‘Coolhand’ Luke Campbell moved a giant step closer to a shot at the World title, when former champion Darleys Perez retired hurt in the ninth round of their WBA eliminator.
It was a massive crowd at Wembley on the Anthony Joshua vs Wladimir Klitschko under-card, and a victory for Campbell that was in front of current WBA champion Jorge Linares, who was at ringside.
Campbell started slowly against Perez, having difficulty finding his range as the Colombian targeted the body of Luke in the opening rounds, forcing him into long range work behind the jab.
After weathering the early pressure the fight began to turn in in Luke’s favour in the fourth round when he landed a left over the top that forced Perez back on wobbly legs.
As the fight moved on Campbell’s superior work rate, quality and natural power had Perez back peddling and looking increasingly dispirited, as Luke landed heavy shots to the body and head. A lovely clean left upper cut from the Hull man in the seventh rocked Perez slightly and in the eighth Campbell landed the same punch with extra venom that staggered Perez back onto the ropes as Campbell looked to finish the fight in style but the bell saved his opponent.
The ninth opened with Campbell taking control of the centre of the ring hunting down the Colombian who was still rocking from the previous round. As Perez popped out a defensive jab he turned away from Campbell holding his arm in clear pain, referee Steve Gray telling him to fight on, which the Colombian did for a further minute before waving the fight over as Perez was in no fit state to continue as he turned to his corner, after 1 minute 28 seconds of the ninth.
Rather an anti climatic end to the bout but Campbell was the clear winner before the retirement and moved to No1 challenger in the WBA rankings in front of the watching Champion, Linares.
Post fight Luke was asked if he felt ready to take on one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world, saying “Most definitely, Linares is a brilliant champ but to be the best, you have to beat the best and that’s what I have got to do”.
Linares responded when asked if he would fight Campbell in defence of his title said ” Yeah sure, I’m ready for anyone”.
The work is now down to Campbell’s promoter Eddie Hearn to make the fight but it may not be that straight forward as it sounds, as a unification fight between Linares and undefeated and WBC holder, Mikey Garcia, which would be a massive fight at this weight is also a real possibilty, but tonight’s performance has certainly put Luke Campbell in the genuine contender category.