Lomachenko v Campbell: Footwork, accuracy and power - Crolla's night in the Hi-Tech Matrix

By Sports Desk August 30, 2019

Many thousands of words have been spoken and written in praise of the mercurial Vasyl Lomachenko.

The three-weight world champion will look to add the WBC lightweight title to his WBO and WBA belts when he faces fellow Olympic gold medallist Luke Campbell at the O2 Arena on Saturday.

Eulogies have poured forth throughout fight week in London, but the Ukrainian superstar's most recent opponent only needs one word when his most celebrated attribute comes up.

"Unreal," Anthony Crolla said instantly upon the first mention of "footwork" when talking to Omnisport about the challenge of trying to crack the Lomachenko puzzle.

Like all proud combatants before him, former WBA king Crolla was confident of shocking the world when he stepped into the ring with the 31-year-old in Los Angeles this April.

But soon he felt the force of a ruthless version of Lomachenko, a supreme performer looking to prove a point after a relatively below-par showing in a unification match-up with Jose Pedraza.

While fists carrying out assaults at once blurring and completely calculated covered the first part of boxing's "hit and don't' get hit" mantra, Lomachenko's deft feet and masterful control of distance took care of the latter.

"I've not really seen anything like it," said Crolla, who was bloodied and stopped inside four rounds by a boxer whose baffling brilliance has earned the nicknames "Hi-Tech" and "The Matrix".

"Before the fight we had three or four sparring partners who all did a great job.

"When you're asking a sparring partner to come to camp, you're sort of second-guessing what your opponent's going to do.

"I think there's a good possibility Lomachenko is the hardest boxer on the planet to second-guess because he's so clever and unorthodox.

"He does a lot of things that fighters can't do and if they try to do the same thing as him, they'd come unstuck. He's very, very hard to read."

Like Crolla, Campbell will be the naturally bigger man against a fighter who began his professional career at featherweight – following a completely absurd amateur record of 396 wins and one twice-avenged defeat.

But a combination of balance, accuracy, punch variety and underrated power can quickly overturn anything considered a potential disadvantage for Lomachenko.

"He hit harder than I expected for a smaller guy coming up through the weights," Crolla explained. "Obviously the accuracy and the angles he hits you from counts for a lot of that.

"He's always very well balanced, so he's always there to deliver a shot and he hits the spaces very well.

"He'll vary the power up. He might touch you, then hit you with a hard shot. Touch, touch, hard shot. So it's hard to gauge that power.

"Obviously, he knocked me out but even before that I was a bit surprised about his power. I didn't expect it to be such an issue."

Speaking with his typical Mancunian modesty, Crolla feels Campbell – who lost narrowly to their mutual foe Jorge Linares in his only previous world-title bid – is better equipped to deal with Lomachenko than he was.

Unfortunately for his fellow Briton, Crolla does not expect this to make much difference to the outcome.

 "I had very little success, so I don't know how much my opinion counts," he chuckled.

"Stylistically, Lomachenko is probably a nightmare for me. He's a nightmare for anyone but Luke has probably got better tools for the job.

"I believe he'll look to box, keep it long, use that height and reach advantage.

"That's one of the very few advantages he has, but Lomachenko's feet are that good, how long before he takes that advantage away from Luke?"

The hunch is not too long, with Crolla expecting the end to arrive shortly after the midway point of a high-class contest.

"I see Luke having little bits of success for the first two or three rounds. They'll box off each other a little bit," he added.

"But I see Lomachenko getting the better of that exchange before he starts to put it on Luke. I think around six or seven rounds he catches up with him and body shots could come into play."

Related items

  • Rugby World Cup 2019: France show their best and worst as Vahaamahina madness proves costly Rugby World Cup 2019: France show their best and worst as Vahaamahina madness proves costly

    For the majority of Sunday's World Cup quarter-final with Wales, France were in control thanks to a performance that belied the reports of discord in the camp.

    Arguably the most unpredictable side in world rugby, Les Bleus showed the best side of themselves for so long in a contest few expected them to have the better of, against a Wales team briefly ranked number one in the world this year.

    France were aggressive, fluent with ball in hand and produced the kind of aesthetically pleasing play that is synonymous with their country's finest in full flight.

    As Virimi Vakatawa stepped past Josh Navidi and found Romain Ntamack, who then fed Antoine Dupont to set up Charles Ollivon to cruise under the posts and put France 12-0 up, even the most ardent of Wales fan will have feared a vintage display from the side that controversially denied them in the semi-finals in 2011.

