Two-belt unified lightweight world champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, the pound-for-pound king, couldn’t get Mikey Garcia in the ring with him to unify their three lightweight belts, but he will now he will get a shot at the 135-pound title Garcia recently vacated.
The WBC on Tuesday accepted Lomachenko’s petition to fight for its vacant title and ordered him to face England’s Luke Campbell, who had been Garcia’s mandatory challenger.
Carl Moretti, the vice president of Lomachenko promoter Top Rank, and Campbell promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing have already opened discussions in an attempt to make a deal rather than see the fight go to a purse bid, where the split, which was not announced, likely would be 50-50.
“Loma’s goal is to be undisputed lightweight champion and this is another step in that direction, hopefully,” Moretti told ESPN. “We’d love to do the fight in England. Let’s see where it goes”
Typically, sanctioning bodies do not allow fighters who hold belts from other organizations to fight for their vacant titles, but the WBC does allow it from time to time in the case of elite champions, a category Lomachenko falls into.
Egis Klimas, Lomachenko’s manager, said Lomachenko was thrilled by the WBC’s decision.
“They just do it sometimes for the top guys so that’s why the WBC made the decision and I strongly believe it’s very good news for Team Lomachenko,” Klimas said. “This is Loma’s dream since Day 1, that he wanted to unify all the titles and this is another step. It’s a great opportunity but it won’t be easy because Luke Campbell is a tough fighter and the fight will probably end up in the U.K.”
Klimas said Lomachenko, who won the second of his two Olympic gold medals in London in 2012, the same year Campbell also won an Olympic gold medal, was excited about the prospect of fighting there again.
“I think this kind of a fight will make much more sense to do in the U.K. because Loma is popular in the U.K. and it’s where he won a gold medal,” Klimas said. “We went there recently and all the fans in London were going crazy for him so it makes a lot of sense to do the fight in the U.K.”
Lomachenko, 31, a three-division world champion from Ukraine, made his second lightweight title defense on April 12 in Los Angeles and knocked out England’s Anthony Crolla in the fourth round to retain his two belts. But Lomachenko also dislocated the middle knuckle on his right hand.
Klimas said the injury is healing well and that the southpaw Lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs) would be available to fight again in late August or early September.
Hearn was no fan of the WBC ruling but said he accepts it and that Campbell (20-2, 16 KOs), a 31-year-old southpaw, was looking forward to fighting for a world title for the second time. He got a shot as a mandatory challenger in September 2017 and got knocked down and lost a split decision to then-titleholder Jorge Linares in Inglewood, California. Lomachenko then knocked out Linares to take his title.
“I don’t agree with the WBC ruling at all,” Hearn told ESPN. “I don’t see how another champion should be slotted in to fight for a vacant title when other guys have been working their way up the rankings. If it wasn’t Lomachenko, and it was some low-profile champion, I don’t think it would be considered, so I am disappointed.
“I’d have liked to see Luke box for a vacant title against the highest-rated contender and then fight Lomachenko in a unification fight, but it is what it is. It’s definitely not a fight Luke is going to avoid. I just spoke to him and he’s excited and 100 percent doing the fight. He didn’t do a final eliminator to avoid a shot at the title. So I have already spoken to Carl Moretti about it. They want us to come up with a proposal to do the fight in the U.K.”
Wherever the fight takes place, there are U.S. broadcaster issues because Top Rank and Lomachenko are affiliated with ESPN and Hearn and Campbell are with streaming service DAZN. However, Hearn was confident they would be able to work something out and that the broadcast situation would not derail the fight.
When Garcia (39-1, 30 KOs) vacated the belt, the WBC gave him the title of “emeritus champion,” meaning that if he wants, he can immediately challenge the Lomachenko-Campbell winner.
In addition to ordering Lomachenko-Campbell, the WBC also announced it was ordering a four-man box-off to determine the mandatory challenger for the winner. Although the fighters have not necessarily committed to the box-off, the WBC called for Russia’s Zaur Abdullaev (11-0, 7 KOs) to fight Las Vegas’ Devin Haney (21-0, 13 KOs) and for Teofimo Lopez Jr. (13-0, 11 KOs) to fight former junior lightweight titlist Javier Fortuna (34-2-1, 23 KOs) of the Dominican Republic. The winners would then fight each other for the No. 1 spot, although Lopez, for example, is unlikely to participate because he is already scheduled for an elimination bout for another organization on July 19.