Boxing
Campbell heads west for 140-pound challenge
Lyle Fitzsimmons


By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - For Nate Campbell, perhaps the third time will be a charm.

The former lightweight champion heads to old stomping grounds for a third time in search of yet another title, when he'll face incumbent Timothy Bradley for the WBO 140-pound crown on Aug. 1 at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino Spa in Rancho Mirage, Calif.

A lifelong Floridian, Campbell is 0-for-2 in a pair of trips to the West Coast - losing via unanimous 10-round decision to Joel Casamayor in March 2003 and falling via fifth-round KO a year later to Australian Robbie Peden in the first of their two clashes.

Both Golden State losses were at the Pechanga Entertainment Center in Temecula.

The location for the August fight came down to either Florida or California, where Bradley lives in Palm Springs.

Lead promoter Gary Shaw made the final site selection, which was announced Thursday.

Campbell will open training camp in Tampa, where he resides, before shifting preparation to Key West beginning July 1. He will again team up with lead trainer John David Jackson, a 15-year pro and former WBO champion at 154 and 160 pounds.

"(It's a) good matchup for Nate. Bradley's work rate will give (him) a lot of opportunities," said Terry Trekas, Campbell's manager. "Bradley is not a big guy, and not a huge puncher."


Nate Campbell is unbeaten in his last five fights.
Campbell, a native of Jacksonville, is unbeaten in his last five fights, including an upset defeat of Juan Diaz for the IBF/WBA/WBO titles at 135 pounds in March 2008.

He last fought on Feb. 14 in Sunrise, Fla., where he defeated Ali Funeka over 12 rounds but nonetheless lost his belts after failing to make weight - then subsequently announced an intention to move up to junior welterweight.

Bradley won the WBC title at 140 with a defeat of Junior Witter last year in England, defended it once and took the WBO championship from Kendall Holt in April in Montreal.

He either relinquished or vacated the WBC crown following the Holt fight, depending on whom is asked.

Bradley's publicist circulated a letter he'd written to WBC President Jose Sulaiman on April 27, declaring his intention to vacate the title.

Conversely, on the WBC's official Web site, a press release claimed Bradley "stepped on the rule that gave him the WBC title, tarnishing the prestige, the image and the honor of all WBC champions."

The WBC belt will next be worn by either No. 1 contender Devon Alexander or No. 2 Witter, who'll meet in a bout for the vacant title, also scheduled for Aug. 1.

Colombian Juan Urango is the IBF champion at 140. Andreas Kotelnik holds the WBA championship and Manny Pacquiao is recognized as kingpin by the IBO and generally regarded as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

"Nate wants to start collecting the titles at 140, so we would take the first one available," Trekas said. "In my opinion, the winner is the best active 140-pounder. (Manny Pacquiao) is not active since it's doubtful he will ever defend his 140-pound (title)."

According to Trekas, the fight contract includes a clause granting Bradley a rematch within two fights if Campbell wins in August. The first defense would be a mandatory against No. 1 WBO contender Lamont Peterson.

Victor Ortiz is ranked No. 2 by the WBO. Campbell is ranked No. 3.

Trekas said the least likely of all Campbell foes is Pacquiao, who won the IBO title at 140 with a second-round blowout of Ricky Hatton in May.

The Filipino is reportedly considering a match with WBO welterweight champion Miguel Cotto, WBA champion Shane Mosley or the winner of a recently postponed bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Juan Manuel Marquez.

"Pac is not a realistic option, regardless of what Nate does at 140. There are too many ways for them to maneuver around Nate," Trekas said. "The easiest way is by saying that Nate doesn't bring enough money to the table."

MSG WRAP-UP

Not that I needed it, but it's amazing what a big fight night at Madison Square Garden can do for a guy's love of boxing.

So as I sit in the afterglow less than a week after the Cotto/Clottey main event, here are a few reasons why it retains its undisputed title - an unapologetic passion for ice hockey notwithstanding - as my favorite sport.

1. Hey fuggetaboutit, it's New York - Sure, the traffic can be a pain in the neck. Yes, dropping $45 for six hours in an underground parking lot seems a bit much. But even after myriad trips to Atlantic City, Las Vegas and other premier fight venues, nothing beats the tangible excitement that arrives the instant my tires hit the George Washington Bridge en route to Mecca.

And by the time I finish navigating the West Side Highway, dash past the credential table and take a seat ringside amid the banners and lights and ambiance, I'm always glad I chose journalism over higher-paying - albeit more pedestrian - pursuits.

Bottom line folks, IT guys don't have this kind of fun.

2. Rampant jingoism - Saturday night marked the second time I've been on hand for the appearance of a wildly popular Puerto Rican in a Garden main event, and, for those uninitiated, it's an experience unlike any other.

