Decorated amateur Vasyl Lomachenko, who came up short in his first bid for a world title, got it right Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., by outworking Gary Russell Jr. down the stretch to capture a majority decision and the vacant WBO featherweight championship.
The scores were 116-112, 116-112 and 114-114.
Lomachenko (2-1-1 KO), a southpaw, won the fight by committing his attack to the body. He bobbed and weaved and stayed on his toes. His plan was to stay close and attack from different angles.
Russell Jr. (24-1, 14 KOs) had moments of success as the fight progressed. Some of his flashy combinations landed, but many more missed.
Lomachenko's heavier punches began to hurt Russell Jr., 26, in round five. The Washington, DC native fought back in the next few heats, but it was obvious that Lomachenko was winning the battle of wills.
Russell Jr., also fighting out of the southpaw stance, started to slow down in the last few rounds. Lomachenko, 26, moved his attack upstairs. A number of stunning punches landed. Russell Jr. showed a good chin by absorbing the shots.
In the last minute of round 12, Lomachenko, who was born in Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi, Ukraine, cemented his victory by hurting Russell Jr. with vicious blows to the body and head.
Somehow Russell Jr. remained standing.
"I was just working hard. I landed a lot of punches to the body and head,” Lomachenko said through his translator.
"So far, I don't know what it means to be the champion," said Lomachenko. "I followed my plan. I didn't prepare for this fight just to try something different."
"I thought it was a fair decision," Russell said. "I didn't stick to my game plan like I should have. I should have initiated the action much more and closed the distance on him."
The bout was televised live on Showtime Championship Boxing.
With the victory, Lomacheno, who won the gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the featherweight division and 2012 London Olympics in the lightweight division, matches the record set by Thailand's Saensak Muangsurin in 1975 by winning a championship in his third professional fight.