This Saturday in London, Luke Campbell strives to dethrone pound-for-pound king Vasyl Lomachenko in front of a sell-out crowd at the O2 Arena.
The champion’s WBA (Super) and WBO lightweight belts will be on the line, whilst the WBC title, vacated by Mikey Garcia earlier this year, will also be up for grabs.
The two combatants share a handful of similarities, with both posing an awkward southpaw style, both winning gold for their countries at the London 2012 Olympics and both having faced former three-weight world champion, Jorge Linares.
Campbell unsuccessfully challenged Linares for the WBA belt back in 2017, losing narrowly on the cards in Los Angeles. Despite the defeat, Campbell put up a valiant effort and proved that he could hang with the best in the division.
The following year, Lomachenko would climb off the canvas to stop the classy Venezuelan in the tenth round of an exciting encounter. The speed and combination punching of Linares posed problems for “Hi-tech” during the early stages and proved that the Ukrainian can be troubled.
Lomachenko later unified by beating Jose Pedraza for the WBO strap in January of last year and defended his crowns against Anthony Crolla earlier this year, pummelling the Brit into submission inside four brutal rounds.
During this time, Campbell was rebuilding his career and manoeuvring himself into the mandatory position with the WBC. With the aforementioned Garcia looking to make his mark up at welterweight, the belt was freed up by the governing body, providing Campbell with another chance to secure a world championship.
Now he faces the most technically gifted pugilist of the modern era and aims to cause arguably the biggest upset in British boxing history. The anticipation is high amongst the British boxing fraternity, to see Lomachenko compete professionally in the UK for the first, and possibly, the only occasion.
On the undercard, Hughie Fury will make his Matchroom debut against former heavyweight titleholder Alexander Povetkin. This will be the Russian’s third appearance in the UK in less than two years, after knocking out David Price at Wembley before being stopped by Anthony Joshua six months later.
Charlie Edwards makes the second defence of the WBC flyweight title he took from Cristofer Rosales in December of last year. He faces mandatory challenger Julio Cesar Martinez from Mexico, known by many British fight fans for stopping Andrew Selby earlier this year.
The card will also feature former Olympians Joe Cordina, Joshua Buatsi and Savannah Marshall. Cordina defends his British lightweight strap against fellow unbeaten Welshman, Gavin Gwynne, whilst Buatsi will put his WBA Intercontinental light heavyweight belt on the line against Ryan Ford.
James Tennyson and Atif Shafiq battle it out for the vacant WBA International lightweight strap, plus unbeaten prospects Dalton Smith and Connor Coghill will also be on the card.
In my opinion, Campbell is a world-class operator who falls just shy of the elite level – whereas Lomachenko is at the very tip of the talent spectrum.
Campbell’s height and reach advantage could upset Loma’s fluidity in the early stages, allowing him to remain competitive heading into the middle rounds. He will need to utilise his jab and keep it long to prevent Lomachenko from getting into range and firing away. Landing a clean single shot on the Ukrainian is almost impossible, so Campbell’s punches will need to be thrown in quick, stinging flurries when in range.
I am expecting the champion to target the challenger’s midsection for the early part of the fight; in an attempt to tire his opponent and help gauge the distance against the lengthier fighter. Campbell has nifty footwork but his top half is fairly static and will act as a huge target.
Lomachenko’s ability to dissect his opponent’s style and subsequently adapt his approach is one of his greatest assets. Whatever Campbell throws his way, the champion will find the appropriate response. His judging of distance is impeccable, and although I envisage Campbell earning his share of the first few rounds, those early exchanges will be utilised by the champion to feel his way into the contest.
As the fight progresses, Loma will settle into his usual rhythm and begin unlocking the defence of the challenger. Using his feet to get inside and negate Campbell’s jab, whilst landing with heavy combinations, in short, hurtful bursts.
The big question for me, heading into the second half of the contest, is will Campbell be simply overwhelmed by the brilliance of the mini master? I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw Shane McGuigan, Campbell’s esteemed trainer, forced to call an end to proceedings when the fight becomes increasingly one-sided.
Although I feel he fares far better than his UK counterpart, Anthony Crolla, I can’t see him lasting as long as Linares did against the Ukrainian. I’m going for Lomachenko by eighth-round stoppage.
Lomachenko via 8th round Stoppage.
On the undercard, I feel Povetkin may have enough left in the tank to deal with Fury. Last November, he outboxed Joshua in stages and caused him real trouble on the inside. If the knockout hasn’t taken too much out of him, I expect him to continuous ly hurt and pressure Hughie, who has been far too negative against high calibre opposition in the past.
That being said, if Hughie can get his jab pumping and impose his size as Wladimir Klitschko did against the Russian, he could tire him out and take over the fight late on. Povetkin has plenty of miles on the clock and is fifteen years senior to Fury, which could prove to be a considerable factor heading into the second half of the bout.
Povetkin via unanimous decision.
Edwards faces a real acid test in Martinez, who will look to drag the Brit into a gruelling dogfight. The Mexican was somewhat of an unknown entity entering the bout against Selby, with his résumé lacking any suggestion that he was a threat at world level. However, Edwards will have studied the footage and have more knowledge of Martinez, so will be able to better prepare for his second defence, in front of his home crowd.
After coming through some early rough patches, I expect the cuter and more precise work from the champion to favour him on the cards. It will be tightly contested throughout, though, and Edwards may be forced to climb off the canvas at some stage.
Edwards via split decision.
Finally, I think Cordina and Buatsi will demonstrate why they are highly touted by many, with both winning inside the scheduled distance.
Cordina via Round 9 stoppage. Buatsi via Round 5 Stoppage.