Wednesday 28 August 2019 3:57 pm

Britain’s Luke Campbell on his world title shot, facing pound-for-pound No1 Vasiliy Lomachenko and rediscovering his happiness

It was just under two years ago that British boxer Luke Campbell lost his father and then his first world title fight in the space of two weeks.

The 31-year-old former Olympic champion pushed through the pain to fight Jorge Linares but would ultimately lose to the Venezuelan by a split decision in California – only revealing afterwards that he had “cried every day” in the build-up to the bout following his father’s death in Hull, Campbell’s home town, more than 5,000 miles away.

On Saturday at the O2 in London he will get a second shot at becoming a lightweight world champion, with the WBC, WBO and WBA belts all on the line, and he believes this time around he is in a better frame of mind as he comes up against the formidable Ukrainian Vasiliy Lomachenko.

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“There’s a lot different [to two years ago],” Campbell says. “I’m in a very good place. I’ve had a great training camp, I’ve got Shane [McGuigan, trainer] in my corner. I’m happy – that’s the difference.

“I feel settled, I feel like I’ve got a solid team around me for the first time in my professional career. I’m happy in the gym and I’m happy I get to go home and see my family every weekend.”

Campbell has enjoyed working with trainer McGuigan, son of boxing hall of famer and former featherweight world champion Barry McGuigan.

However, their bond runs deeper than the typical boxer-trainer relationship following another in-camp tragedy, with McGuigan’s sister, Danika, dying last month, aged 33, after a short illness.

British boxer Luke Campbell (right) will fight unified lightweight champion and pound-for-pound No1 Visiliy Lomachenko at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday night

“Focusing on the fight has helped,” McGuigan says. “But working with Luke who has suffered a similar loss has too.”

Campbell added: “It’s definitely good for him to keep his mind active and focus on something else. The gym is a team and we’re all there to support each other and be there when needed.”

As well as the bond with his team, London 2012 bantamweigh champion Campbell believes home advantage could tip the fight in his favour if there are tight rounds, with McGuigan claiming it will give his man “an extra couple of per cent”.


However the Yorkshireman is coming up against the No1 ranked pound-for-pound boxer in the world, according to The Ring magazine, ESPN and the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Lomachenko was a world champion in just his third professional fight, winning the WBO featherweight title, before claiming the WBO super featherweight belt in his seventh fight and then becoming a three-weight champion in his 12th fight when he beat Linares to add the WBA lightweight title. No man has accomplished that feat as quickly.

Campbell lost his first world title fight to Jorge Linares in California two years ago, two weeks after his father died

The Ukranian’s record-breaking rise has put him firmly in the spotlight, but it is perhaps of little surprise given a glittering amateur career that saw him claim Olympic golds in 2008 and 2012. His reported amateur record is an extraordinary 396 wins from 397 fights – and he avenged that sole defeat twice.

Now the unified lightweight world champion, he will attempt to defend those titles against 10-1 underdog Campbell on Saturday, as he did against fellow Briton Anthony Crolla in April this year.

“We’re going in there planning for the win, it won’t shock us,” says McGuigan. “But we know the magnitude of the upset would be the biggest upset in British boxing history. It would trump Donald Curry’s loss to Lloyd Honeyghan.”

Curry was considered unbeatable going into that 1986 welterweight world title fight, but Lomachenko has a “few chinks in his armour” that have given Campbell’s team confidence of producing an upset on a similar scale.

“It’s very, very hard to prepare for Lomachenko. I’ve watched a hell of a lot of tape on him, but he looks different in every fight,” McGuigan says. “He’s 31, he’s had 400 fights. That’s a hell of a lot of training camps.

“I know his knuckle’s gone, his shoulder’s gone, he’s had certain things and that’s why he’s doing kayaking, it’s probably because he’s not able to do the training so he has to do low intensity stuff because he’s had so much wear and tear on his body.”

Campbell won gold in the London 2012 Olympics

While McGuigan has watched Lomachenko extensively, somewhat surprisingly Campbell has hardly seen his opponent in action.

“I haven’t really watched any of his fights,” Campbell says. “I’ve seen highlights here and there. I just leave that up to Shane and he’ll tell me what to do, but I don’t particularly watch much.”

It leaves him dependent on what his 31-year-old trainer tells him, but also means he will not try to anticipate what the unpredictable Lomachenko could do based on what he has seen.

Campbell, who at 5ft 9in holds a two-inch height advantage over his fellow southpaw, insists he is focused on “preparing to be the best I can be”, although he does not shy away from the enormity of the task ahead of him.

“He’s ranked No1 pound-for-pound for a reason so I think he’s the very best out there at the minute, which is exactly where I want to be,” he says.

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The Hull-born boxer has an impressive 20-2 record, avenging his first professional defeat to Yvan Mendy in a rematch last year.

His ascent since London 2012 has been slower than fellow gold medallist Anthony Joshua, but he believes he is entering his prime over the next two years as he looks to establish himself as one of the best in his weight class.

Asked what would come next should he pull off a shock win, Campbell says: “Certainly all my dreams come true. I’ll have to bring my bucket list out and see what needs ticking off, but this certainly tops everything. After this one, it’s going on and sealing the legacy.”

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