Paulie Malignaggi breaks down Vasiliy Lomachenko-Luke Campbell, assesses Loma’s greatness
LONDON – Paulie Malignaggi has his fans and his detractors, but even a detractor would admit that the former two-weight world titleholder is exceptional when it comes to breaking down a prizefight.
On Saturday, pound-for-pound superstar Vasiliy Lomachenko will defend Ring, WBA and WBO lightweight titles against Luke Campbell at the O2 Arena in London (the vacant WBC title will also be a stake). Lomachenko is a huge betting favorite, and while “The Magic Man” doesn’t envision an upset, he does feel that Campbell possesses qualities that will make the fight very interesting.
“I think it’s a good matchup,” said Malignaggi, who will be providing expert analysis for Sky Sports in the U.K. “As far as guys that can test Lomachenko, from 126 to 135, I don’t think there’s many. I think the only way Lomachenko starts to risk himself is if he moves up to a weight class where he’s too small.
“I don’t think anyone can match him talent-wise, but there are one or two fighters who can provide a test and Luke could be one of them. (Jorge) Linares had some of the skills Luke has, plus Luke is tall, rangy and he has an Olympic gold medal pedigree. It’s a real fight, and while it’s hard to pick against Lomachenko, he’ll have to dig his heels in and fight a good fight.”
The rapier fists of Lomachenko are the paramount problem for any opponent, but there’s so much more to his game: reflexes, variety, feints, angles and the ability to rocket through the gears in the blink of an eye. All of these attributes belonging to a fighter with seriously mean intentions.
However, the one area of Lomachenko excellence that cannot be overstated is footwork. The Ukrainian wizard is able to close the gap on opponents with such efficiency that he doesn’t even need to throw a punch to create panic. Campbell, however, is known for being extremely adept with his own foot movement.
“You need fast feet because Lomachenko changes range on you and you need to adjust the range with him,” Malignaggi said. “He can be hit with a right hand, as Linares showed us, and with Luke being a long, rangy fighter, maybe he’ll be able to time him too. That’s where his amateur pedigree comes in.
“Luke being a southpaw really doesn’t make a difference because Lomachenko has had so many amateur fights, and he’s seen everything. When you come up in Eastern European countries, there’s a lot of southpaw fighters over there at domestic level. From that perspective, being left-handed doesn’t matter, but Luke does have to use that rangy style and his speed. He almost has to make it a shootout-type fight but be smart at the same time, which is a bit on oxymoron. What I’m saying is, you can’t overstay your welcome in the pocket, but you can’t be under aggressive against Lomachenko, or he’ll walk you down like he did [Anthony] Crolla.”
He’s only had 15 bouts as a professional, but Lomachenko is already rubberstamped as a great fighter. World titles in three weight classes, pound-for-pound supremacy and otherworldly talent have made him a lock for the Hall of Fame. At 31 years of age, Lomachenko continues to forge a very special and unique legacy. Just how great can he become?
“People who have never been in the ring before love to gauge things on body of work,” said Malignaggi. “But Lomachenko spent such a long time in the amateurs that his body of work as a pro is never going to be the same (as other greats). He had such an unbelievable amateur career; winning two Olympic gold medals and everything else you can possibly win. As a pro, he was fighting world class opposition almost immediately, so there are things to rave about and I think he stacks up well with all the greats.”
The bout will be broadcast live on ESPN+ in the U.S. and on Sky Box Office in the U.K.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for The Ring. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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