By Derek Bonnett
Golden Boy Promotions put on a stacked card replete with myriad SecondsOut ranked fighters at StubHub Center in Carson, California, USA. The ten bout card featured significant match-ups featuring Robert Guerrero, Chad Dawson, and Devon Alexander along with Gary Russell Jr.-Vasyl Lomachenko in the main event to fill the vacant WBO featherweight title. Portions of the card were televised on Showtime and Showtime Extreme.
In the main event, Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero , inactive since his decisive twelve round loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. thirteen months back, was conjured for a twelve round welterweight bout against Yoshihiro Kamegai. In what many expected to be a routine affair to work of some ring rust, Guerrero and Kamegai engaged in twelve rounds of inside warfare to contend for Fight of the Year honors.
Guerrero jumped off to an early lead by utilizing a mix of straight shots to close the distance for effective use of his uppercut. It was a faster start than has been customary for "The Ghost", but Kamegai may have been responsible for that. It was no great task for Guerrero, a two-division titlist, to find the defensive deficiencies in the Japanese fighter’s game, but in mounting such a vigorous offensive attack he left himself open to return fire. Both fighters traded power shots, but after three it was a sweep for Guerrero.
Guerrero maintained his control, but was winning rounds through far greater distress than needed. On the inside Guerrero punished the body of his foe and unleashed his uppercut. Kamegai ate a lot of punches, but Guerrero had not been able to deter him from stepping right back into the heated exchanges. Round six saw a slower pace and both men looked to be taking a breather. A monstrous left uppercut opened a cut over Guerrero’s left eye and caused considerable swelling. The first five rounds belonged to Guerrero, but the sixth seemed like the first the Japanese contender owned.
Kamegai kept control briefly through the seventh as he forced the tempo back to the toe to toe fury set early on. A left hook rocked Kamegai in the eighth after he regained control with his straighter shots. Guerrero began jabbing softly to find the range for his left uppercut to further advance his lead after nine.
The bout had already set a tone for the action to come. It became reminiscent of a lyric from an old Violent Femmes song: "Third verse same as the first." The only difference being this was the tenth. Each round began to blend into the next and yielded similar heated results. Kamegai outworked Guerrero with better inside punches in the eleventh and the two finished toe to toe in the final stanza for what truly looked to be an even round.
Guerrero sealed the victory 117-112 on SecondsOut’s scorecard and won it officially 117-111 twice and 116-112. Guerrero raised his resume to 32-2-1 (18). Kamegai fell to 24-2-1 (21).
In the co- main event, Gary Russell Jr. took his long awaited step up into the world class ranks to meet Vasyl Lomachenko for the vacant WBO featherweight title over twelve rounds. The bout was only Lomachenko’s third as a professional and his second attempt at the vacant WBO crown at 126 pounds. In the end, it was Lomachenko’s brief professional tenure which better prepared him for world championship success than Russell Jr.’s pampered rise to contention.
Lomachenko started fast with straight shots to build an early connect lead over the first several frames. The Ukrainian punched first and committed himself to an early body attack. Russell Jr.’s punch output was reduced by Lomachenko’s aggression. Lomachenko backed up the American fighter and then closed the gap with a smart jab. After three, Lomachenko built up a three point lead unofficially.
Russell Jr. had a better fourth round as he was able to let his hands go more outside of ineffective flurries which would have impressed more on the amateur level. His shots were greater in volume, but lacked professional pop in favor of flash. The Ukrainian took control back in the fifth. His right hand shots began racking up some points along with his steady attack downstairs. His jab was also effective in setting up one-two combos which landed cleanly. The difference over the first half of the contest was established by Lomachenko’s ability to control both range and distance. Russell Jr. was game, but he could not mount a serious offense to bank some rounds. After six, Lomachenko led 4-1-1 in rounds on the SecondsOut tally.
Lomachenko appeared to stun Russell Jr. briefly in the seventh with a right hand. He followed it up with a body assault, but could not worsen the American’s condition. Russell Jr. upped his punch volume again while Lomachenko stepped off the gas to take an easy round eight. He kept the tide in his favor through round nine with clean punches in speedy combination. Lomachenko was never in trouble, but for the first time Russell Jr. was able to dazzle his nemesis effectively. After nine, Russell made things tighter at 5-3-1 unofficially.
Lomachenko finished the fight strongly as Russell Jr. began to tire. His body assault paid big dividends and the left eye of Russell Jr. swelled. A big right hook pushed the American back on his heels in the tenth. Superior defense helped Lomachenko preserve his lead. An uppercut stunned Russell Jr. in the eleventh and he began leaning in on Lomachenko’s punches. The last round produced some final drama as Lomachenko had Russell Jr. hurt at the final bell. Lomachenko finished the stronger, fresher fighter and looked every bit the victor.
The decision went to Lomachenko by majority scores of 114-114 and 116-112 twice. SecondsOut saw it slightly different 117-112. Lomachenko improved his neophyte numbers to 2-1 (1) as a professional and captured the vacant WBO featherweight title. He made history by matching the previous record of fastest route to a world title win. Russell Jr. fell to 24-1 (14).