Boxing
Campbell's Bad Back a Blow to His Future
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


You'd be hard-pressed to find a boxing writer not fond of Nate Campbell.

Not only is the veteran Floridian a tough guy who'll always provide an honest effort in the ring, but he's also one of the most straightforward, cooperative and quotable athletes you'll ever meet.

Which is why I was a little sad on Saturday night.

When the 38-year-old dropped a one-sided decision to Golden Boy prospect Victor Ortiz at Madison Square Garden, it got me recognizing for the first time that the "Galaxxy Warrior's" days in the ring might indeed be numbered.

And while it's hardly illogical to think a guy in his late 30s would be closer to the end of the line than the beginning, it seemed Campbell in last few years was one of a growing trend of fighters defying time -- and actually improving -- as they've aged.

So in spite of his vintage, that end was hardly in sight.

Until now.

Heading into the weekend it had been more than four years since his last loss -- a unanimous verdict to Isaac Hlatshwayo for the IBO lightweight title in April 2006. And among the five wins since was his shining moment, a split decision over then-unbeaten Juan Diaz for the IBF, WBA and WBO straps.

The subsequent title reign was eventful if not successful, featuring an aborted defense against an overweight Joan Guzman that was followed by Campbell's own abdication when he failed to hit 135 on the scales prior to a match with Ali Funeka.


Nate Campbell dropped a one-sided decision to Victor Ortiz.
A move to 140 yielded hope for a less-hectic reign, but it instead included more of the same when a challenge of WBO incumbent Timothy Bradley was cut short by a bloody gash and eventually ruled a no-contest after three inconclusive rounds in California.

Which led to Saturday in New York -- and what suddenly sounds an awful lot like a swan song.

Campbell said he aggravated a lingering back injury during the first round against Ortiz and will see St. Petersburg, Fla. specialist Adam A. Brunson to determine the severity of the damage.

His in-ring future will be based largely on the prognosis, manager Terry Trekas said Monday.

"(He had) a serious sciatic nerve injury (that) limits the ability to pivot your hips or plant your feet," said Trekas, who claimed the malady first flared in training camp before deep tissue massage and a few cortisone shots seemed to alleviate concern. "It's popped up in the past, but never this serious."

A clean bill of health for the long term means a renewed bid for supremacy at junior welterweight.

Something less, however, and it could be game-set-match for the Jacksonville native, who's recently expressed interest in ministry, color commentary and fighter training as post-career vocations.

"He never planned on doing this into his mid-40s or anything. We had figured two, maybe three, more years and that would be it," Trekas said.

"It's difficult to accept that all his talent and heart means nothing if his body won't let him display it. It's frustrating, especially when lesser fighters are doing better than him."

* * * * * * * * * *

Speaking of good guys, Peter Manfredo Jr. has a title shot this week.

And while some may snicker that the belt up for grabs is the IBO's middleweight championship hardware, it's of no less significance for the hard- working 10-year pro from Providence, R.I. -- still best known for a star turn on the inaugural season of "The Contender" in 2005.

Ranked ninth in the world at 160 pounds on the IBO computer, he'll meet Angel Hernandez for the vacant crown Saturday night at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn.

"It's a world championship on the level with any of the others," he said. "I have to work just as hard to get this one as they did to get theirs. And if any of the other guys don't believe that, then they can fight me and whoever wins can be called the best."

Manfredo fell short in two previous title opportunities at 168 pounds, failing to get past round 3 against either WBO champion Joe Calzaghe in April 2007 or IBO belt-holder Sakio Bika 19 months later.

"The guys I lost to were the best in the world. My losses were to world champions," he said. "At the end of the day, all I worry about is whether I did my best and if I can feed my family. People can talk about how I never won the big one, but I still work hard and I train and that's why four or five thousand people will still come to see me every time I fight."

He officially moved down to middleweight for a January match with veteran Matt Vanda and said the size difference was immediately noticeable as he pounded out a near-shutout over 10 rounds.

In fact, Manfredo has lost just twice -- to Contender winner Sergio Mora and fellow TV alumnus Alfonso Gomez -- in 16 career fights at or below 160.

"You look at the guys I fought and it was obvious I didn't belong (at 168)," he said. "They were all bigger than me. But in this class I can take better advantage of my size and I know I can take harder shots because of what I did at 168. I fought Vanda at 160 and I took care of him easily. He was a tough competitor and I blew him away. I think that proves I was in the wrong weight class."

* * * * * * * * * *

This week's title-fight schedule:

SATURDAY

Vacant IBO middleweight title -- Uncasville, Conn.

Peter Manfredo Jr. (No. 9 contender) vs. Angel Hernandez (No. 37 contender)

Manfredo (34-6, 18 KO): Third title fight (0-2, 0 KO); KO'd in IBO and WBO title shots at 168 pounds

Hernandez (30-7, 17 KO): First title fight; Six wins in last 11 fights (6-5, 2 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "A first world title for first-season Contender alumnus." Manfredo by decision.

IBF bantamweight title -- Los Angeles, Calif.

Yonnhy Perez (champion) vs. Abner Mares (No. 6 contender)

Perez (20-0, 14 KO): First title defense; Fifteenth fight in California (14-0, 9 KO)

Mares (20-0, 13 KO): Fight title fight; Three straight wins by stoppage

Fitzbitz says: "Better grade of opposition gives Perez a razor-thin edge." Perez by decision.

WBC super featherweight title -- Rostock, Germany

Vitali Tajbert (champion) vs. Hector Velazquez (No. 15 contender) Tajbert (19-1, 6 KO): First title defense; Won two straight since lone career loss (2-0, 0 KO

Velazquez (51-14-2, 35 KO): Second title fight (0-1, 0 KO); One win in last four fights (1-3, 0 KO)

Fitzbitz says: "Tajbert too much for a game, but shopworn, foe." Tajbert by decision.

Last week's picks: 7-1

Overall picks record: 195-69 (73.8 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 21-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. E-mail him at fitzbitz@msn.com, follow him at twitter.com/fitzbitz and read more at fitzbitzonfights.wordpress.com.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

Powered by The Sports Network.