by Cliff Rold
Three down, one to go.
As expected, Vasyl Lomachenko captured his third of the four most recognizable alphabelts at lightweight on Saturday, now holding the diadem of the WBC to go with the WBA and WBO straps already on his mantle. The Ukrainian phenom also made his third defense of Ring Magazine’s belt. It was a good, solid twelve round fight. As was the case in his first title attempt against Jorge Linares, Luke Campbell gave his all and had some moments. He was simply in with a better man.
There is no shame in that.
Whether Lomachenko fights again before the year is out or not, all eyes in the lightweight division now turn to December. That’s when it appears we will see IBF titlist Richard Commey defend against mandatory Teofimo Lopez.
There are other places to look as well. What does the future hold for Lomachenko? Where does Campbell go from here?
Let’s get into it.
The Future for Lomachenko: It feels like a formality. Lomachenko, probably in the first half of 2020, should be in the ring with whoever emerges with the strap after Commey-Lopez. Lopez is currently the number one contender for the WBO and IBF. Based on their ratings, it could mean a WBO mandatory for Lomachenko in the form of Ghana’s Emmanuel Tagoe, unbeaten since being stopped in his pro debut. Lomachenko-Tagoe, if ordered, could play well in contrast with Commey-Lopez, especially if the Ghanaian Commey wins. While promoter Bob Arum has talked about Lomachenko moving back down to Jr. lightweight or featherweight, assume it as more rhetoric than reality that at the least tempers expectations for Lomachenko to chase a fourth division anytime sooner. Lomachenko is four fights into his lightweight run and is likely to fight one more before more unification. Things at lightweight are getting too interesting to stop now anyways.
Over the weekend, WBA 130 lb. titlist Gervonta Davis vacated his belt and is moving up. He’ll likely face Yuriorkis Gamboa for the WBA’s sub-title. Undefeated Devin Haney is in line to fight to be the WBC’s next mandatory and tweeted he thinks he can beat Lomachenko over the weekend. If he takes care of business, he should have a chance to find out. The large framed Miguel Berchelt, the WBC beltholder one class down, feels inevitable for the division as well.
No one can be the man at lightweight right now without seeing Lomachenko first. It’s a plus for fans so many of these are matches it’s easy to be interested in. Lomachenko has real threats around him to fill out the rest of his prime. If he can clean out the class, he’ll have had one of the best runs at lightweight in a generation or more.
The “if” should be a hell of a ride.
The Future for Campbell: One upside to moving toward an undisputed champion of a division is, ultimately, all roads lead to them. Another upside is, as long as the belts are together, we are less subject to guys who really aren’t the cream of the crop winning belts by way of availability. Campbell is a good fighter. Under different circumstances, he might win a belt. As long as Lomachenko is around, it’s not likely to happen at lightweight. Discouragingly for the 2012 Gold medalist, a move up in weight wouldn’t make a title any more likely right now. Jose Ramirez holds half of the Jr. welterweight belts. Soon, the other half will go to the winner of Regis Prograis-Josh Taylor. There isn’t a lot of loose hardware at 135 or 140 pounds right now. All Campbell can do is hope for another shot and keep working. He fought his heart out Saturday, won two or three rounds, and made it to the finish line after a turbulent eleventh. If he earns another crack, he’ll be worth watching again in whatever attempt he makes.
Being a champion isn’t supposed to be easy. That’s why when there are less of them it means so much more to join their ranks.
Rold Picks 2019: 54-13
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]