Luke Campbell’s brave bid to topple Vasyl Lomachenko ended in heartache as the Ukrainian retained his WBA and WBO lightweight titles and scooped the vacant WBC crown with a clinical performance.
Campbell was knocked down in the 11th round and, in the end, was grateful for the final bell as he dropped a unanimous decision by two scores of 119-108 and one of 118-109 at London’s O2 Arena.
While the judges’ scorecards were arguably a little harsh on the Hull fighter, Lomachenko underlined just why he is regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter on the planet as he took another step towards becoming the undisputed champion in the 135lb division.
Only IBF titlist Richard Commey stands in the way of the 31-year-old southpaw realising his aim of holding all four major belts at the weight after he chalked up the 14th victory of a glittering 15-fight professional career that has already seen him win belts at featherweight and super-featherweight.
Despite suffering the third defeat of his career in the paid ranks, Campbell had his moments in an absorbing contest and may actually find his stock has risen by taking his vaunted opponent the full 12 rounds for only the fifth time.
Ultimately, though, Lomachenko’s movement, with his dazzling footwork and hand speed a particular highlight, proved too much for Campbell to handle, who seemed to be saved by the bell at the end of the fifth round.
He said on Sky Sports afterwards: “He’s a special fighter. I trained to win but it is hard to fight someone like that who adapts so well. He is a special fighter.
“With the support I have had here I can go on and achieve anything. My time will come.”
The pair won gold at London 2012 within 24 hours of each other, the second time Lomachenko had been crowned Olympic champion as he racked up an incredible amateur record of 396 wins from 397 bouts.
Despite Campbell boasting a significant height and reach advantage, such is Lomachenko’s pedigree he was 1-20 with some British bookmakers to prevail.
Campbell made a promising start with a decent left hand towards the end of the first three minutes but Lomachenko had begun to close the distance into the second, dancing in and out of range with a series of jabs.
A straight left down the pipe from Lomachenko in the third was the first significant punch of the contest and drew audible gasps from a rapt crowd, with the champion following up with a thudding body shot.
Lomachenko was getting to work on Campbell’s torso as he upped the tempo, with a flurry of body shots after a whizzing left hand left the Briton clinging on at the end of the fifth.
Campbell may have been feeling the intensity amid the onslaught but he came back in spirited fashion in the sixth, keeping Lomachenko honest with a couple of hooks but he was in more trouble soon after following a couple of rights from his foe.
The pattern of Campbell attempting to fight fire with fire only to be outgunned continued into the eighth but there was some decent body work in the ninth and 10th as Lomachenko seemed to be slowing a touch.
However, Lomachenko had his foot back on the gas in the penultimate round as Campbell was finally floored with another vicious blow to the body. While he was back on to his feet at the count of seven, survival was now the aim.
Campbell battled manfully thereafter but there was no doubting whose hand would be raised at the end of a barn burner.
Lomachenko said afterwards to BBC Radio 5 Live: “Of course it was hard for me. He gave me a good experience and a good fight. I want a unification fight for the four belts.”