Luke Campbell has his moments in high-level lightweight unification clash, but Vasiliy Lomachenko is just too good... for everyone
How to solve a problem like Vasiliy Lomachenko. The dazzling Ukranian, a two-time Olympic gold medallist and three-weight world champion within his first 12 pro fights, may very well be the best pound-for-pound boxer alive today. He has only lost one pro fight and that was just his second paid outing, via split decision, to an overweight Orlando Salido who outhustled him with tactics both legal and otherwise. Since then Loma has developed into a complete professional fighter, able to outbox or bully his opponents virtually at will. Often he does both.
Luke Campbell and trainer Shane McGuigan said all the right things in the build-up to their O2 clash for Lomachenko’s Super WBA and WBO lightweight titles, plus the vacant WBC belt. They never seemed overawed or simply happy to be in a fight of this magnitude, promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom and live on Sky Sports Box Office and ESPN +. The whole team genuinely believed they could win and why not? Not only is confidence a huge part of the fight game but Campbell, skilful, determined and brave, has his own Olympic gold and had avenged one of his two defeats, to Yvan Mendy, the other a split verdict against Jorge Linares in the US, his first world title shot. Now under McGuigan, tall, rangy Campbell was hitting harder than ever and in his physical prime.
This fight suggested however, that unless Lomachenko goes beyond 135lbs – which he has ruled out – the little wizard will likely see out his career without ever again losing.
Campbell’s performance must have closely resembled the intricate gameplan that was supposed to carry him to victory but planning to stop Lomachenko is like trying to cure a complex and virulent new strain of influenza. Campbell used his skills and physical advantages and had his moments, but every time Lomachenko pushed his foot to the pedal -and Luke deserves credit for forcing him to do so - he took over. Lomachenko dropped Campbell with body blows en route to a wide unanimous decision that did not really do justice to the Englishman’s effort or contribution. Scores were 119-108 (twice) and 118-109.
Campbell began on the front foot, pumping out his right jab in this battle of high-level southpaws. The London fans, so welcoming to Lomachenko throughout fight week, were firmly behind Campbell once the serious business had begun. The man from Hull took the first round but by the second Lomachenko, incredibly agile and with outstanding footwork, was pushing him back for sustained periods. He did not throw much but the quicksilver man from Odessa landed the majority of blows he chanced, including two hard lefts in the third. Campbell was doing little wrong: he did not hold his feet, he employed plenty of feints and switched things up to keep his rival guessing, but Lomachenko is so accustomed to working a move or more ahead of his opponents. He nodded graciously to acknowledge Campbell’s successes and seemed to respect an adversary who at least made him think and adapt. The brutal truth however was that he appeared to be winning a majority of rounds without engaging top gear.
Campbell was seriously hurt for the first time at the end of round five, body shots nearly putting him over before the bell saved him. He came back well in the next, showing guts and composure. Luke landed some quality strikes throughout but this merely seemed to inspire Lomachenko to punish the Brit for his temerity. The seventh was a fine example of this as Lomachenko, momentarily stunned by a short counter left, roared back to have Campbell in trouble by the close of the session. Still, Campbell gave a peak Lomachenko as hard a fight as anyone has and never stopped trying to turn things in his favour. Against virtually any other lightweight in the world tonight, his display would likely have been enough. Versus this phenom, it wasn’t close to sufficient.
The Ukranian seemed to increase his workrate as the contest entered the championship rounds, but Campbell mostly held his boxing together, outclassed at times but rarely outfought. He was dropped, after more brutal work downstairs, in the 11th, but got up and survived and deserved to hear the final bell.