Thursday, August 29, 2019

After Saturday the Lightweight picture gets clearer

By Luis A. Cortes III

Heading into this Saturday afternoon’s (ESPN+ 4 p.m. ET) lightweight unification fight, there are many sub plots that accompany this major fight.  WBA/WBO unified champion and top ranked pound for pound fighter in the world, Vasyl Lomachenko (13-1)(10 KO’s) defends his two portions of the lightweight crown against fellow 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, and England native Luke Campbell (20-2)(16 KO’s).  One of these sub plots is the fact that not only will the winner of this fight stake their claim as the best lightweight in the world with the two previously mentioned titles, the vacant WBC world lightweight title is also up for grabs.  This means that Lomachenko can add a third title to his ever-growing collection of championships.  While for Campbell, with one huge upset victory, he can go from top contender to owner of three of the four major titles in the division. 

While we will take a closer look at the type of fight that Lomachenko-Campbell could shape up to be once the first bell rings out from the O2 Arena in London, what is intriguing is just what this fight means to the lightweight division once the dust settles and a winner is announced.  Earlier this summer the lightweight division and the path towards crowning an undisputed champion was covered prior to the title defense of IBF champion, Richard Commey ("The Road to Undisputed Lightweight King Begins"). 

With Commey successfully defending his version of the title against Beltran, and Teofimo Lopez winning his fight to secure the spot as the IBF number one contender, all signs point to the two men meeting in a championship fight in December at Madison Square Garden.  The victor of this Saturday’s fight in London will be waiting with bated breath for the outcome of the proposed Commey-Lopez fight.  For Top Rank Promotions, the ideal situation would be for Lomachenko to continue to impress the world by proving with a victory over Campbell that he is the best fighter in the world.  It also would make a potential fight next year with the winner of Commey-Lopez much easier to make since both of those fighters also ply their trade under the Top Rank banner. 

As mentioned in the article earlier this summer.  Luke Campbell has attached himself to this scenario as the absolute wild card.  Campbell, unlike the other three fighters mentioned, is not signed to Top Rank and is promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing.  However, something tells me that if he can accomplish the upset by beating Lomachenko, which not many boxing observers or fans on social media seem to give him a valid chance in doing, Team Campbell may in fact be demanding that they as well look no further then December’s fight for their next opponent. 

All of this means that Saturday will go a long way into making the path and picture of crowning an undisputed lightweight champion much clearer.  As for the fight itself, this event does say a lot about the reigning champion.  With the fight taking place in London, it’s not often that in today’s day and age of champions demanding to be considered the “A” side of a promotion that the hometown fighter is the challenger.  Lomachenko is proving that he is anything but a regular champion.  He sees this as an opportunity to display his skills on a large scale in front of an audience that hasn’t seen him compete live since his days in the World Boxing Series prior to turning professional, or since the 2012 Olympic Games (held in London).  One thing is for certain, while Campbell will most likely have most of his native land’s support, with over 18,000 tickets sold and a sellout expected, Lomachenko has been attending fight week events that have been packed with his supporters. 

Already an international star, an impressive victory over Campbell would just add the rest of England to Lomachenko’s growing list of supporters.  Although its rare to see the champion or pound for pound best willing to travel to the native land of the challenger, to his credit Lomachenko had this to say about the task at hand on Saturday.  “Maybe it will be a harder fight, but I can’t answer that until after the fight.  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.” 

What Lomachenko is referring, to aside from showing respect to his challenger and fellow Olympic champion, is the only thing that boxing observers have pointed to that favors Campbell going into this fight, his size and reach advantage over the smaller champion.  Campbell is a very tall lightweight with solid fundamentals and a tough southpaw style.  He also has good professional experience, only losing twice by split decision, one of those fights being a 2017 loss to then WBA champion Jorge Linares.  Although most people thought Linares was the rightful winner of the fight, Campbell showed grit and determination after being dropped in the second round by rising to his feet and adjusting in order to make the fight a close one.  Linares was also the fighter that wound up dropping Lomachenko during their heated fight last year when Lomachenko moved up in weight to capture the WBA title. ("Top Rank Boxing Presents Vasyl Lomachenko vs. Jorge Linares Recap")

“I’ve been through a lot having the experience of the London Olympics, the crowds, the pressure of going out there, getting a medal and winning.  My professional career, coming to America to fight Linares for a world title.  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,” stated Campbell. 

So, while his amateur pedigree and his professional experiences, coupled with his physical traits have many feeling that Campbell will make this a competitive fight, mostly everyone winds up saying that in the end Lomachenko will find a way to figure out the right plan of attack during the fight and make the adjustments needed to chop down his worthy challenger.  What will be interesting to see is if Campbell will also be able to adjust to the champion’s adjustments in order to try and take control of the fight as the challenger, and clearly come out as the winner of the fight. 

A couple things are for sure, whichever way this fight winds up playing out, fight fans will continue to reap the benefits of cross promotion as the best fight the best.  Also, one fighter will walk out of the ring with three of the four major belts, thus taking us closer to an undisputed champion.  Lastly, even if the fight does wind up turning into a technical fight between the two fighters as they jockey for advantages, it will be an intriguing high tense chess match.  If this is the case, pay close attention to the subtle boxing moves done with both the fighter’s hands and feet as they probe for the right plan of attack to be successful.  Enjoy, and let the lightweight picture get that much clearer! 

Image result for lomachenko vs. campbell poster

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