Vasyl Lomachenko vs Luke Campbell Preview
By Bradley White
Luke Campbell looks to do the impossible as he aims to topple pound-for-pound king Vasyl Lomachenko for the WBC, WBA and WBO lightweight titles in London this Saturday night.
There is a tangible feeling of excitement in the British boxing scene as the untouchable Lomachenko comes to the UK for the first time in his professional career. ‘Hi-Tech’ does have previous in London, however, having won the lightweight gold medal in the 2012 Olympics whilst his opponent this weekend coincidentally came away with the gold in the bantamweight division.
It is certainly a rarity that a former Olympic champion, so highly rated by a who’s who of boxing greats can be seen as such a huge underdog but that is the case with Luke Campbell this Saturday, and rightfully so. Campbell is good, very good. But Lomachenko is an all-time great – and he’s reached that level after just 14 fights.
For those who didn’t already know, Lomachenko is an absolute phenomenon. A 2 time Olympic champion (in 2 weight classes), he turned pro in 2013, winning the WBO featherweight championship in his 3rd professional fight before going on to win titles in 3 different weight-classes in record time. Campbell will know, deep down, that he needs to be inch-perfect, that he needs to be immaculate if he is going to achieve the impossible this weekend.
Campbell is naturally the bigger man and will unquestionably be implementing that size advantage into his game plan. Unlike Lomachenko he has campaigned at lightweight throughout his professional career and has a 6 inch reach advantage over the Ukrainian, the key for Campbell will be to establish his jab and find his range early, hopefully giving the champion something to think (and perhaps worry) about.
As the fight goes on though, Campbell will need more than a reach advantage to figure out the boxing enigma that is Lomachenko.
An absolute master of movement, Lomachenko has unparalleled footwork using unique feints and never-before-seen angles to puzzle and punish in equal measure, as the old adage goes ‘the punch you don’t see coming is the one that hurts the most’.
Campbell undoubtedly has the skill-set to frustrate Lomachenko with a rangy, awkward approach, after all we did see Lomachenko take far longer than usual to suss out Jose Pedraza in their far more competitive than expected 2018 bout.
However, despite Pedraza’s impressive performance, the end result in that fight was still a Lomachenko win on all 3 judges’ cards. The fact is while most agree Campbell can give Lomachenko a challenge, it is a far different feat to actually come away with the victory.
Lomachenko has an unprecedented ability to break fighters down mentally as much as he does physically. He is able to frustrate elite level fighters, avoided champions such as Guillermo Rigondeaux and Nicholas Walters enough to throw in the towel out of embarrassment and a lack of confidence found over the course of the fight.
They may often place the blame on some unseen injury but the fact of the matter is they were bewildered, demoralised and ultimately defeated. Simply put, the self-titled ‘No-mas-chenko’ systematically breaks the spirit of a fighter.
It will be as much a test of Campbell’s mental strength as it will be his boxing ability. Right now Campbell appears to genuinely believe he can defeat Lomachenko, but as we have seen in the past, that mentality can change all too easily after 3 or 4 rounds in the ring with the Matrix.
One of the biggest challenges for the hometown fighter will be simply retaining his self-belief in the face of the feeling of hopelessness Lomachenko forces his opponents to experience.
Lomachenko is a rare, once-in-a-lifetime type talent and despite Campbell being an exceptional fighter is in his own right, he will need the stars to align on Saturday night if he is to take the belts from an opponent who is showing no signs of slowing down. Lomachenko most likely takes the victory, but expect Campbell to impress in defeat.