Golden opportunity: Lomachenko v Campbell lights up Labor Day weekend
SAN DIEGO, Calif., August 30, 2019 – Writers are running out of words to describe unified lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko of Ukraine (13-1, 10 KOs). Sports clichés are too confining. We’ve described him as a dancer, but even this is wearing thin.
So we’ll turn to music, because Lomachenko is a virtuoso of boxing, a maestro conducting a symphony where only he knows the score. Fortunately for fans, we get to be in the seats and witness the performance.
Starting with his amateur career which includes two Olympic gold medals, Lomachenko has systematically beaten every champion put in front of him. Each, in turn, was characterized as Lomachenko’s biggest test to date. Each time, Lomachenko passed the test. In several cases he caused formidable opponents like fellow Olympic gold medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux to flat out quit rather than let their humiliation continue.
Once again this Saturday, the Ukrainian Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs) faces another former Olympic gold medalist and seemingly tough test against Luke Campbell of Great Britain (20-2, 16 KOs). Lomachenko’s WBA, WBO, and Ring Magazine titles are at stake, as well as the vacant WBC lightweight world title.
The bout airs from London’s sold-out O2 Arena in the U.S. on Saturday, August 31 at 5 p.m. ET/2 p.m. PT on ESPN+. Undercard fights will also air on ESPN+ starting at 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT.
Lomachenko vs Campbell a sellout in London
The fight marks Lomachenko’s debut in the UK. The locale makes sense given Lomachenko’s opponent and the enthusiasm for boxing among British fans. “I have wanted to fight in London ever since I turned pro,” said Lomachenko. “The fans appreciate my boxing style, and every time I’ve come here, they make me feel appreciated. Campbell is from the UK, but I feel very comfortable.”
On this, Campbell agrees. “There are no better fans than the UK fans. They just give the best atmosphere. I’m excited to bring this fight, be part of this fight here in the UK. I want to perform and entertain and give the fans a great night.”
Campbell’s fans and supporters believe in his ability to prevail.
He is a southpaw, two inches taller with a longer reach than Lomachenko. He’s smart in the ring and not a fighter Lomachenko can overlook. Campbell has never been stopped; his only losses were split decisions, including one on enemy turf in Los Angeles against Jorge Linares.
But just two fights later, Linares suffered a devastating knockout loss to Lomachenko. This narrative cannot and should not be overlooked. Lomachenko was knocked down in the sixth round, the first time in his career. But just four rounds later, Lomachenko returned the favor and he made it stick.
“Maybe it will be a harder fight (against Campbell), but I can’t answer that until after the fight,” observed Lomachenko. “Luke Campbell is not an easy fighter. He’s a top fighter. He’s a smart fighter. He’s a technical fighter, so it will be an interesting and technical fight.”
As for Campbell, he believes the experience will only help him on Saturday. “I’ve learned from my experiences, and boy, do I love a challenge. I’ve said for years being in boxing, to be the best, you have to beat the best. And this is certainly one of those challenges.”
Has Campbell learned enough? It’s doubtful. For all Lomachenko’s physical talents, his greatest asset is his ability to think through problems in the ring. Credit his unorthodox training techniques applied by his trainer and father, Anatoly Lomachenko. Papa Lomachenko presents his son with unpredictability in his training scenarios, making him solve puzzles and exercise his mind as much as his body,
Lomachenko invites you to enter The Matrix
Lomachenko acquired his nickname “The Matrix” for his ability to mentally slow down what happens in front of him, calibrate his reaction, and deliver before his opponent has completed his moves. It’s uncanny, and it’s hard to appreciate unless you’ve seen Lomachenko ringside. Ask anyone who’s seen both Lomachenko and Crawford in person. Most who have put Lomachenko just one tiny notch ahead of Crawford on the P4P list for this reason.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said, “I’ve been doing this for well over 50 years, and I’ve never seen anything like that guy. He’s almost breathtaking.” Bear in mind Arum also promotes Terence Crawford.
Lomachenko has made it clear repeatedly his current goal is to unify all of the titles at 135 pounds. Only then will he consider other options. The opportunity to add the WBC title to his collection is motivating for him.
“This brings me one step closer to my main goal of having all the belts. I want to ‘unificate’ all of the titles,” said Lomachenko. “That is my next goal in boxing. I have won titles in three weight categories, but I never won all four belts in a division. So, for me, Campbell is a very important name as I write my boxing history. I want to make history. That’s the most important thing for me … Very few fighters have won all four titles. It would mean a lot for me to accomplish this.”
Prediction: It’s not puzzling
Lomachenko continues to quietly make his case for claiming number one pound for pound status. The only current challenge to this distinct is American Terence Crawford. It’s about the way Loma wins, utterly demoralizing his opponents. He strips them of their dignity and renders any skills or strategy useless. This is why many simply quit. To press on until stopped or until the final bell sounds is as much of a victory as his opponents can hope for. Luke Campbell isn’t a quitter, and we don’t expect the words “no mas” to ever pass his lips.
Campbell will put up a challenge, and he may win rounds especially in the first half of the fight. But as Lomachenko lines up all the colors on the Rubik’s cube, he will take control and leave the UK with a victory. We call a late round stoppage for Lomachenko.
Undercard fights: Fury vs Povetkin, Buatsi vs Ford, Marshall vs Bastieri
On the undercard, the co-main event features another British boxer, heavyweight Hughie Fury versus Alexander Povetkin of Russia. Fury isn’t his brother Tyson, and Povetkin isn’t the man he used to be. But if enough of vintage Povetkin shows up Saturday, it could be an interesting fight. Both men made weight within two pounds of each other, Fury at 224 pounds, Povetkin at 225 pounds.
Also on the undercard, light heavyweight prospect Joseph Buatsi (11-0, 9 KOs) faces Ryan Ford of Edmonton, Alberta (16-4, 11 KOs). Buatsi fights in a competitive division but shows all the skills needed to one day find himself in the top tier as the previous generation starts to move on.
WBC flyweight champion Charlie Edwards of Surrey (15-1, 6 KOs) fights Julio Cesar Martinez of Mexico (14-1, 11 KOs).
In women’s boxing, super middleweight Savannah Marshall of the UK (6-0, 4 KOs) takes on Daniele Bastieri of Brazil (2-0, 2 KOs) in an eight-round match up. The “Silent Assassin” won gold at the 2012 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. And yes, everyone mentions this: Marshall is the only boxer, amateur or pro, to ever defeat American Claressa Shields.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalist covering the Sweet Science for Communities Digital News base in San Diego, California. Read more Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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