Vasiliy Lomachenko drops, decisions Luke Campbell in dominant London outing

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Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
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LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 31:  Vasily Lomachenko (left) and Luke Campbell are pictured during the WBA, WBO, WBC Lightweight World Title contest between Vasily Lomachenko and Luke Campbell at The O2 Arena on August 31, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
Vasiliy Lomachenko (L) lands a punch vs. Luke Campbell during their WBA, WBO, WBC lightweight title fight at The O2 Arena on Aug. 31, 2019 in London. (Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

The easiest way to understand Vasiliy Lomachenko’s magnificence is to realize that he could have been fighting at featherweight on Saturday.

Instead, he won the third of the four major lightweight belts by routing Luke Campbell, a one-time Olympic gold medalist and former world champion who fought exceptionally well.

Campbell had a distinct size and reach advantage that gave Lomachenko trouble, but he still won 11 of the 12 rounds according to two of the judges and 10 of the 12 according to the third to add the WBC belt to the WBA and WBO crowns he already owned.

Fighting at O2 Arena in London in his opponent’s back yard, Lomachenko wasn’t at his best and was still dominant.

That is what greatness is all about.

“He is a superstar,” promoter Bob Arum said in the ring afterward.

That he is. He had trouble getting inside Campbell’s long lead right, and he was stung a few times by Campbell’s shots. Nonetheless, he had Campbell in deep trouble several times in the bout and dropped him in the 11th.

There are some who want to suggest that Lomachenko ranks among the greatest lightweights of all-time. It’s hard to buy that he’d get past the lightweight version of Roberto Duran, who is the greatest 135-pounder of all-time according to many experts. But Lomachenko really isn’t a natural lightweight, which makes his work all the more impressive.

“It’s hard to prepare for him,” Campbell trainer Shane McGuigan said. “I thought [Campbell] did himself proud tonight. He boxed an amazing fight against a once-in-a-lifetime fighter. Until the body shot [in the seventh], he was in the fight.”

The scorecards told a different story, but there were a lot of close rounds. Lomachenko wasn’t just waltzing to wins and had to work to get these.

Lomachenko praised Campbell as a “smart and technical,” fighter and conceded Campbell’s size advantage made it difficult for him to adjust. But he did what the greats do and he made those adjustments.

Next will be the chance to become just the fifth undisputed champion of the modern era when he is expected to fight the winner of the Dec. 14 bout between IBF champion Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez. Lomachenko said he wanted to fight Lopez but said he didn’t think he’d beat Commey.

Whichever of those two wins will have his hands full contending with Lomachenko, who is on another level from the majority of the fighters in this game.

Arum said he might have Lopez drop to featherweight or super featherweight and seek fights there that could set up a poor man’s version of what the great Henry Armstrong once did. Armstrong, fighting in the eight-division era, held the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight belts simultaneously and lost a bid to win the middleweight belt.

There are a lot of great fights at those weights for Lomachenko, who could cherry pick the best from each class.

On Saturday, he proved he’s the class of the lightweight division even if he’s not a true 135-pounder.

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