Photos by Sumio Yamada
TIMOTHY BRADLEY vs NATE CAMPBELL
Throughout ring history, older fighters have been putting on great performances. Bob Fitzsimmons was a light-heavy champ at the age of 39 back in the early 1900s, Ageless Archie Moore was great in his late 30s, Sugar Ray Robinson defeated Carmen Basilio at the age of 36 and fought a draw with the much younger Gene Fullmer at 39, George Foreman was heavyweight champion at 45 while more recently Bernard Hopkins and Sugar Shane Mosley seem to have been sipping at the fountain of youth. Now we have Nate Campbell, 37 years young, attempting to win the WBO junior welter title from Timothy Bradley, a mere whippersnapper of 25, in Showtimes main event from Rancho Mirage, CA on Saturday.
Bradley is unbeaten and boxing in front of his local-area fans in the California desert community, but neither of these factors will bother Campbell, who won a lightweight title by outfighting and outpunching the previously undefeated Juan Diaz in front of a Mexican crowd and who also handed Almazbek Raiymkulov his first loss.
Fighters such as Campbell, superb ring mechanics who have mastered the art of boxing, tend to last a long time. Campbells longevity is aided by the fact that he didnt start boxing until he was 24. He was working the graveyard shift at a Winn-Dixie supermarket in his hometown of Jacksonville, FL, and did some shadow boxing to stay awake. A workmate thought Campbell had a natural talent as a boxer and suggested he take up the sport. Campbell did, and had his first bout, as an amateur, at 25. I was No. 5 in the United States with 10 fights, Campbell told me in an interview for Boxing Monthly last year. I was just really good at it.
If ever a fighter could be called a young veteran, its Campbell. I love the gym, he told me. I feel like I can keep fighting till Im 52.
Bradley has won 24 bouts in a row. He went to Britain to beat Junior Witter in an upset and he retained the title when he survived two knockdowns to defeat the dangerous Kendall Holt, but he has never faced anyone quite as crafty, seasoned or flat-out talented as Campbell, which makes this a compelling fight and one which I think is close to being even money.
Although Campbell has boxed as a junior lightweight he turned professional as a lightweight and I think that he will be big and strong at 140 pounds.
The last year has been a bit of a roller-coaster ride for Campbell. In July of last year he missed out on his biggest purse when Joan Guzman failed to make the weight for their lightweight title bout and then refused to box, saying he had been weakened by his weight-making efforts.
Then, last February, it was Campbells turn to come in overweight when he lost his lightweight title on the scales the day before his scheduled mandatory title defence against Ali Funeka. Campbell apparently spent hours in the sauna trying to get down to 135 pounds, but he went ahead and boxed the next evening, scoring two knockdowns to pull out a very close decision win over the towering South African. At 140 pounds, I am expecting Campbell to be robust and ready to fight hard and fast for all 12 rounds.
Bradley, though, could have the sort of style that will give Campbell problems. Bradley is fast, smart and busy. He boxed with maturity and discipline to beat Witter while he maintained a high workrate to outscore Holt. Campbell is the puncher in the fight, but Bradley might be able to outspeed him, getting in the jab and combinations and using his legs to move away. Campbell will be right on him, though, seeking to slip shots and roll with the punches and come through with his heavy right hands and left hooks.
Campbell believes that Bradley does not take a punch very well, basing this on the Kendall Holt knockdowns. I was impressed, though, with the way that Bradley came back, almost as if nothing had happened, after being dropped by Holts big left hook in the first round and Holt can really crack.
Winning the 12-rounders against Witter and Holt will have boosted Bradleys confidence, and these fights were wonderful learning experiences, each in its own way.
Campbell is a fighter who is worthy of the greatest respect, but so, I believe, is Bradley, and I have had a difficult time trying to come up with a winner.
I was impressed with Campbells gritty, hardworking, fists-pumping attack in the win over Diaz, but his less-experienced opponent was handicapped in the later rounds by a cut and closing left eye. I dont think it is too unreasonable to suggest that, without the eye injury, there is a chance that Diaz might have been able to stay with Campbell down the stretch.
In Campbells commendable win, under less-than-perfect circumstances, over Funeka, there were rounds in which he was clearly being outworked and outscored. He fought through fatigue and finished the stronger fighter, but there were aspects of the fight that reminded me of Campbells narrow loss to another South African fighter, Isaac Hlatshwayo, in that he was outhustled for significant portions of rounds.
I think that the jab, punch-rate and use of the ring are what can carry Bradley to victory.
Bradley always seems to me to be one of those super-fit individuals, and he has demonstrated that he can box intelligently, pile on the pressure when needed and keep a cool head when things are going awry all qualities that he may well need on Saturday.
Campbell says there is an anger within him after the events of the last year, and he will be coming hard and looking to hurt the younger man but, in a fight that I make almost even money, I will go with the youth, speed, energy and activity of Bradley to earn him a narrow points victory.