Chris Oliver has three tips for Saturday night's top-class boxing at the O2 Arena including Vasyl Lomachenko v Luke Campbell.
Luke Campbell is the latest man attempting to solve the puzzle that is Vasyl Lomachenko on what should be a special night at the O2 Arena in London on Saturday.
It was hard not to feel sorry for the Yorkshireman when it was announced that his overdue shot at the vacant WBC lightweight title was to be against the Ukrainian superstar, who already holds the WBO and WBA belts and is regarded by most fans as the best fighter in the world.
Lomachenko returns to the city in which he captured a second Olympic gold medal in 2012 and huge demand to see the pound-for-pound king, on what is likely to be his sole outing on these shores as a professional, saw the event sell out weeks ago.
The fact that the 31-year-old is being talked about as great after just 14 outings in the paid ranks tells its own story. He learnt all he needed to know about the pro game when losing a controversial decision to the rough-house tactics of Orlando Salido in his second bout, and even more impressive than bouncing back to become a three-weight world champion after just 12 fights was the manner in which he achieved that record-breaking feat. Add that to winning all that was available to him on his way to an amateur record of 396-1 and it's easy to see why he is so revered.
Sublime footwork, reflexes, variety, feints, and angles have earned Lomachenko 'The Matrix' nickname, so what chance does Campbell have of cracking the code? Not much, according to the layers, who rate him a 9/1 outsider against the best price of 1/12 about the champion.
That expected dominance is reflected in the method of victory markets as the favourite is 4/9 to win by stoppage, but that looks plenty short enough with reasons to believe the underdog may do better than expected.
Also a gold medallist at London 2012, Campbell has yet to deliver on that promise without a vest on but all the signs are that he could be ready to do so, having made serious progress since switching to Shane McGuigan's gym. That improvement was evident as he avenged his first loss to Yvan Mendy when easily outboxing the Frenchman for a comfortable points win at Wembley Stadium just under a year ago.
His only other defeat came at the hands of subsequent Lomachenko victim Jorge Linares, but only via a close split decision in America just two weeks after his father passed away and that first world title tilt will be have been a big learning experience.
A late developer physically, he is huge for the weight and as well as being the bigger and stronger man here, he boasts a two-inch height advantage and a longer reach by some five and a half inches. The size factor could well play a part as Lomachenko has certainly looked more human in three fights since stepping up to the 135lb division. Prior to outclassing the overmatched Anthony Crolla in April, he was dropped and behind on one scorecard when stopping the aforementioned Linares in the 10th round, while his points victory over Jose Pedraza last December was very competitive until he pulled away in the championship rounds.
The latter has similar dimensions to Campbell and that contest could offer clues here, as Lomachenko showed his bigger opponent much more respect than usual and wasn't willing to trade in the pocket too often. The switch-hitting Pedraza enjoyed most of his success when turning southpaw, which will also give 'lefty' Campbell plenty of hope.
While this still isn't enough for me to be willing to part with cash on Campbell pulling off a huge upset, it's certainly enough to make the price of a Lomachenko points win look much better value at 5/2 than the stoppage route at long odds-on. The usual late surge from the supremely-fit champion is expected, but Campbell has the skills and size to see it through to the final bell. I slightly prefer having the upset on my side for just a quarter of a point shorter, with the bout to the distance widely available at 9/4.
Coming up with a game plan to beat Lomachenko is an unenviable task given his versatility, but you'd have to think Campbell will be looking to use his reach advantage and keep this at distance behind his jab for as long as he can. He will also need to make sure he punches with the champion when the latter does let his shots go on the inside and not wait for opportunity to fire back. However, this is much easier said than done, with the unrivalled footwork of the visitor allowing him to move in and out of range with remarkable ease, while his ability to slip and avoid punches at close quarters is just as freakish.
Savour Lomachenko while he is here as he takes another step towards unifying the belts, while Campbell's stock can rise in defeat by giving the future hall-of-famer plenty to think about.
There is more world title action on the Sky Sports Box Office show as Charlie Edwards puts his WBC Flyweight title on the line against Julio Cesar Martinez.
The popular Croydon champion was hoping his second defence would be an all-British affair against Andrew Selby, but Martinez scuppered those plans when stopping the Welshman in five rounds earlier in the year. The aggressive Mexican is a big threat on that form, but he had home advantage at altitude that night and may not quite be the same in his first bout outside his native land.
He will bring plenty of pressure, but expect the improving Edwards to stick and move his way to another points victory at 4/6, which may continue to drift as the fight draws closer.
The most intriguing contest on the undercard sees Hughie Fury take on former heavyweight champion Alexander Povetkin in a classic battle of youth versus experience.
Fury has failed on both occasions he has stepped up to world level, losing decisions to Joseph Parker in a world title bid in 2017 and Kubrat Pulev in Bulgaria last year, but he is still very young for a big man and will have learnt plenty from those defeats.
He would be up against it if taking on a peak Povetkin and although he gave a good account of himself before being stopped by Anthony Joshua last September, the former Olympic gold medallist hasn't fought since and almost a year out of the ring is not ideal when you are about to turn 40. With plenty of miles on the clock after a long, hard career and never quite looking the same since his two failed drugs tests, this could be the ideal time to be taking on the Russian.
He can still bang, though, and is a top price of just 4/7 prove too good for the younger man, but Fury has a big advantage in reach and can use his nimble footwork to keep his smaller opponent on the end of his jab for long periods. If he is to claim the biggest scalp of his career then Fury will likely have to do so via the scorecards and, while Povetkin will be dangerous til the very last second, the 5/2 about the Englishman winning a decision is big enough to warrant the risk.
Posted at 1130 BST on 30/08/19