After a relatively quiet three months since Luke Campbell defeated former world champion Darleys Perez, news has emerged that will almost certainly separate opinion amongst boxing fans.
Luke showed us glimpses of world class talent on that memorable night in April, as he took everything that Perez had in his arsenal before settling into his rhythm to break the Colombian down with sharp shots to the head and body.
Whilst the fight ended prematurely, due to Perez having sustained an injury to his left arm, the momentum had clearly swayed in Campbell’s favour thus demonstrating that the Hull man was certainly deserving of the level at which he was competing.
However, with the recent news that the WBA have defined a 30 day deadline by which reigning champion Jorge Linares must agree a mandatory defence, that level could soon rise significantly.
According to the World Boxing Association’s rules, any new champion outside of the heavyweight division must make a mandatory title defence against the official mandatory contender within nine months of winning the title. As that period expired in June, Linares now has until 20th August to reach an agreement for a mandatory defence. Enter Luke Campbell, the current mandatory contender for the title courtesy of his impressive victory over Perez.
Of course, there are no obligations on Luke’s part to fight Linares at this stage; if he chose a different path Linares would simply defend against the next available contender. However, with such a huge opportunity within reach that could see him fulfil his dream, pursuing another path likely won’t be an option.
Since the Perez fight, Luke has indicated on more than one occasion that he would like to fight former three weight world champion Linares. But the question that will be undoubtedly open to debate now is whether or not he should. As we know, Linares is a class or two above any of the opponents Luke has faced so far as a professional.
Starting his professional career at Super-Bantamweight, Venezuelan Linares has built an impressive record of 42 wins (27 KO’s) and 3 losses whilst also picking up world titles in 3 weight divisions during his 15 years as a professional. A testament to Linares ability, such accolades are not easy to acquire in the boxing world, as any professional boxer will confirm. In his two recent performances against Manchester’s Anthony Crolla, Linares has looked as sharp as ever, demonstrating the silky smooth skills that have seen his arm raised 42 times as a professional.
Comparing this to Luke’s 18 fight record as a professional (17 wins (14 KO’s) and 1 loss), there is a clear gulf in experience. Yet, more importantly, it is not necessarily the number of fights that defines the main separation in terms of experience. Rather, it is the level of opposition of both fighters. Two rounds against a world class operator will likely be more beneficial to any fighter than two whole fights against a journeyman, and whilst Luke has had his own fair share of decent level opposition, it does not compare to that of Linares.
So again, is it the right time for Luke to take this fight? On paper, the answer is clearly no. But, as we know, fights are not fought on paper. Once the first bell rings, anything can happen and we have seen countless times how fighters take risks, some which pay off and some which don’t. Undoubtedly, there will be people claiming it is too soon for Luke to take on such a huge fight, and we are not short of evidence to validate such a claim.
However, for Luke this opportunity represents everything he has ever worked for. Every second in the gym. Every minute away from his family. All the sacrifices that he has made have resulted in this opportunity. Whilst he has the talent and ability to see him through, it is the dedication and belief that will be called upon when things get tough.
With the backing of Eddie Hearn at Matchroom Sport, it certainly wouldn’t be difficult for Luke to take an easier route to a world title. But who said Boxing was easy? Boxing is about sacrifice, hard work, dedication, blood, sweat and tears. And though the ingredients that comprise it may not sound appealing, the sweetness of the final product cannot be matched.
We are now less than four weeks away from knowing whether or not Linares will be the next step for Luke, though at the time of writing it is looking likely.
One thing is for sure; if the fight does happen Luke will need to produce the performance of his career so far to win. Get ready for some big news; because whether it is too soon or not, this fight will capture the imagination of Hull and the UK as yet again one of our stars dares to be great.
Article by Owen Hammond