Luke Campbell says he will become as well-known as Anthony Joshua if he defeats Vasiliy Lomachenko at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday (ESPN+, 5 p.m. ET).
Lightweight Campbell and heavyweight Joshua set out as professionals after winning gold medals at the 2012 London Olympics for hosts Great Britain. Joshua then quickly made an impact in the paid ranks, winning a world title in 2016 and making six defenses until being stopped in the seventh round by Mexican-American Andy Ruiz Jr. in a massive upset in June.
Campbell (20-2, 16 KOs) has had to work harder for his chances and lost a split decision to Jorge Linares for the WBA title two years ago. But he has welcomed the chance to test himself against Lomachenko, who owns the WBA and WBO world titles, in a fight that includes the vacant WBC belt. Lomachenko is a big betting favorite to defend his belts and capture the vacant WBC title.
“I’m in a tough division and I want to show I’m the best in it,” Campbell told ESPN. “I don’t want to be in an easy division, I don’t want to be a champion that no one knows. Why would I want to be fighting someone no one has heard of for the world title?
“I don’t want to be a world champion that no one gives a f— about, and there are loads of them about. Everyone will know my name once I win this fight, mark my words.”
The 31-year-old believes the pressure he successfully dealt with at the 2012 Olympics has prepared him for this moment as he bids to pull off a huge shock. Campbell says he he’s been in big fights before and its simply a different opponent standing across from him this weekend.
“Fighting Linares, I showed that I belong at this level and that was with so much going wrong for me going into the ring [Campbell’s father died two weeks before the fight] and I still went in there and nearly won the fight,” Campbell told ESPN. “That was my mental strength that got me through it, and I thought I beat Linares by two clear rounds.
“Currently, I’m facing the best of this era [in Lomachenko], but we will have to see after we have fought if that’s still the same. I’m proud that I’m fighting the pound for pound No. 1 — it gives me a chance to rattle the cage and see what I can do. To be the best I have to beat the best, and I’ve always strived to do that.”
The attention expected over the weekend will be somewhat new for Campbell — at least as a professional boxer. Fighting Lomachenko ultimately results in massive media exposure, television obligations and a different part of the boxing game. To Campbell, staying poised and confident is everything.
“I have always said the Olympics was a great grounding for me, to have that pressure on top of me, the whole nation watching you in my own country. As a young lad that was everything to me and if I didn’t win that gold medal, I’m not sure I would be where I am at the moment.”
Lomachenko, who won the 2008 Olympic featherweight gold medal for Ukraine in Beijing, won the 2012 Olympic gold medal in London when Campbell captured gold at bantamweight. Their careers — separated in many ways — have seemingly remained in close proximity since they were amateurs in different weight classes.
“We actually shared a changing room in 2008 in the European Championships in Liverpool for the semifinals or final,” Campbell told ESPN. “I wasn’t really worried about anyone else at the time, so I didn’t really pay him too much attention. I wasn’t there to focus on anyone else except my opponent at the time.”
Campbell has been focusing on his own training rather than studying footage from Lomachenko’s impressive highlight reel. He feels he is a better boxer since he last challenged for a world title against Linares and has improved since teaming up with Shane McGuigan at a south London gym.
“I’m not the same fighter as I was two or three years ago,” he said. “Since I’ve been with Shane my career has gone from strength to strength. Before, my career was a little bit all over the place. I didn’t have the right team around me, but now I’ve got that.”