    Even after an error allowed Adam Wainwright to get Wales on the board, France remained the superior outfit and, despite a pair of missed kicks from Ntamack, it would have been tough to find too many tipping Warren Gatland's men to make a comeback akin to the one they produced at the Stade de France in the Six Nations this year.

    However, France are as well known for their meltdowns as they are for their free-flowing style, and it was a moment of madness nine minutes into the second half that ultimately proved crucial in condemning them to a heart-breaking 20-19 defeat.

    Guilhem Guirado was recalled to the starting XV for France despite rumours of a bust-up with coach Jacques Brunel, and the atmosphere in the dressing room is unlikely to have been a pleasant one after Sebastien Vahaamahina made a telling contribution to his own side's downfall.

    It is unclear whether we will ever be able to understand the method behind the back-row's decision to launch a swinging elbow into the side of Wainwright's head, and his dismissal will go down in World Cup infamy as it proved the turning point in a French failure.

    To their credit, Brunel's men held up well despite their man disadvantage and still led 19-13 going into the final six minutes.

    Yet Tomos Williams ripped the ball from Ollivon's grasp yards out from the France line and it was collected by Justin Tipuric before Ross Moriarty, whose yellow card preceded the Vakatawa try, turned from villain to hero by scoring the winning try.

    France may feel aggrieved, with the try awarded by the TMO despite the suggestion the ball went forward after being stolen from Ollivon, while many in the Wales camp will feel luck has evened out after Sam Warburton's contentious red card in the semi eight years ago.

    Brunel's men only have themselves to blame, though. While the crucial try was questionable, Wales' turnaround was aided by handling errors, missed kicks and an inexplicable moment of gross indiscipline.

    Consistent also-ran in the Six Nations, France have lurched from one disappointment to the next since their agonising defeat to New Zealand in the 2011 World Cup final.

    Gatland conceded the best team lost in Oita, but succinctly summed up the continued issue for a side that now infuriate more than they inspire.

    "I thought France definitely improved since the Six Nations," said Gatland. "Losing becomes a habit, but so does winning and we are in that habit at the moment."

    France are firmly in the losing habit and, with the next World Cup to be held on home soil, they have four years to change that by channelling the fire that can make them such an attractive side to watch into consistency, rather than self-inflicted collapses.

  • Pep Perfect second goal shows Manchester City back in the groove Pep Perfect second goal shows Manchester City back in the groove

    Bernardo Silva had just set up the opening goal for Manchester City with a sumptuous cross – a suggestion that last season's form might be starting to return.

    But this was no time for the Portugal playmaker to rest on his laurels and he set about harassing Crystal Palace left-winger Jeffrey Schlupp, whose pass towards the danger zone where specialist centre-backs should reside was intercepted.

    Rodri's outing in the heart of the City defence was unexpected and frequently uneasy during the early stages at Selhurst Park. A slip momentarily left Wilfried Zaha unattended before a rushed, hacked clearance went unpunished.

    Pep Guardiola deployed his two defensive midfield commanders. Rodri and Fernandinho, in defence due to Nicolas Otamendi joining Aymeric Laporte in the treatment room and John Stones not yet being match fit following an ailment of his own. City entered the field eight points behind Liverpool in the title race, with the decision not to replace Vincent Kompany starting to look season defining.

    But if being the last line of protection against attacks does not come naturally to Rodri, he specialises in starting them. His interception from Schlupp doubled as an expertly cushioned pass to David Silva and City were away.

    Kompany's successor as club captain deposited the ball at Kevin De Bruyne's feet in unfussy, one-touch fashion. Where the 2-0 loss to Wolves played out under a fug of doubt and laboured decision making, the whirring cogs of Guardiola's machine were clicking into place.

    De Bruyne promptly pushed down the accelerator, powering through midfield. The Belgium star, who did not start either of City's league defeats in the opening eight games, had already proved a menace to Palace. His twinkling triangle on the right flank alongside Bernardo Silva and Joao Cancelo providing a persistent first half threat.

    A great gift of De Bruyne's, a player on record as saying her prefers assists to goals, is he knows when to slip from leading man to supporting character. He found the opening goalscorer Gabriel Jesus.

    The Brazil striker's scruffy diving header a little over a minute earlier was his fifth in as many starts for City this season. But the presence on the bench of club-record goalscorer Sergio Aguero – a man not so clinical behind the wheel on the road to training going off this week's evidence – means Jesus must always strive, always prove himself and always make the decision to please his manager.

