They say a good big’un beats a good little’un but as Luke Campbell found out on a master class night in London’s Docklands, genius always trumps courage even when it comes laced with first class ability.
Vasyl Lomachenko lived up to all the hype and then some to make height, weight, reach and heart count for nothing. Never, certainly of late, has a boxer from overseas entered a UK ring to such unbiased admiration as Lomachenko when he came into the O2.
Seldom has one left to such acclaim from the British boxing public.
Loma the Great saluted the fans in return and no-one among the capacity 18,000 crowd was arguing when his legendary promoter hailed him as the finest boxing technician since Muhammad Ali in his prime.
There was no denying Campbell either, when Hull’s finest Olympian said: ‘I gave my very best, all I could tonight but this man is a great fighter.’
That he is.
JEFF POWELL’S SCORECARD
It took him a couple of rounds to weigh up and work the sheer size of the task in front of him and then went to work with lightning hands, swift feet and dazzling ring-craft from geometrically impossible angles.
Campbell was as much victim of mental fatigue as physical weakening by the Ukrainian who now owns three of the four major world lightweight titles dropped him in the 11th and came so close to finishing him off three times thereafter.
No-one really expected Campbell to make it to the championship rounds and so doing was a feat of itself.
Where he goes from this second failed world title bid is unclear.
Lomachenko is heading for the undisputed world lightweight championship.
There were throaty London roars for Campbell, of course. But there was British admiration as well as loud Ukrainian support for Lomachenko.
Not every night does the best pound-for-pound boxer on earth pitch up on the banks of the River Thames.
There was massive fascination with Loma among the UK boxing community as the twice golden Olympian, two-time world amateur champion and unified world lightweight title holder came into his first professional fight in this country.
Respect for Lomachenko’s unique skills went hand in glove with the home hope that Campbell could make his height, reach and natural weight advantages spring an upset for the ages.
The O2 was 18,000-full of conflicting emotions. The one constant was the high expectation of a fight rich in technical quality between two Olympic champions.
Like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, the smaller Lomachenko has risen through the divisions from featherweight, through super-featherweight to become a three division world champion. In his case in a record 12 fights.
Campbell has taken longer to make his late transition from the amateurs and lost his only previous world title fight to Lomachenko KO victim Jorge Linares.
But he had pronounced himself in his best form ever, under his new trainer Shane McGuigan, and had promised his fans the surprise of a lifetime.
He also vowed not to be overawed. That in itself was a big ask of his temperament, to such an extent did Loma’s reputation precede him. As did the sound of thunder reverberating around the arena before his entrance. Michael Buffer got us ready to rumble.
Lomachenko acknowledged the most amazing, generous reception for a foreign boxer in a British ring for any a year, before going to work. Slowly. So slowly that Campbell won the first easily with his long right jab supplemented by a couple of left hooks.
The great one was a little livelier in the second. Campbell still did enough to strengthen his foothold in the fight but was caught by an ominous left at the close of the second.
Lomachenko was still working out how to get close to the taller challenger. He found a way midway through the third with a vicious straight left, then changed up a gear to get his own right lead pumping and himself off the mark on the cards.
The speed of hand and foot were accelerating as Lomachenko upped the pace. Campbell landed a couple of good shots but was being peppered now.
Lomachenko made a couple of exploratory visits to Campbell before opening up with left hooks to the head. The most severe onslaught came at the end of the fifth which a reeling Campbell did well to survive.
Fine fighting round from Campbell, soaking up early punishment and coming back to steal it near the end with a body attack.
Campbell had the crowd on their feet with a left which wobbled Loma and a follow up which had him holding, But as if taking it as a warning, the champion came back with rapid fire assaults which twice had Campbell reeling on the ropes.
More pain for Campbell, twice staggering on the ropes under fire. He keeps trying to punch back against the combinations and Lomachenko gave him a nod of approval at the end of the eighth for surviving.
Few had expected Campbell to get as far as the championship rounds. But here he is recovering in the ninth, which he makes close as Loma takes a semi-breather.
Lomachenko turns it even more technical with speed, angles and dancing movement. Campbell mostly missing.
Campbell under nuclear fire. Pummelled from all angles into all corners and finally dropped by a left to the body and a right to the head. Up and almost down again but clings on to Loma for dear life and the bell.
Campbell resorts to a very low blow and is warned. Loma punishes him and Campbell has to wrangle him to the floor to avoid being knocked down again.
Surely the night and the world belongs to Loma. It does, by official scores of 119-108 twice and 118-109.