Thanks to some clever match-making, Luke Campbell (17-1, 14 KOs) is now on the verge of getting a title shot against WBA World lightweight champion Jorge Linares (42-3, 27 KOs). The World Boxing Association has ordered the 31-year-old Linares to defend his title against the #1 Campbell. The two fighters have 30 days to negotiate a deal before it goes to a purse bid.
What this likely means is Linares will probably need to fight Campbell in the UK. I seriously doubt that Linares’ promoters will outbid Campbell’s promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Sport. Linares has been fighting in the UK repeatedly in the last two years. He’s beaten Anthony Crolla [twice] and Kevin Mitchell in fights in the UK.
Linares has great luck in fighting in England with his 3-0 record in fighting over there. Still, it doesn’t look right when a champion is defending his title in the challenger’s backyard. I’d prefer to see Linares get the home country advantage for a change instead of him always being the road warrior. Linares was born in Venezuela, but he fights out of Tokyo, Japan.
It would be great to see Campbell coming over to Tokyo to fight Linares in front of a large crowd of boxing fans. It would definitely be a welcome change to what we’ve been seeing lately with Linares having fought 3 out of his last 4 fights in the UK. Linares has won his last 11 fights since losing to Sergio Thompson by a 2nd round knockout on March 31, 2012. That was Linares’ second consecutive knockout loss at the time, as he was stopped in his previous fight by Antonio DeMarco in the 11th round on October 15, 2011.
It’s great that Linares was able to turn his career around after those back to back losses, because a lot of boxing fans thought his career was over. In 2009, Linares was beaten by Juan Carlos Salgado by an upset 1st round knockout loss. All three of Linares’ defeats during his career have come by knockout. What that tells you is that it’s almost impossible to out-box Linares due to his excellent boxing skills.
The only vulnerability Linares has is his chin. He sometimes gets overpowered by big punchers. In Linares’ 11th round TKO loss to DeMarco, he was way ahead on the scorecards by the scores 98-92, 99-91 and 98-92. If not for the knockout, Linares would have won. Linares’ face was badly cut up at the time of the stoppage. It had to have been difficult for him to track the shots that DeMarco was hitting him with through all the blood.
It’s debatable if it’s better for Linares to take the Campbell fight or wait for WBC lightweight champion Mikey Garcia to move back down from 140 to face Linares in a unification fight. I think it would be better for Linares to fight Garcia for the glory in a unification fight than to face the 29-year-old southpaw Campbell, who has arguably taken the backdoor to get the No.1 ranking with the World Boxing Association by beating Darleys Perez, Jairo Lopez, Derry Mathews, Argenis Mendez and Gary Sykes.
There’s nothing wrong with those fighters, but they’re not the talented contenders in the 135 lb. division. We already saw Campbell soundly beaten by Yvan Mendy on December 12, 2015 in losing a 12 round split decision. The last time I checked, Campbell never attempted to avenge that loss. What’s interesting is the WBA doesn’t even have Mendy ranked in their top 15 with their organization. Mendy beats Campbell soundly, and yet the WBA has positioned Campbell as the No.1 contender. That boggles the mind. If this was the NFL, you’d see a team going to the Super Bowl after they got beaten. I’m sorry but, Campbell does not deserve a title shot in my opinion.
It’s nice that Campbell beat Darleys Perez in his last fight on April 29, but Perez was recently knocked out in 5 rounds by Anthony Crolla. Perez’s record in his last 5 fights is 1-2-2. That’s pitiful. How does Campbell get a title shot off of beating a fighter with a record like that? Okay, before Perez’s fight with Crolla, his record was 1-1-2 in his last 4 fights. That’s still horrible, isn’t it? What happened to contenders having to fight quality guys in order to get title shots and high rankings?
Frankly, I think the WBA’s rankings are backwards. They’re missing the talented contenders at the top like Mendy, Raymundo Beltran, Richard Commey, Javier Fortuna, Xolisani Nodongeni, Roman Andreev, Masayoshi Nakatani, and Denis Shafikov. Campbell should have had to beat one of those guys to get a title shot against Linares instead of Darleys Perez, with his 1-1-2 record in his last 4 fights. I’m not really sure why the WBA would make it so easy for a contender to get a title shot. The idea is to make sure you get the best fighter challenging for the title after earning the title shot. I don’t think we’re getting that with Campbell. The WBA made it too easy for him. I think Campbell should have had to fight Mendy again in a sink or swim fight for him to be given a title shot against Linares. I’m just saying. When I see a fighter getting a title shot off of a win over a guy that was recently knocked out in the 5th round, it just seems wrong. It’s going to the Super Bowl after you beat a team with a 1-15 record. Yeah, the team can go to the Super Bowl if that’s how easy the league is going to make it, but that’s not good for the sport. I think it’s the same with boxing.
The good news is Campbell has won his last 5 fights since he was whipped by Mendy in 2015. The bad news is Campbell hasn’t beaten the type of guys that I would like to see him fight for him to get that title shot. You’ve got to give Campbell’s promoter Eddie Hearn credit for his skillful match-making, as I don’t think Campbell would have won his last 5 fights if he’d faced the likes of Mendy, Shafikov, Nodongeni, Andreev, Nakatani, Beltran, Fortuna and Commey. Heck, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if Campbell lost to all of those fighters.
One thing that is potentially bad about Campbell getting his mitts on the WBA lightweight title is that we probably won’t see him fight WBC champion Mikey Garcia in a unification fight. I doubt that Campbell’s promoter Eddie Hearn is going to want to put him in with Mikey Garcia. I don’t see Garcia getting 3,000 miles from Campbell. That’s a fight that I do not see happening in this lifetime.
If Linares is able to win the fight against Campbell, then I think he won’t hesitate to face Garcia in a unification fight. That’s the way that Linares is wired. He doesn’t shy away from dangerous fights. Campbell has been pretty well matched. He wasn’t supposed to lose to Mendy, who had already been beaten 4 times in his career at the time he fought Campbell in 2015.
The fact that Campbell was royally pounded by Mendy showed how vulnerable he is as a fighter. Mendy dropped Campbell in the 5th round with a peach of a left hand, and had him within an eyelash of being knocked out in the round. Mendy continued to batter Campbell for the remainder of the fight. The scoring was way off with one judge giving Campbell the victory by the score 115-113. Boxing News 24 scored the fight 9 rounds to 3 in favor or Mendy. It was a clear win for Mendy. The 3 rounds that Campbell won were very close and could have easily gone to Mendy.
The 5’9” Campbell won’t have nearly the height and reach advantage over the 5’8” Linares that he’s been accustomed to having during his short 4-year pro career. It’ll be interesting to see how Campbell is able to adjust to fighting someone with the height and reach to get to his chin like Linares. Without a huge height and reach advantage, Campbell is going to need to find a different way to beat Linares. It might not work out well for Campbell if Linares can get to his chin. Campbell has already been dropped twice during his pro career. Linares has the kind of power that would be a real issue for Campbell if he can land enough of his shots on the button.
Linares has the ability to take the crowd out of the fight. If the fight is staged in the UK like I expect it to, then the boxing fans will be overwhelmingly supporting Campbell. This means that Linares will need to quiet the crowd by going after Campbell’s vulnerable chin. I think we could see a knockout in this fight for Linares. The shots that Linares was bouncing off of Anthony Crolla and Kevin Mitchell’s chin would likely have Campbell on the canvas counting stars in my opinion. I’m just saying.