Does ‘Cool Hand’ Luke hold the key to unlocking ‘The Matrix’?

955022760.jpg.0 - Does ‘Cool Hand’ Luke hold the key to unlocking ‘The Matrix’?

We are still awaiting official confirmation of Vasiliy Lomachenko vs Luke Campbell, due August 31.

As we await Matchroom and Top Rank’s official announcement of Vasiliy Lomachenko’s latest world title defence at lightweight, Britain’s 2012 Olympic gold medalist Luke Campbell prepares to face one of the most daunting tasks in world boxing: going toe-to-toe with ‘Hi-Tech’ Lomachenko.

No doubt billed as a “battle of the London Olympic champions”, Loma is expected to make his debut on British soil at the O2 Arena – somewhere that the Ukrainian pound-for-pound star has often cited as a destination he would like a segment of his career to land.

For Campbell, it’s a second shot at a world title, after ‘Cool Hand’ fell agonisingly close to toppling Jorge Linares in September 2017. A split decision went the way of the Venezuelan having dropped Campbell in the second round of the engaging bout. In truth, Campbell didn’t do enough to win the fight following the knockdown, but the way he battled his way back into contention in the fight showed the minerals of the man. It would also transpire that Campbell’s father passed away two weeks before that night in California – a heartbreaking truth that the Briton would keep away from the public eye.

Wins against Troy James and Adrian Yung, as well as avenging Yvan Mendy – the Frenchman who gave Campbell his only other loss in the paid ranks – have followed since, with the 31-year-old forcing his way into the WBC’s mandatory position for this vacant strap at 135-pounds. The WBC’s decision to hand-pick Lomachenko as an opponent for their vacant title raised several eyebrows across the boxing community, with Vasiliy already holding the WBA, WBO and Ring Magazine titles; Devin Haney or Zaur Abdullaev were expected to fill this void in duking it out with Campbell.

Campbell goes into this fight with the same chance as a majority of Lomachenko opponents: slim to none. Currently priced at 8/1 to hand the Ukrainian his third loss in over 400 bouts as an amateur and pro, Campbell’s preparation for this fight – under the tutelage of fast-rising trainer Shane McGuigan – needs to be specific and detailed. Campbell is no spring chicken in the fight game despite his boyish looks, so a crippling loss to the lightweight king could leave the proud Hull fighter with limited options available.

Anthony Crolla was the latest to suffer at the hands and feet of ‘Hi-Tech’. The Mancunian was well out of his depth in a fourth-round KO in April this year, however, Crolla sees Campbell as a much stiffer opponent than he was able to offer.

”I think Luke is more suited stylistically to give Lomachenko a better fight,” Crolla told Sky Sports. “He’ll Campbell be a lot bigger than Lomachenko but it’s just how long you can keep Lomachenko off and how he closes the distance – super, super clever”

”I believe he will be looking to keep it long, use those advantages,” Crolla explained in defence of Campbell’s chances. “To me, it just depends on how aggressive Loma comes out. If he comes out so aggressive, he could get to Luke a lot earlier but I think he will look to box and I think for four rounds it will be pretty cagey.”

Sure, Crolla is playing the Matchroom/British card here in his blind faith towards Campbell and his chances, but still, his brief analysis holds up, detailing the minutiae of how the challenger can ruffle the feathers of one of the sports most prized assets.

Luke’s leavers hold a four-inch reach advantage over that of Lomachenko. Yeah, this pales into insignificance when you consider the footwork Loma possesses in moving in and out of the pocket, but Campbell has a well-crafted amateur pedigree to fall back on. Keeping it long in the opening stanzas will probably give Campbell time in the fight, but with Lomachenko, it’s usually a case of “when” not “if” he will solve your puzzle.

If Campbell can manage to employ this tactic successfully in the opening exchanges, the Briton will expect to land on Vasiliy throughout. With sixteen KOs in his 20 wins as a professional, Campbell’s power has slightly gone under the radar. At lightweight, he is a big puncher, and now under the wing of Shane McGuigan, expect more spite to be introduced to these attacks with a physical and conditioned approach.

”BuT LuKe Is A sOuThPaW.” I can’t see this argument holding up too much in the way of an argument to Campbell getting joy. Matching the stance of Lomachenko will enable the Ukrainian to shut off the distance much easier than against a rangey guy fighting out of the orthodox position, battling to plant the outer foot. Loma has dealt perfectly well with Gary Russel Jr. and dissected Guillermo Rigondeaux emphatically so far in his pro career when two lefties have shared the ring.

Sticking behind the jab and being fluid off the backfoot is Campbell’s most likely recipe for success, but the biggest question when fighting Lomachenko is defining success over the course of the whole fight. Apart from winning the duel, which a small percentage of us truly believe Campbell can achieve, are there stages of achievement in a loss to ‘Hi-Tech’? Dropping him like Linares managed? Hearing the final bell à la Pedraza? Or will a Salido-style stinker be the only way Campbell comes out of this fight with his status enhanced?

Campbell is a solid top five guy around the 135-pounds division, but it’s a humbling sign of the times when it’s nearly impossible to envisage the Briton winning this bout in his home country. He has been floored by Argenis Mendez and Yvan Mendy, but never looked close to being stopped. This will be the aim of Vasiliy in London (assuming this is where it lands), ticking off a territory which holds an important pull to the success of a fighter as a “global star.”

I’ve followed Campbell’s career closely having been present at one of his early fights at London 2012. He’s always come across as a great guy, dedicated fighter and a true pupil to the “sweet science”. The undeniable truth, however, is that when he enters the Matrix, a maiden world title may seem further away than it ever did.

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