Loma is human: – The Ring pound for pound king showed flaws despite the unanimous points decision (119-108, 119-108, 118-109). Most noticeably his susceptibility to body attacks, proneness to take unnecessary shots and difficulty when facing a long rangy mover with a strong jab. Nevertheless, the fact he came through difficult moments to overcome his talented foe with gusto proves his undoubted class.
Campbell is an elite fighter:- the Brit’s stock rose considerably following a gutsy but talented performance. He boxed well at range also fighting on terms on the inside. He managed to give Lomachenko arguably his toughest fight as a pro and came through almost being stopped in the 5th and dropped in the 11th. That he was able to rally at times and give Loma a lot of problems proves he deserves a third world title shot.
Lightweight is Loma’s limit:- Having captured titles at Feather, Super-feather and Lightweight, it looks to be the final weight class we will see the pound for pound elect at. There are big fights in the higher weight classes – Crawford, Spence, Pacquiao – but Loma is a noticeably small lightweight. Bob Arum confirmed post fight that Loma would unify and then campaign in the lower weight classes where there are great fights to be made (e.g. Gervonta Davis).
Pound for Pound is still up for grabs:- Though this was an excellent performance from Lomachenko, as the scores would suggest (although Campbell deserved maybe a couple of more rounds), there are now more questions than answers on P4P supremacy. If Loma goes on to capture the IBF title and unify the division for the first time in over 30 years his status should be solidified, but further stella performances from Crawford, Canelo, Inoue and GGG would mean a case can be made for either. It is not now a done deal.
The British fans are the best:- Another sell out event at the O2 Arena with a brilliant atmosphere and excellent undercard. Matchroom Boxing continue to deliver at this venue, considerably supported by Top Rank and Sky Sports Box Office. Lomachenko was given incredible support throughout fight week, from both London’s Ukrainian population and equally British boxing fans. On the night this mix of nationalities made a great spectacle. Loma said post fight that the “British fans are the best” and promised to return. He will be more than welcome.
The sun breaks through the cracks between buildings on the
cobbled and potholed road as I walk through the backstreets of Havana. A man in
search of the national institution and centre of excellence of Cuban boxers –
the Rafael Trejo Gimnasio de Boxeo. A place that’s produced and honed
multiple Olympic and World Champions.
Asking along the way in broken Spanish for ‘el Trejo’, everyone knows – old ladies selling chillies, men selling bananas – where the Trejo is. Resisting being beckoned into make-shift bars for a Cubano cigar or Mojito I continue on my pilgrimage to this institution.
Knowing what time workouts are due to start I begin to speed up. 11am prompt I arrive at the gym. The time a Briton in this part of the world would have done their roadwork and be resting before the sun reaches its peak. In Havana, now the gym starts to come alive, ladies first, juniors; then the men. At this time of the day Cuban fighters come to work. This is what separates them from the eastern European and US fighters when it comes to the final round and when the medals are handed out.
I get to the entrance, the lady on the desk says “uno mas hora (one more hour). She points me to ‘the boss’ in her office – a Cubano madam who has seen champions and contenders come and go, too many years I care to mention. The first lady repeats “Come back in an hours time and pay her”. I disappear and take in the sun, but for now resist that Mojito.
I return in exactly an hour as directed, to the buzz of the gym as eight fighters get ready for their workout. I pay my Cuban peso and enter the roofless outside square. The Trejo is a place to behold, a home of champions and hopefuls.
I watch for an hour and more as these young, and not so young hopefuls go through their routine. A bit of jogging, light shadowboxing and fooling around, and then; full on sparring. All as the sun continues to rise and beats down on the sparingly sheltered ring. This environment is what separates this nation from their contenders…what makes the Cuban amateur boxing programme the envy on the world.
They come from villages across this crocodile shaped island to La Habana, the mecca for Olympic selection and the dream of travel to far flung places; and to some, eventual defection to the US. The dreams of many fulfilled by very few. For every Stevenson, Savon, Balado and Gamboa there are hundreds who return to their villages to a normal Cuban life.
But it is the love of the flag, el Commandante (Fidel) and the state that drives them in their early boxing lives. A successful fighter (aka gold medallist) is well looked after. Three times Olympic Champion Teofilo Stevenson’s legendary status was enhanced by his refusal to defect and take the millions of dollars on offer to fight Muhammad Ali. The ‘ultra-hero’ and model of state dedication to all Cubans of a certain vintage. Teofilo was well looked after and revered throughout his career as the flagship of the state system.
And so, as we close in on another Olympic cycle the honour of the nation is at stake again. Now a much more competitive playing field with the break up of the Soviet Union and eastern block. Cubans though again will be the ones to beat. The sheer depth of quality, desire and drive coupled with their state run coaching programme will ensure they are primed to deliver in Tokyo next summer.
An hour after leaving the Trejo I carefully navigate the Havana backstreets after that Mojito I denied myself earlier. I come across a fighter I saw train in the gym. He recognises me and shows me photos of his young children, he tells me he’s a two times World champion. I struggle to recognise his claim or a name to confirm my familiarity. I know a reason why he is showing me pictures but money is not mentioned. I know he seeks recognition outside his island and any pesos coming his way would be welcome. I don’t know his story or understand due to the language barrier, but I know his dream will be Olympic glory and the riches that may ensue.
The new Joel Casamayor maybe, but one thing I know he will do it first for the family and village honour; and foremost Cuba Libre.
Ring magazine pound for pound king and multiple Lightweight Champion Vasiliy Lomachenko weighed in at 9st 8lbs 8oz with British challenger Luke Campbell tipping the scales at a lean 9st 8lbs 4oz. Both fighters comfortably within the Lightweight limit. Noticeable was the height differential and completely different physiques which will provide for an intriguing fight at Greenwich’s O2 Arena tomorrow night. Lomachenko is a heavy favourite to retain his WBA and WBO titles and capture the WBC version.
The number one lightweight and arguably pound for pound fighter in the world landed at the historic York Hall, Bethnal Green, East London tonight. And so he did ! In front of an unprecedented public turnout Vasiliy Lomachenko shadow boxed, used his famous baseball cap and ball training method and juggled in front of Londoners waving Ukrainian flags and chanting “Loma, Loma”.
Returning to the city of his second Olympic gold medal and the same venue he won in 2014 in the World Boxing Series as an amateur Loma again captured the hearts of London boxing fans. Just days away from the defence of his lightweight titles against Britain’s Luke Campbell on the Matchroom and Top Rank promotion at the Greenwich O2 Arena the Ukrainian champion has shown that he has many fans in the UK and Campbell will not have all the support on the night.
In an intriguing fight between two former elite amateurs and London 2012 gold medalists the sell out fight will give the opportunity for Loma to showcase his unique and considerable skills or, provide the opportunity for the Brit to win a professional title, and in doing so, shock the boxing world. The stage is set but tonight showed that in the eyes of the British fight fans Lomachenko has truly arrived and is one for them to cherish on their shores on Saturday night.