In the early hours of Sunday morning whilst many UK fans will be tucked up in bed, Hull’s Luke Campbell will be far from his home comforts as he steps into the ring to challenge reigning WBA World Lightweight Champion Jorge Linares. Working meticulously with his trainer Jorge Rubio, you can bet your bottom dollar that no stone has been left unturned in training. But will we see Luke come of age and pick up his first professional world title, or is this step up in class too soon for the Olympic gold medallist?
‘Coolhand’ (17-1-0, 14 KO’s) enters the ring as the mandatory challenger for the title, courtesy of an impressive victory over former world champion Darleys Perez in his most recent outing. Linares (42-3-0, 27 KO’s) on the other hand enters the ring as a seasoned three weight world champion, putting his latest world title on the line in what many will see as another day at the office for the classy Venezuelan. Do not be fooled however by Linares relaxed, laid back demeanour – he will know exactly what sort of a threat Luke poses and will have trained like a beast for this fight. The difference is that Linares has been here so many times before and to some extent, will know what to expect come fight night. However, it is Luke’s job to upset the apple cart so to speak, and whilst the two have been very respectful of one another during the build up, make no mistake there will be no friendliness once that first bell rings.
Given the gulf in experience between the two in a professional sense, it is difficult to compare the abilities of both men. There is a saying in boxing that a fighter is only as good as his last fight, thus, in order to get an idea of what to expect when they meet in the ring, lets look at their most recent encounters.
Back in April Luke defeated former world champion Darleys Perez via 9th round TKO, due to Perez having sustained an injury – a relatively anticlimactic finish given the importance of the bout. In what started as a relatively evenly matched fight, we saw the class of Luke begin to separate the two in the middle rounds as ‘Coolhand’ started landing crisp combinations to the head and body of the Colombian. This is exactly what we needed to see from somebody knocking on the door of a world title shot; a disciplined display whereby he didn’t lose concentration despite Perez giving him a few things to think about early on. At the time of the stoppage, Luke was ahead on the scorecards and was seemingly en route to victory regardless. Overall, a disciplined yet sharp performance that gave Luke a good introduction to the world class of the division.
Linares’ most recent fight saw him widely outpoint Manchester’s Anthony Crolla for the second time in back to back fights. It would have been reassuring to Luke Campbell fans if there had been at least some signs of decline in Linares’ performance, but in reality it was quite the opposite. The 45 fight veteran teed off on ‘Million Dollar’ Crolla almost at will in what would be fair to describe as a glorified sparring session; and that is more so a compliment to Linares’ ability than an insult to the tough Mancunian. As the last few rounds approached, Linares was on the verge of a stoppage victory, with Crolla even pleading with his corner to let him continue for the sake of the paying fans at one point. Overall, we saw what we have come to expect from Linares in recent years, an intriguing display of talent that can only be admired.
So what does this tell us about Linares vs Campbell? We know that Luke is getting better with every fight and he certainly looked like he belongs with the elite of the division. Whilst Linares, the older man by three years, showed no signs of decline as he entered the ring for the 45th time as a professional. With this in mind, Ladies and Gentlemen we have a fight!
Luke is bringing his natural talent in the form of speedy yet accurate counter-punching, great footwork, and stinging body shots. Top that with the fitness and desire that will allow him to sustain a fast pace for the full 12 rounds, should it be required, courtesy of the countless hours in the gym.
Linares is bringing his fast and hurtful combinations, superb ring generalship, and a silky smooth ability to switch from offense to defence almost seamlessly. Top that with his vast experience as a professional and his animal like instinct to protect what he has worked so hard to achieve.
Given the fighting styles of the two, it would seem logical that we will see a chess match, so to speak, with each man waiting to capitalise on his opponents mistakes. However, I cannot help but think that in order for Luke to win this fight which, make no mistake is a mammoth task, he must take Linares out of his comfort zone as early as possible. The key here may be to set a fast pace from the first bell and invest in some hurtful body shots as early as possible to slow the defending champion down the stretch. If Luke is able to pull this off, we could be set to see him lift his first world title as a professional via a late stoppage. Easier said than done when you are sharing the ring with a talent like Linares, for it is just as easy, if not easier to envision another classy display from the champ en route to a points victory.
Luke really hasn’t picked the easy route here. But that in itself will make it all the sweeter should he win. Some will say it is too early for Luke, but a fighter knows when they are ready and you only have to analyse Luke’s demeanour in recent months to know that he only envisions one outcome. The question is, can he pull it off? Well the time is almost up before we can find out, so sit back and enjoy as our very own Golden Boy dares to be great.