Luke Campbell takes a second swing at world title immortality tonight with his desire to be the very best giving him a fighter’s chance of causing one of the biggest upsets in British boxing history.
The 31-year-old former Olympic champion from Hull fights faces Vasiliy Lomachenko for the WBC, WBA, WBO and Ring magazine lightweight world titles at the O2 Arena in London.
Lomachenko is regarded as the pound-for-pound king of global boxing and is a huge favourite to not only prevail tonight, but to win handsomely, with his disarming style accounting for all but two of the 412 boxers he has faced in a decorated amateur and professional career.
But Campbell has been here before. Two years ago, he fought for the lightweight world title against Jorge Linares in Los Angeles, just two weeks removed from the death of his father.
Campbell was a massive underdog that night and with his emotions on edge given all he had gone through, he fought like a lion for 12 rounds before eventually succumbing to defeat.
He will need every ounce of that desire and those warrior instincts if he is to land the world title tonight.
I want to prove to myself and to the rest of the world that I belong at the top with the elite. This is the elite in my opinion, the very top – it can’t get any higher than this.Luke Campbell
Not that he, nor one of the coaches who was with him from the start of his international journey, believe such heart will be lacking in the capital tonight.
“Luke’s discipline, his desire, his attention to detail and his determination to make it to the top helped set him apart from the rest,” Lee Pullen, a senior GB Boxing coach, tells The Yorkshire Post.
“He’s got all the attributes and he’s a wonderful kid.
“It’s a tall order, pound for pound Lomachenko is the best in the world.
“But Luke has got a great chance. He was world class as an a amateur and he’s world class as a professional.
“It would be a huge upset if Luke can pull it off, but this is boxing, anything can happen.”
Indeed it can, as Andy Ruiz proved in June when he shocked Anthony Joshua for the world heavyweight title.
An upset by the Yorkshireman tonight would rank alongside anything his fellow Britons have achieved in world title fights of yore.
He has already scaled the mountain top once, winning the Olympic bantamweight title at London 2012, in what was a boxing tournament that would provide a window into the future of the next decade in the paid ranks, with both Joshua and Lomachenko winning gold medals in their respective divisions.
“I had the priviledge of being at ringside the night Luke won gold,” reflects Pullen.
“He’s has had an amazing career. I was with him as a 15-, 16-year-old and all the way through to that amazing run in London. He deserves everything that comes his way because he’s got his head down and grafted his whole career.
“History tells you that anyone who has been a world-class international amateur will go on to become a world-class professional.
“Look at the best pound for pound fighters – Muhammad Ali, Floyd Mayweather – they’ve all been world-class internationals.”
For his part, Campbell has waited patiently for his second shot at a world title.
He has won three times since Linares became the second man to beat him, including the vanquishing feeling of defeating Yvan Mendy three years after the Frenchman had caught the Yorkshireman off guard.
“I am in this to be the best and to become a world champion,” said Campbell. “This is what I train and work so hard for, to become a world champion and to be recognised as a world champion.
“Part of the journey is fighting world-class fighters and Lomachenko certainly is that. This is the level I want to be at.”
Despite Lomachenko being the overwhelming favourite, Campbell has the edge in a number of statistics. He has more professional fights under his belt (22 to 14); is taller (5ft 9in to 5ft 7in); and has a longer reach (71 inches to 65).
“At the end of the day, he’s got two legs and two arms and is a man just like the rest of us,” said Campbell. “I’m confident in myself, I believe in myself and I’m ready to fight.
“I’ve been working on this for my whole life, probably 19 years in the act of hard work, being dedicated and disciplined.
“This is exactly where I want to be, I want to prove to myself and to the rest of the world that I belong at the top with the elite. This is the elite in my opinion, the very top – it can’t get any higher than this.”
Campbell’s trainer, Shane McGuigan, added: “Luke is huge at the weight, punching extremely hard and I believe he is at the peak of his career.
“He has improved and learned from his losses. I’ve never seen Luke out of his comfort zone. No matter who he is put in with he rises to their ability.
“It’s going to be always hard to prepare for a guy as unique as Lomachenko.
“But I believe this is Lomachenko’s hardest fight.”