Lomachenko to seek third title in Campbell fight

7:00 AM ETDan RafaelESPN Senior Writer Close2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism
ESPN.com boxing writer since 2005
Five years at USA TodayUnified lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound king, can move a step closer to becoming the undisputed champion when he returns to the site of his second Olympic gold-medal victory.Lomachenko, the owner of two 135-pound belts, will defend those titles and compete for the belt vacated by Mikey Garcia when he meets fellow Olympic champion Luke Campbell on Aug. 31 at the O2 Arena in London, Top Rank and Matchroom Boxing announced Saturday.Lomachenko, who won the 2008 Olympic featherweight gold medal for Ukraine in Beijing, won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in London and will fight there once again when he meets Campbell, the 2012 Olympic bantamweight gold medalist for Great Britain.The all-southpaw fight will headline a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN+ card (5 p.m. ET) in the United States and air on Sky Box Office pay-per-view in the United Kingdom. A news conference is scheduled for Monday in London.The fight was headed to a purse bid until Top Rank and Matchroom Boxing reached an agreement a couple of weeks ago before getting everything signed.”This is a fight for history because my goal is to unify all of the belts in the lightweight division,” said Lomachenko, who has won world titles in three divisions. “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.”It is very special for me to fight in London. 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 winner would need the fourth major title to become the undisputed champion, but it is within reach. If Lomachenko wins, his next bout would be in early 2020 for the undisputed title against the winner of the expected fall fight between titleholder Richard Commey and Teofimo Lopez Jr., who earned the mandatory title shot by virtue of his unanimous decision victory over Masayoshi Nakatani on Friday night in Oxon Hill, Maryland.”Vasiliy Lomachenko is a unique talent who is going to take the United Kingdom by storm,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “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.”Campbell (20-2, 16 KOs), 31, will be getting his second shot at a world title. He was the mandatory challenger when he traveled to Inglewood, California, and lost a split decision against then-titleholder Jorge Linares in September 2017. Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs), 31, later knocked Linares out to take his belt and then easily outpointed Jose Pedraza to unify two titles in December. In April, Lomachenko made his second defense by knocking out England’s Anthony Crolla in the fourth round in Los Angeles.Campbell said he is excited to test his skills against the best fighter in the world.”The best fighting the best; this is going to make one hell of a fight,” said Campbell, who has won three fights in a row since the loss to Linares. “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.”He is ranked No. 1 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, and it 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.”Matchroom Boxing promoter Eddie Hearn, Campbell’s promoter, has long been a Lomachenko fan and knows his fighter is the underdog but does not count him out.”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 U.K.,” Hearn said, “but Luke is an elite world fighter too, and 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 [English] capital.”

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