that stuff matters, because if you fight the No. 5 guy, and you beat him, that's going to push you up in the rankings to maybe a No. 3, etc. A lot of guys crossed their T's and dotted their I's to get where they wanted to be.
"So it's a little ridiculous for somebody with two fights to just jump in front of all of these guys who have been competing and trying their best to make it happen and to become a world champion.
Russell his impressions of Lomachenko's loss to Salido:
"I really didn't see much of the fight with Salido as far as what he does. I did see the fight from the seventh through the last round. It wasn't really a priority to me.
"It only becomes a priority once that name is across the ring from me for my fight. I saw briefly that he still fights like an amateur, given the background that we have, because we have a very similar background.
"Even with that background that he has, there are certain things that you have to learn. You need these extra fights, and you need these tune-up fights. You need these smaller fights to help you to get a better understanding of the professional game.
"I don't think that he has that. We have that on our side. Even with his fight with Salido, I don't think that he has the necessary skills to beat me.
On how his fight will go with Lomachenko:
"I'm going to vanquish him as a fighter. Anyone will tell you that two losses, back-to-back, in your career as a professional is tremendous when it comes to your credibility and your clout and your reputation as a fighter.
"So I think that it's poor judgement by his management, and his team, to allow him to take loss the way that he did against Salido, and I think that it is even dumber for him to jump directly into the ring with a fighter like me.
"But if this is the guy that they put in front of us, in spite of the fact that I believe that it's unfair, then by all means, we'll go and critique him, we'll find all of chinks in his armour.
"And then, we'll definitely burn his ass up and I'll have the WBO title. So he will definitely suffer his second loss, back-to-back, and that's pretty much going to be the end of his career."