WHEN Cool Hand Luke Campbell faces the boxing Matrix Vasily Lomachenko, there should according to all expert opinion, be only one winner.
Lomachenko can do everything, they say. He is the pound for pound best, a three-weight world champion, a two-time Olympic champion and he has looked like a king among fighters.
But they also say there is more to it than just that. They say he can do things in the ring using his speed, footwork and boxing brain that no other boxer can do, or ever has done before.
His Hi-Tech ring name carries a hint of a suggestion he is almost superhuman.
He has been christened The Matrix, the name of the science fiction film starring Keanu Reeves, who fights like a ghost. Fights like Lomachenko. And so far Loma (13-1-0) has lived up to the hype and all the nicknames you want to give him.
Who cannot have been dazzled by his speed, his angles, his fighting acumen and his ruthlessness.
Most of all his precise movement of both hands and feet in the ring is awe-inspiring. Ask Crolla, Linares, Pedraza, Rigondeaux.
Just when Linares looked like he was solving the puzzle he was torn in half with a body shot that stopped him in the 10th. When Pedraza appeared to be outboxing him – though in truth only in parts – Loma dropped him twice in the eleventh to secure a wide points win.
And Rigondeaux – thought to be an unfathomable problem himself before facing Loma – retired after six one-sided rounds in what became known as a modern day No Más. It is the Cuban wizard’s only defeat.
None so far has been able to outthink or outbox Loma and yet it was Crolla, ruthlessly finished himself in four rounds, whose honesty after his defeat hinted at why Luke Campbell (20-2-0) may, just may, ask some questions that he and his counterparts have so far not been able to ask.
Crolla simply said Campbell, 31, was far better equipped than himself to give Loma, also 31, a fight, and while he didn’t say he could win, he felt it wasn’t an open and shut case.
Crolla knows better than anyone that it is how the two men match up against each other in the ring that counts. Size, speed, power, technique and self-belief can all play out differently against different opponents – styles make fights.
“I think Luke is more suited stylistically to give Lomachenko a better fight.”
When you break down what Crolla was hinting at, the case for Campbell becomes if not compelling, then promising.
Size advantage. Check. Much as Loma has been lauded as a modern great the big question mark against him moving up through the weights has always been his size.
His natural division is featherweight and he is only a small lightweight. Campbell is a natural lightweight – and a massive one at that. When they step in the ring at O2 Arena in London on August 31 Campbell will be closer to a welterweight – the biggest man Loma has faced.
All of boxing knows the Ukrainian phenomenon is unlikely to move up to super lightweight because of his size. Yet it appears the fates have made him do just that when he faces Campbell.
Punching power. Check. Campbell is a legitimate puncher – with 16 wins out of 20 coming by way of KO – and will hit harder than anyone Loma has faced before.
Power changes fights not only in an instant but in the way a fight unfolds and it just may be that Loma may have to fight more conservatively than we have seen before.
Reach. Check. Campbell has a big 4.5 inch reach advantage – 71 inches against Loma’s 65.5 inch reach. He also stands two inches taller at 5 ft nine to five ft seven.
Technique. Check. Campbell is a southpaw, just like Loma, but that alone will not give him an advantage. Loma has dealt with southpaws in the past. But he has the boxing skills to exploit his reach advantage to keep the fight on the outside.
It could come down to Campbell’s reach against the speed of Loma’s feet. If his reach and power can neutralise Loma’s incredible feet we could have a real fight.
Pedigree. Check. Campbell is also an Olympian winning gold in 2012. He was an elite level amateur and has only two defeat as a pro – a narrow split decision against Linares in his first tilt at the title in 2017 and a points defeat against the ridiculously tough and aggressive Yvan Mendy. And he avenged that.
Pedraza and Linares both showed they could live with Loma for long spells of their fights before they crumbled.
But Campbell is different.
He hits harder than Pedraza and so far there has been no sign of the vulnerability Linares exhibited against Loma and earlier in his career with TKO defeats against Antonio DeMarco, Sergio Thompson and Juan Carlos Salgado.
And let’s not forget Linares was giving Loma all he could handle and it was close on the cards when that body shot landed. There is something else.
When Campbell fought Linares his father had passed away two weeks earlier and he kept it quiet. And he still ran Linares close. That is mental toughness. And some.
In the emotional make up of a fighter such matters hold immense sway and Campbell will be telling himself this is his time and he will be fighting for his father’s memory.
The nay sayers may believe Campbell simply doesn’t have enough to keep Loma off beyond four or five rounds. Maybe he can keep him off for seven or eight rounds they say, but there will come a point where nothing Campbell has in his armoury will work and Loma will take over.
Maybe they are right.
But Campbell has more than enough talent to ask some serious questions and he has absolutely nothing to lose.
And in the words of the original Cool Hand Luke played by Paul Newman in the film that inspired Campbell’s ring name:
“Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand.”
Who do you think will be victorious between Campbell & Lomachenko? Let us know in the comments.
David Jarvis has been writing about boxing since 1995 starting for Boxing Monthly as their reporter doing British, European, Commonwealth and World title fights. He says it was a privilege to be their York Hall man covering fights there and others on the domestic scene. After a move to Scotland, Jarvis became The Scotsman’s boxing writer (as well as news editor). He now contributes to Boxing Monthly, doing features.
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