In a tweet posted from his official Twitter account at the end of July, Luke Campbell promised that he will ‘show the world what he is about’ and stated that it’s his time to shine as news broke of his blockbuster clash with pound-for-pound king Vasiliy Lomachenko on British soil.
Campbell bids to win the WBC, WBA, WBO and Ring magazine World Lightweight titles when he faces the Ukrainian wizard at London’s O2 Arena on the 31st August in the Hull fighter’s biggest fight to date. It will mark Lomachenko’s first professional fight in the UK – though the Ukrainian has seen success on these shores plenty of times previously, winning gold at the 2012 Olympics in London and reigning victorious at York Hall in the World Series of Boxing.
Naturally, anticipation of Lomachenko’s first pro contest in England is building with each passing day: the little magician often appears to be the first name on most people’s pound-for-pound lists, or certainly in the top three at the very least. Victories over Jorge Linares, Guillermo Rigondeaux, Jose Pedraza and Nicholas Walters in recent years make Lomachenko’s resume the best of any fighter with fewer than 15 pro fights, with the Ukrainian’s first world title win coming in just his third pro fight as he defeated Gary Russell Jr at Featherweight in 2014. This is a special, special fighter.
Lomachenko undoubtedly represents Luke Campbell’s toughest test yet. That said, split decision losses against Jorge Linares and Yvan Mendy – the latter of which he avenged in his first fight under trainer Shane McGuigan last year – are the only blemishes on the Yorkshire southpaw’s professional record, and pushing Linares as close as he did should give him confidence at this level. Linares arguably gave Lomachenko his most difficult bout, whilst Campbell’s preparations for his fight with the Venezuelan were hampered by the tragic and untimely death of his father Bernard and on another night, he may have done enough to nick the decision and a first world title.
Campbell’s key to success in fighting Lomachenko is finding his range early and using his size and reach advantage to good effect. With his masterful footwork, combined with puzzling feints and trickery that have earned Lomachenko the nickname ‘The Matrix’ from some, the diminutive Ukrainian closes distance and finds gaps expertly, so a watertight long game – certainly earlier on in the fight - gives Campbell his best chance in this one. Lomachenko is somewhat undersized at the 135lbs weight class, having moved up through the divisions to become a three-weight world champion, but it’s a disadvantage he has dealt with reasonably well – that said, it should come as no surprise that bigger opponents like Linares and Pedraza have at times given him a bit more to think about. Campbell’s power can fly under the radar somewhat, and whilst he isn’t a ferocious knockout artist per se, with 16 stoppages in 20 wins he may back his power and physical strength in the pocket when Lomachenko inevitably finds openings on the inside.
Nevertheless, Lomachenko comes to England with the reputation that he does with good reason. Match-ups like this one between southpaws can often throw up rare challenges that fighters do not see as often, though Lomachenko beat the fight out of the frustrating southpaw artist Rigondeaux almost two years ago and was fairly comfortable when he won his first world title against the aforementioned Gary Russell Jr. Anything that has been put in front of Lomachenko, he has eventually figured out – the exception to that being the rough-housing and dirty tactics that Orlando Salido defeated him with in what was just his second pro fight. This is a highly intellectual fighter who reads his opponents extremely well, and whilst Campbell’s amateur pedigree and solid pro resume suggests he’ll have plenty to give Lomachenko to think, the Ukrainian wizard will not be fazed by the challenge ahead.
I think Luke Campbell will give Lomachenko a tough time for a few rounds. Even scorecards approaching the final third of the fight would not really surprise me, as I think Campbell is handy enough to win rounds early on by boxing long. As we have seen time and time again though, Lomachenko figures opponents out and exploits openings when they present themselves, and he does so with surgical precision and ruthless efficiency. Campbell battled back from an early knockdown against Linares to run him close on the cards and his toughness shouldn’t be in doubt, but I think Lomachenko will break him up in the second half of the fight and take this one via decision after winning the second half of the fight quite decisively. Even in defeat however, I would like to think Luke Campbell will have done enough to see his stock rise and whilst he isn’t a spring chicken at 31, he is still young enough to compete and have success in the big fights at Lightweight.