By Jake Donovan
Weeks after becoming a done deal, Vasiliy Lomachenko’s return to London is finally official.
The two-time Olympic Gold medalist and three-division titlist will travel abroad for a three-belt lightweight title fight showdown versus England’s Luke Campbell. As revealed weeks ago, the event will take place August 31 at the O2 Arena in London, England, as confirmed by Lomachenko’s promoter Top Rank, whose output deal with ESPN will allow the event to be streamed live on ESPN+ in the United States.
“Vasiliy Lomachenko is a unique talent who is going to take the United Kingdom by storm,” Bob Arum, Lomachenko’s Hall of Fame promoter stated of the reigning unified lightweight titlist. “Luke Campbell is an excellent fighter, but Lomachenko is in a class of his own. The fans on that side of the pond have wanted Lomachenko to return ever since he turned pro.
“It’s going to be a crazy, sold-out crowd at the O2 Arena, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Lomachenko has the crowd’s support.”
Lomachenko (13-1, 10KOs) traveled the world throughout his storied amateur career, perhaps the best in history on that level. The 31-year old southpaw from Ukraine—who now lives in California—captured Gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics (also winning the Val Barker trophy as the game’s Most Outstanding Boxer) and 2012 London Olympics.
His pro career has largely taken place stateside, save for one fight in Macao. The showdown with fellow 2012 Olympic Gold medalist Campbell will mark his first fight in London since 2013 when he toured with the Ukraine Omatans for the World Series of Boxing.
“This is a fight for history because my goal is to unify all of the belts in the lightweight division,” said Lomachenko, who willingly conceded home nation advantage to his opponent out of sheer desire to fight in the UK. “Luke Campbell is the next challenge for me on that journey. He is an excellent fighter who I remember well from the 2012 Olympics.
“He has a difficult style, and I cannot afford to overlook him.”
The destination came about after Lomachenko experienced the wild atmosphere provided for longtime friend and stablemate Oleksandr Usyk’s 8th round knockout of Tony Bellew in his final cruiserweight championship defense last November in Manchester, England.
“It is very special for me to fight in London,” noted Lomachenko, who scored a 4th round stoppage of Anthony Crolla in his most recent title defense this past April. “I visited last year, and the response from the people was overwhelming. They respect my fighting style and are passionate about boxing. I can’t wait to put on a great show for everyone.”
The stars aligned perfectly for his own career, as Lomachenko—a two-belt lightweight titlist after having enjoyed reigns at featherweight and super featherweight—successfully petitioned to fight for the vacant WBC lightweight title versus Campbell, who was already the sanctioning body’s mandatory contender for the crown.
It wasn’t the fight that neither the British southpaw nor his team were expected to land but one which they openly embrace.
“I am thrilled to see Vasiliy Lomachenko head to the UK to meet British star Luke Campbell," said Eddie Hearn, Campbell’s promoter who will announce UK TV rights during a press conference to be held Monday in London. “Loma is simply one of the finest boxers to ever lace them up, the best fighter on the planet today and I’m honored to be promoting his first ever pro fight in the UK.
“But Luke is an elite world fighter, too with his range, ability and heart, the Hull ace can shock the world and rip Loma’s titles from him on another epic night of boxing in the capital.”
Now it’s just up to the boxer himself to make his promoter’s words come to life.
“The best fighting the best, this is going to make one hell of a fight,” noted Campbell (20-2, 13KOs), who makes his second attempt at a lightweight title in the pro ranks. “I am in this sport to be the best and I am this sport to become a world champion. This is what I train and work so hard for, to become a world champion and fulfill my potential.”
Campbell hit a bump in the road earlier in his career, albeit a wake-up call more than anything else after suffering a disputed points loss to Yvan Mendy in Dec. 2015. Five wins would follow, including victories over former titlists Argenis Mendez and Darleys Perez before landing a crack at then-reigning titlist Jorge Linares.
The trip to the U.S.—the second of three times in his career that Campbell traveled abroad—resulted in a night where his stock rose in defeat, in dropping a hard-fought split decision loss to Linares, who in turn would lose his title to Lomachenko eight months later. Three more wins have followed for Campbell, including a clear-cut victory over Mendy in their match last September to place him as the mandatory challenger for the title.
In waiting out then-titlist Mikey Garcia’s ultimately failed bid to unseat welterweight title claimant Errol Spence, Campbell returned to the U.S. this past March in scoring a 5th round stoppage of Adrian Yung. The bout took place one night before Garcia’s loss to Spence, only to wait another month before the four-division titlist would formally vacate his title.
Campbell expected to face either of the next two-highest rated contenders, unbeaten lightweights Zaur Abdullaev and Devin Haney who will instead face each other in a title eliminator this September.
Instead, he takes on the man regarded by many as the very best in the sport today.
“He is ranked number one pound-for-pound on the planet so for me to fight a guy like that only encourages me more to be the best that I can be,” insists Campbell. “[I]t is exactly the level that I want to be at. I’m well aware of how good he is and what he is capable of doing but I’m also well aware of what I can do and what I’m going to do.
“I think that I can knock out anyone that I hit right, I believe that I am one of the biggest punchers in the lightweight division. This is going to be the toughest fight of my life and I’m preparing for it, physically and mentally. This is Luke Campbell’s year, it’s my time.”
Promoted by Top Rank, in association with Matchroom Boxing, tickets for Lomachenko vs. Campbell are priced at £40, £60, £100, £150, £200, £300 and £600 (Inner Ring VIP).
Tickets are available to purchase NOW for O2 Priority customers via www.theo2.co.uk and go on sale to Fight Pass members on Sunday July 21 at midday via StubHub www.stubhub.co.uk.
General Sale tickets are available to purchase from midday on Monday, July 22 from StubHub (www.stubhub.co.uk), The O2 (www.theo2.co.uk) and Matchroom Boxing (www.matchroomboxing.com)
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox