“Boxing has levels”
A tired cliché, often coined by fighters, trainers and promoters alike, dismissive of the fact that each level itself is not distinct, and a boxer’s range may vary from one fight to the next.
On the surface, Luke Campbell’s career would be a case in point, a man who has twice fallen short at world title level. But his record tells only half the story. In Vasily Lomachenko he was outclassed, by an artist who at the time was widely considered the pound for pound best. In defeat there was no shame, but posterity and Teofimo Lopez’s subsequent unpicking of the Ukranian has shone it in a different light.
Two years before, less than three weeks after the death of his father, against Jorge Linares, Victor Loughlin deemed Campbell to have won the WBA lightweight title. Zachary Young and Max DeLuca felt differently and Linares retained the belt, but it was a knockdown in the second that ultimately proved the difference. What “level” would Campbell have been if he had kept on his feet?
On Saturday night in Dallas, we have a match up between Luke Campbell, the recognised contender versus a young prospect hoping to catapult his way to a world title shot. “King Ry” Ryan Garcia comes with backing. Already the King of boxing Instagram the 22 year old American boasts a following larger than even Canelo Alvarez. Bookmakers make him a 1/3 favourite though how much those odds are skewed by the sheer weight of popularity is difficult to tell.
Champion boxers aren’t made online but in the ring, and in that respect Ryan Garcia has acquitted himself with distinction. The usual resume building knockouts came early for Garcia, but credibility was earnt in his two most recent bouts. In the first Romero Duno drew a right hook to the chin, crumbling slowly and painfully to the canvas, his brain short-circuited.
Francisco Fonseca came next, this time the same punch but from his left. Out cold on the canvas within the first round, the world title challenger’s eyes fell to the back of his head.
Startling to say the least, it is a punch Luke Campbell will be well aware of. A fighter who likes to get in and out, Campbell won’t stand and trade like the two before and how Garcia can figure him out will be the ultimate question. Both supremely technical it’s a combination that intrigues.
Campbell has been in Garcia’s shoes, even if the hype was somewhat more subdued. 10 knockouts in his first 12 contests, in 2015 the Hull fighter was looking to build his way up to world title level. In the O2 Arena that day Yvan Mendy represented the type of boxer Campbell would have to go past on his way to the top. Mendy nullified his strengths, walked him down and didn’t allow Campbell to box at range. How Campbell can frustrate Garcia is difficult to tell. Both Campbell and Garcia have similar skills, can box well on the back foot, make their opponents miss and each possess a good jab. Garcia has age on his side.
Campbell will have to use every ounce of his experience and ring craft that led him to Olympic Gold. 33 years of age this feels like the last chance for Hull’s finest fighter, but one that very much remains an opportunity. Whoever wins does open doors, though which ones they are may be different dependent on the victor.
Devin Haney holds the regular version of the WBC belt and this bout is an eliminator to face him, but Teofimo Lopez is the franchise champion and in effect the real holder. A showdown between Haney and Lopez could be made, but the two have different promoters, DAZN and Top Rank respectively. DAZN’s subscription based model wouldn’t necessarily work for Lopez, a fighter who would be looking to be fighting exclusively on pay per view. Of course this clash would merit that status but different networks does may the deal more difficult.
If as some expect that fight doesn’t come next then Campbell or Garcia could fight Haney for the regular version of the WBC lightweight world title. With all three fighters able to fight on DAZN it’s an easy fight to make. An all-American Garcia/Haney match up would definitely be the biggest fight for DAZN but if Campbell wins, a world title fight should be his reward. Either that will be against Haney or potentially another fighter for the WBO belt where Garcia is ranked highly. WBO holder Teofimo Lopez may vacate if looking for super fights across the divisions and that may create opportunities.
A variety of options and eventualities for both fighters but for Luke Campbell one thing is simple. Win on Saturday and prove himself worthy of one last World title tilt or lose and consign himself to the level of perennial contender. That is the short of it, even though the simple message never tells it all.
Watch on DAZN, Saturday 2nd July from 20.00 UK Time
Featured image from DAZN