Vasily Lomachenko defended his WBO, WBA and WBC lightweight titles against a brave and competitive Luke Campbell in what might yet be seen as a landmark night for British boxing at The 02 on Saturday night. Though claiming he can never be a superstar due to his lack of English, Lomachenko’s presence in the capital sparked furor on fight night and indeed all of fight week. As after a long and dominant amateur career Lomachenko is seen by many as pound for pound the best fighter on the planet, after now just fifteen professional bouts. So his decision to come to the UK to defend his titles showcases the reach that UK boxing has around the world, in a current climate where many a high profile fighter is opting to fight in the US and beyond in order to secure as much bank as possible before a mid-thirties retirement.
Lomachenko’s latest defence of his titles was no exhibition though and was a far stiffer test than his last bout versus another British challenger in Anthony Crolla back in April. This time Lomachenko had to overcome a fellow Olympic champion in the form of 2012 gold medalist Luke Campbell, who was looking to put his name on the map after what has been a slightly underwhelming pro career so far. A crowd not too far shy of twenty thousand packed The 02 and witnessed a fight of real skill, concentration and class. Ultimately, over twelve quality rounds of boxing Lomachenko proved just too much for Campbell, who did well to survive a brutal eleventh round where Lomachenko looked to put on a spectacular finish in front of a ruckus London crowd. Scores of 119-108 twice and 118-109 were a little harsh on Campbell however it was clearly Lomachenko’s night by a good distance.
Campbell, even in valiant defeat, would have gained many plaudits of his own for not just getting through thirty six minutes with the world’s best but showing that he deserved to me in there. It looked as though he might have rocked ‘Loma’ in the middle rounds and just for a second or two a massive upset looked a little more likely but Lomachenko simply got back to work and eventually wore his game opponent down in the second half of the fight, as many predicted. Though in truth the level of Campbell’s performance probably surprised some and in a Lomachenko-free division he would likely have a real shot at a world title. Unfortunately for Campbell and the rest of the fighters in the lightweight division, Lomachenko plans to unify the division by adding the IBF title to his collection of honours in the sport before moving back down to a more ‘natural weight’.Though many will eye super fights for Lomachenko versus the likes of Gervonta David and Devin Haney before he decides to move back down.
Whichever weight Lomachenko fights at it will take either an awful day at the office from him and his team or a gargantuan effort from a supremely skilled opponent to defeat him as you get the feeling there might even be another gear for him to somehow amp up to. A few more victories at the top and many will claim that Lomachenko is one of the greatest to ever grace the ring and when looking over his career and his latest performance versus a seasoned pro in Campbell, it’s extremely difficult to argue otherwise.
The main event on Saturday night was preceded by the chief support of Hughie Fury versus Alexander Povetkin, with Fury turning in an uninspiring performance in his first fight as a Matchroom stable member. The younger cousin of Tyson can certainly take a shot, after seeing twelve rounds out with a still very heavy handed and dangerous Povetkin. However Fury didn’t do nearly enough with his own power shots to persuade the judges to give him the decision as he faded in the second half of the twelve. Scores of 117-111 were once again a little wide yet Fury will know he missed a real opportunity to show the world what he can do in what is a truly stacked heavyweight division.
Charlie Edwards defence of his WBC flyweight crown ended in bizarre circumstances after the bout was announced as a no contest by WBC chief Maurizio Salaiman after Mexican challenger Julio Cesar Martinez landed a sickening blow to the body when Edwards was already stooped over on the canvas. A relentless attack from Martinez caused Edwards to take a knee in the third only for his opponent to recklessly deliver a brutal hook to the body with Edwards clearly already down and ready to be counted by the referee. In real time, the referee decided to count out Edwards and award Martinez the victory. But after some delay, post-fight interviews and replays, the use of WBC’s ‘instant replay’ rule meant the fight was ruled a no contest and Edwards remained champion while an immediate rematch was ordered.
The expression of complete despair to shocked relief after Edwards was told by his corner about the decision reversal sparked The 02 into joyous life and will no doubt will one of the most memorable yet strange moments of UK boxing in 2019. In truth, Edwards was saved by his opponent’s surreal decision to hit him while he was down as it looked as though Edwards was very badly hurt before the now infamous floor punch was delivered and was likely headed for defeat. After admitting he is struggling to make weight at flyweight, Edwards now has the Sophie’s choice of whether to take on the immediate rematch with a very dangerous opponent or vacate and move up to super-flyweight. It remains to be seen what the London based fighter decides to do.
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