Electrochemical oxygen reduction reaction (ORR) is an important energy-related process requiring alternative catalysts to expensive platinum-based ones. Although recently some advancements in carbon catalysts have been reported, there is still a lack of understanding which surface features might enhance their efficiency for ORR. Through a detailed study of oxygen adsorption on carbon molecular sieves and using inelastic neutron scattering, we demonstrated here that the extent of oxygen adsorption/interactions with surface is an important parameter affecting ORR. It was found that both the strength of O2 physical adsorption in small pores and its specific interactions with surface ether functionalities in the proximity of pores positively influence the ORR efficiency. We have shown that ultramicropores and hydrophobic surface rich in ether-based groups and/or electrons enhance ORR on carbon electrocatalysts and the performance parameters are similar to those measured on Pt/C with the number of electron transfer equal to 4.