    A pass to the buccaneering Benjamin Mendy was just that. Fit again, for now, the left-back and his ravaged knees provides Guardiola with an extra dimension he will need if a third Premier League title in succession can be achieved despite early arrears.

    Mendy's touch was heavy but he was fortunate to see the ball fall to Raheem Sterling, Manchester City's sure thing.

    Goals 12 and 13 of the season for club and country came as England routed Bulgaria in midweek, Sterling revelling in tormenting those who send vile abuse his way.

    An inspirational figure with improvement still in him – as evidenced by a couple of second-half attempts against Palace – Sterling's chipped pass over the top of the home defence was a string on his bow drawing the sweetest sound.

    It was a pass worthy of David Silva, who on this occasion watched the whole picture unfold and found himself on the end of it. For all their discomfort over the early weeks of this campaign, operating without their long-time creator and magician will really sting City this time next year.

    His clinical over-the-shoulder volley through Wayne Hennessey's legs was equal to many of his finest moments over a wonderful decade in the Premier League and crowned a little masterpiece. 2-0 was enough for the three points.

    Second-half wastefulness and Ederson's athletic stops from Christian Benteke and Wilfried Zaha showed City will have to be sharper in their next Premier League away game. That's at Anfield next month, but after talking about putting his players in the fridge over Christmas, Guardiola will have seen enough in a cool, calculated gem of a goal to suggest there is life in this title race.

  • Alli delivers for Spurs but Watford draw not quite what Pochettino ordered Alli delivers for Spurs but Watford draw not quite what Pochettino ordered

    Prior to the home game against Watford, Mauricio Pochettino had pointed to a dinner invite from his Tottenham players as an indication of their continued support.

    The offer was less about attending his last supper and instead a sign they remained strong as a unit, determined to turn around a campaign that had started unravelling rapidly prior to the international break, according to the defiant Spurs boss.

    Against the Hornets, there was certainly no sign of a lack of effort from the team. The problem was more to do with the lack of a cutting edge, culminating in a 1-1 draw that stops the rot but offers little in the way of long-term optimism.

    The fixture list had seemingly served up an appetising offer for Spurs to move on quickly from back-to-back defeats earlier in the month, too. If the 7-2 result against Bayern Munich in the Champions League was a shock to the system, going down 3-0 at Brighton and Hove Albion was tough to digest. They were better on Saturday, admittedly, but then that was hardly a tough bar to clear.

    Watford arrived bottom of the table and without a win to their name. On six previous Premier League trips to Spurs – albeit at differing venues from their opponents' impressive new home – they had failed to collect a solitary point.

    Yet had it not been for a late mix-up between goalkeeper Ben Foster and substitute Kiko Femenia, the visitors may well have departed Tottenham Hotspur Stadium with all three.

    Dele Alli capitalised on the gift to deliver a much-needed equaliser for Spurs. The goal was subsequently checked for handball, with VAR ruling the contact was high on his chest, rather than left arm. Even then there was further drama, the big screen displaying 'Decision No Goal' while the score read 1-1.

    The confusion over their goal rather summed up Spurs' performance, though. They seemingly have all the required ingredients - remember they sprinkled in some new faces during the transfer window - but cannot quite find the recipe for success, particularly in attack.

    Pochettino made seven changes to the starting XI – the most for the club between two Premier League games in a season – but saw the new-look line-up concede early, as was also the case against Brighton, in a listless first half.

    Son Heung-min's half-time introduction added some much-needed life to proceedings, though they still required a helping hand – albeit not Alli's, according to VAR – for the equaliser.

    Worryingly, Harry Kane had just 28 total touches in a game where his team enjoyed 69.6 per cent of possession. There were no shots on target either, as was also the case on that forgettable trip to the south coast a fortnight ago.

    Goals are missing from the menu for Kane and Spurs in general - they have averaged one a game in their last six outings in all competition, and that includes an EFL Cup tie against League Two Colchester United.

    "We're not panicking. We know the quality that we’ve got in this team, we believe in ourselves and the coaching staff are working hard every day. We’ve just got to make sure we show our character to get out of this patch we're in," Alli said to the club's website.

    Spurs' determination to keep going against Watford suggests Pochettino was right to declare his squad remain firmly behind him.

    Dinner may be a little more appetising for the Tottenham boss on Saturday night having avoided another embarrassing defeat, but a point against the competition's bottom side is still tough to stomach.

© 2018 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.