Vasyl Lomachenko marked himself as “seven out of 10” in defeating Luke Campbell in their riveting world lightweight clash in London on Saturday, the Hull fighter pledged that he would be back “to become a world champion” and history was made as the sport’s version of the video assistant referee was used in a championship fight for the first time in the UK.
On a night British fight fans witnessed the leading technical boxer in the world, Lomachenko, a double Olympic gold medallist who has dominated the professional sport in three weight divisions in just 15 fights, proved once more he is near unbeatable due to his physical gifts and knowledge of the art of boxing.
And yet Campbell was a willing, thrilling dance partner, in spite of being hurt in the fifth round and dropped in the 11th.
Lomachenko – known as “The Matrix” – won a landslide decision on the cards – 119-108 on two, 118-109 on the third – and if he has flaws, it is not clear who will find them. There was the finest of chances that Campbell’s height and reach advantages, as well as his identical southpaw stance, might give him an edge, but it simply led to a non-stop brutal chess match of dancing feet and flashing fists.
Fifteen million fans – half of Ukraine’s population – were watching on free state television, while the O2 Arena was sold out. “There is one genius in this group, and that is Anatoly, Loma’s father,” said Bob Arum, the American promoter, continuing to make the comparison in skills between Lomachenko and Muhammad Ali.
“The atmosphere in London is better than in Las Vegas. The British fans are so knowledgeable.”
The reigning champion himself? “Am I pleased [with the performance]? I want to see my fight on TV, and after I will understand,” he said. “I promise I’ll come back to the UK, with the best fans in the world. I give myself seven out of 10.”
But that was credit to Campbell. “Last night was one hell of a battle,” he said on Sunday after being taken to hospital as a precaution on Saturday night, having taken 211 punches.
“I’m gutted it didn’t go my way but respect to Loma. Nothing is worse than the pain of a loss, but this will not stop me, I will be back and I will be world champion.”
Campbell’s stock will have risen after a brilliant technical performance. The event also marked the first time at a fight in Britain that an instant replay was used – effectively VAR – to reverse a decision in a world-title fight. It was used by the World Boxing Council and was effective in overturning a fight involving London’s Charlie Edwards, who was defending his title against Mexican Julio Cesar Martinez Aguilar. The champion was hurt and went to the ground after a ferocious body assault in the third round.
Mark Lyson, the referee, counted Edwards out and called the fight over, although replays showed that Edwards had been punched in the ribs by a left hand when he was already on his knees. “I’ve never seen anything like that before, I think it was completely, 100 per cent, the right thing to do,” said the promoter Eddie Hearn.
Mauricio Sulaiman, president of the WBC, who was ringside, explained yesterday it was “obvious a decision needed to be made” and that it was done “after consulting briefly with the WBC supervisory team”, also beside the ring. “We have done it before, and many other sports do this, so why shouldn’t we?” he added
Elsewhere, another potentially riveting class of elite fighters was announced at the weekend for Oct 26 at the O2 when light welterweights Josh Taylor and Regis Prograis meet in the final of the World Boxing Super Series.
American Prograis (24-0, 20 KOs) and Scotland’s Taylor (15-0, 12 KOs) meet with chief support from heavyweights Joseph Parker, the former World Boxing Organisation champion, and local fan favourite Dereck Chisora. “It has always been a dream for me to fight in London,” Prograis said. “The boxing fans in the UK are some of the best in the world and I can’t wait to go and put on a show. I know once they see me fight they’ll be fans for life.”
Taylor, the International Boxing Federation world champion, known as “The Tartan Tornado”, added: “I want to prove that I’m the best in the division by taking on the best fighters. Now it’s finally over the line I can concentrate on getting to work in the gym. I’m very confident that I can both outbox him and outfight him. I believe that I am the best fighter in the division and now it’s time to prove it.”