“I’m not going anywhere,” Luke Campbell said on Sunday morning following his wide points loss to Vasiliy Lomachenko in London. In a fight that underlined ‘Hi-Tech’s’ technical superiority, Campbell rallied well to stay in the contest following pinpoint attacks from the champion throughout. A brave effort from the 31-year-old allowed him to hear the final bell after 36 minutes attempting to unlock ‘The Matrix’ – the fifth man to do so in the paid ranks.
Lomachenko was – as we’ve become used to expecting over the past couple of years – a dazzling joy to watch. Dancing, gliding, pivoting and shuffling his feet into the prime position to begin an attack were, for a majority of the 36 minutes, poetry in motion. Exuding the grace of a ballroom dancer laced with the spiteful venom of a cobra, Loma fails to waste an attack. Thinking three, four or even five moves ahead, Ronnie O’Sullivan would be bamboozled by the angles the Ukrainian can create with tranquil ease. Luke Campbell was a worthy dance partner – a dance partner with the best seat in the house, watching the sport’s No.1 attraction.
”I will keep pushing. I do believe I got a lot better from that performance,” Campbell explained, after waking up for a second time following a failed attempt at a world title. With the scorecards reading 119-108, 119-108 and 118-109, the history books will fail to explain the true nature of this contest, with the Briton enjoying pockets of success early in the fight in an attempt to utilise his long, rangey, right jab. Counters to the body proved fruitful for the Briton; with a reluctance to allow Loma the opportunity to work on the inside forcing the sport’s pound-for-pound No.1 to mix up his attacks and show patience in abundance.
The gulf in skills that we have seen so often between Lomachenko and an opponent was less obvious inside London’s O2 Arena, with Campbell’s amateur schooling proving instrumental in his tactical approach to attempting the achieve the impossible. Small flurries of Lomachenko pressure were usually enough to win rounds – I struggled to give Campbell more than three rounds in this fight, but this is not to detract from the game-plan he and Shane McGuigan arrived in London with. The stoppage wasn’t far away in the championship rounds, with Loma, arguably, letting Luke off the hook.
”I learned a few tricks in there myself, from Loma. I’ll add them to my style,” Luke confessed. “You’re in for more great fights from me. I will be after those belts.” Following the third defeat of his professional career, ‘Cool Hand’ is quickly looking to the future in a sport that can continue to offer chance after chance. His former stalemate, George Groves, knows this all too well. ‘Saint’ George won his super-middleweight world title at the fourth time of asking and there is little doubt that the retired champion will inspire a similar path for Luke Campbell to take over the coming years.
”Out of the Linares loss and the Yvan Mendy loss, which I don’t talk about because I avenged it, [the Lomachenko loss] was the first time I have been truly beaten in the professional game,” he said. “No excuses. I was beaten by the better man,” Campbell went on to admit – a candid review of the fight from Luke, a guy who has suffered countless highs and lows inside and outside of the sport. Acceptance of Loma’s brilliance will not detract from the talent that the London 2012 bantamweight gold medallist knows he possesses in abundance.
”Emotionally I’m in pain at the loss. Losing is very painful for me. It’s hard to have a game plan when someone like that is in front of you that always adapts,” Luke went onto explain. “One-hundred per cent, with the support I had tonight, I can go on and achieve anything. Tonight was Lomachenko’s night, but my time will come.”
It’s hard not to patronise when congratulating a fighter on a loss. Not just a loss, but a wide unanimous decision loss which included a late knockdown. The fact that Campbell has come away from this fight with his stock raised and his future brightened is a testament to his ability, but above all, his opponent. We are in danger of becoming numb to the ability and brilliance of Lomachenko every time he enters the ring – it’s hard to see who can come close to adding their name alongside Orlando Salido and Albert Selimov in defeating the Ukrainian.
“How good is he?” Luke was asked as the night came to a close. “Well, he beat me so he’s very good. He’s a special fighter, we all knew he was a special fighter.”