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WBO president eyes Gary Russell-Vasyl Lomachenko for 126-pound belt

Fighters Network
Gary Russell Jr. v Miguel Tamayo

Gary Russell Jr. (R) against Miguel Tamayo in January 2014. Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images.


WBO President Paco Valcarcel could have a plan in place by next week to produce a July featherweight fight between Gary Russell Jr. and Vasyl Lomachenko for the vacant title, he informed on Sunday.

Valcarcel said that he is also targeting Chonlatarn Piriyapinyo, of Thailand, and Joel Brunker, of Australia, for an eliminator to face the winner between Russell and Lomachenko.

"That's all something that we are considering now, but we have to go over it and check. Russell will be there, for sure, and Lomachenko is one of the guys that we are considering to be the opponent for Russell," said Valcarcel.

"The Thai guy and maybe the Australian guy are the other two guys that we are considering. We are considering Russell against Lomachenko for the title, and then making an elimination between the other two guys."

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.

The 29-year-old Piriyapinyo is 49-1 with 32 knockouts, having scored five straight stoppage wins since losing by unanimous decision in 2012 to the since-retired Chris John, in a failed bid to earn the WBA's belt.

Brunker, 28, is 27-0 with 15 knockouts, having last been in the ring for a unanimous decision over Mike Oliver in August.

"Next week, we will be deciding who will be fighting who, and then, after that, we're going to give about 10 to 15 days for the guys to negotiate when we've got the guy who is going to fight Russell," said Valcarcel. "After that … the title fight will take place within three months. So we're talking about no later than July."

Since Russell and Lomachenko are represented by rival promoters Golden Boy and Top Rank, Valcarcel acknowledged that negotiations for a potential meeting between the two is likely to go to purse bid.

In October, both Richard Schaefer and Bob Arum, CEOs of Golden Boy and Top Rank, respectively, told they saw no difficulties.

“If those are the rules, then those are the rules. If the winner of Salido-Lomachenko has to fight Russell, then they’ll fight Russell. That’s no big deal,” said Arum. “If we can’t reach an agreement, then we’ll go to purse bid. That’s what it’s designed for. Golden Boy and ourselves have done a number of fights that way, after either we or they won on purse bid.”

Schaefer said the same.

“If it can’t get done, then it will have to go to purse bid,” said Schaefer. “I think that’s fantastic and I think that Gary is definitely up to the challenge.”



Jorge Arce fought as a featherweight on Saturday, scoring a fifth-round knockout over Aldimar Silva Santos (19-8, 10 KOs) in Mexico.

A 34-year-old former titleholder, Arce (63-7-2, 48 KOs) was coming off an eighth-round stoppage win over Jose Carmona in November to rebound from a third-round knockout loss to Nonito Donaire in December 2012.