Last Chance for Campbell, again
It’s not hard to discern who the game’s power brokers will be rooting for on Saturday night when Victor Ortiz and Nate Campbell meet underneath the Paulie Malignaggi-Amir Khan fight in New York on HBO.
Ortiz is Hispanic, 23 years old, a puncher, and has an Oscar De La Hoya-like presence and apparent naivet├® that many find charming.
Campbell is 38, African-American, and says whatever the hell he wants. He is the opposite of na├»ve, meaning he has been around the ring and around the business long enough to know that the script has him losing.
And at his age and with his record — 33-5-1 (25 knockouts) — this looks an awful lot like a last chance.
“Every fight is like that for me,” Campbell told RingTV.com. “I’m always in that place. Every time I fight I’m in that place. Because of my age I’m always in that place. That’s nothing new to me.
“I feel like a lot of people don’t want to fight me because I’m too dangerous,” he said. “So what I simply do is go out and fight my fight and not worry about what people think. But (against Ortiz) I’m looking for a knockout.”
This match would fit the classic up-and-coming star against fading veteran script if not for the terrible night not very long ago when Ortiz did what no future star in this business is permitted to do.
In the middle of a torrid slugfest with brick-throwing Marcos Maidana, Ortiz turned his back and surrendered.
He made it worse afterward when he went on camera and said more or less that he shouldn’t be in with guys who don’t crumple the moment he touches them on the chin.
Ortiz (26-2-1, with 21 KOs) has won two fights since, unspectacularly.
The interesting thing here, of course, is that in Campbell’s last fight, a no-contest against the excellent Tim Bradley, many observers (this writer included), felt Campbell quit after a head butt disconcerted him in the third round.
The fighter denies it.
“No way. He never hurt me. He never hit me with anything so why would I quit? If I was ever going to quit in a fight it would have been in the fight before that, with (Ali) Funeka,” Campbell said. “If there was ever a time in my life I would have quit, that would have been it.”
Campbell recognizes — as one imagines Ortiz does, too — that surrender in a prize ring is anathema to fans but he handles it like one suspects he would.
“I don’t sweat how people feel about me, because at the end of the day nine out of the 10 people talking trash about me can’t do nothing,'” he said. “So I’m not mad, I’m not upset.
“I mean, I would have fought him right away — as soon as my eye was healed. But he didn’t want anything to do with it. But it is what it is and I’ve moved on and when we see each other again, which we will, we’ll see then.”
The Bradley fight notwithstanding, going in this feels a little like Campbell’s fight with Juan Diaz in 2008, when Campbell took the younger, undefeated and heavily-favored Diaz to school over 12 rounds.
Ortiz might be a bigger threat than Diaz was because of his punch, but Campbell knows too that if he gets Ortiz in a bad place, he might be able to get the kid to submit, just like Maidana did.
It’ll be fun watching the old guy try.
Some random observations from last week:
It’s a damn shame Lennox Lewis won’t be dazzling us on HBO anymore with his many inspired analyses. I, for one, will miss him terribly. Now, when I want that kind of insight, I’ll have to drive all the way out to the local methadone clinic and hope to snag a junkie with a head injury. Do you know how much work that is? ÔÇª
Speaking of HBO broadcasters, Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Emanuel Steward spent about an hour and a half hypothesizing around why Paul Williams wasn’t throwing more punches at Kermit Cintron. Guys: George Peterson told Williams in the corner to wait for Cintron to come to him and then counter. And he wasn’t whispering. He made a whole big production out of it ÔÇª
Lampley at least made up for it with the line of the night when he responded to one of Merchant’s clever but heavily labored observations by saying, “Well, Larry, we can tell that you stayed up late last night.” Brilliant! ÔÇª
I’m all for fighter-safety, more or less, but when a guy falls out of the ring and is lucid, apparently uninjured and wants to fight, as Cintron reportedly was, why isn’t he permitted to continue? At least let the guy stand up and see if he’s all right, for cripes sake. Criminy, if Dempsey-Firpo took place today Dempsey wouldn’t have gotten the chance to climb back into the ring and knock Firpo down 117 times. Damn alarmists ÔÇª
And yes, that’s the only time you will ever see the names Jack Dempsey and Kermit Cintron in the same sentence ÔÇª
Recommended reading: Up at slate.com, my favorite PG-rated website, is America's First Sports Superstar: How the bare-knuckle fighter John C. Heenan united the country before the Civil War by Peter Duffy ÔÇª
So Tavoris Cloud and Glen Johnson will meet after all. That’s a heck of a fight. Good for them. By the way, there is no truth to the rumor that after Johnson finally retires he will start a business renting himself out as a human lawn sprinkler ÔÇª
Is it me or is Yordanis Despaigne not all that great for a guy with 400 some-odd amateur fights? ÔÇª
Mike Tyson is doing the talk show circuit in advance of some new documentary or another and this new, chubby, peace-loving Tyson is still the best interview in boxing, and maybe in all of sport.
Bill Dettloff, THE RING magazine’s Senior Writer, is the co-author, along with Joe Frazier, of “Box Like the Pros.” He is currently working on a biography of Ezzard Charles. Bill can be contacted at [email protected]