Somehow, though their numbers were probably closer to the 17,000 range, the fans who turned out for Cotto produced the decibel level of a gathering 10 times larger. And unlike my first time in such a setting - when Bernard Hopkins punished Felix Trinidad shortly after 9/11 - the ding at the end of 12 rounds was every bit as powerful as it had been at the opening bell.

Bien hecho, los amigos.

3. Cream of the crop - As my esteemed colleague T.K. Stewart wrote in a post- fight piece Sunday - and I know that only because I read over his shoulder as he typed it Saturday night - the vibe at ringside was surely reminiscent of a time when Internet media was the stuff of intergalactic time travel and newspapers and boxing were the biggest games in town.

The roster of heavy word hitters in town was impressive to say the least. Not only were royalty from several popular Web sites and newspapers on hand, but noted "On the Waterfront" author Budd Schulberg, now 95, was in attendance as well, appearing as sharp as ever.

Good stuff.

4. Bob Arum - I'm not his biggest fan and I think he was way off base in a post-fight assessment that Floyd Mayweather Jr. picks foes because he's "psychologically unable" to deal with a loss, but the old man was still the most entertaining part of what's too-often a series of "I tried hard, but the judges screwed me" laments at bleary-eyed 1 a.m. get-togethers.

His pointed verbal smackdown of a misplaced questioner who opined that boxings big fights are constructed based on dollars, while UFC main events hinge solely on making fan-friendly matchups, was priceless.

"Do you really think they're not based on money?" Arum sneered. "What are you, an idiot?"

5. No-doze undercard - No, it wasn't a reminder of the days when King and Arum shows were loaded with high-end fighters and prospects in legitimate fights from top to bottom, but as far as undercards go, Saturday night's wasn't too, too bad.

Ivan Calderon looked in some peril before getting cut and getting out with a technical decision against Rodel Mayol in a 108-pound bout. Super bantamweight Jorge Diaz shined early and stalled late, but nonetheless got to 9-0 with a six-round points win over Guadalupe DeLeon. And Puerto Rican youngsters Jayson Velez and Alberto Cruz scored stoppages and stayed perfect at super bantam and lightweight, respectively.

As for Matt Korobov, well...in spite of a 6-0 record and an interesting back story, we might want to postpone the middleweight's Canastota induction. He's just not that good.

Overall, and with just one $5 Diet Coke to get me through, not a snore to be had.

6. Winner...and still champion - I didn't agree with the split-decision verdict. I thought Clottey had done enough to win seven of 12 rounds and deserved a 114-113 points margin. Nonetheless, the drama of the closing rounds and the breathless interval between the closing bell and the point where Michael Buffer read off the third scorecard tally in Cotto's favor were all the argument I need against the idea of open scoring as a cure-all for the sport's many ills.

While I admit that giving the crowd, media and fighters a running round-by- round total might avoid an awful controversy or two when it comes to bad judging, it'd also suck every bit of intrigue out of the final stages of a truly competitive championship event.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I for one am willing to endure a bad verdict or two in order to save those few moments of post-fight mystery that no other sport can come close to offering.

This weeks title-fight schedule:

FRIDAY

WBC light heavyweight title - Montreal, Canada

Adrian Diaconu (champion) vs. Jean Pascal (No. 5 contender)

Diaconu (26-0, 15 KO): First title defense; Awarded belt when Chad Dawson vacated

Pascal (22-1, 15 KO): Lost lone career title fight at 168 pounds; Ninth fight at 175

FitzHitz says: Pascal in 10

SATURDAY

IBF/IBO/WBO heavyweight title - Gelsenkirchen, Germany

Wladimir Klitschko (champion) vs. Ruslan Chagaev (No. 4 IBO contender)

Klitschko (52-3, 46 KO): Seventh title defense; Unbeaten since 2004 (10-0, 6 KO)

Chagaev (25-0-1, 17 KO): Former WBA champion; Won 20 straight fights since 2002

FitzHitz says: Klitschko in 10

WBC light flyweight title - Mexico City, Mexico

Edgar Sosa (champion) vs. Carlos Melo (No. 11 contender)

Sosa (35-5, 19 KO): Ninth title defense; Won 23 straight fights since starting career 12-5

Melo (19-8, 2 KO): First career title fight; Lost four of last seven fights since 2006

FitzHitz says: Sosa by decision

WBA light heavyweight title - Santa Fe, Argentina

Hugo Hernan Garay (champion) vs. Gabriel Campillo (No. 15 contender)

Garay (32-3, 17 KO): Second title defense; Won 26 of 27 fights in Argentina

Campillo (17-2, 6 KO): First career title fight; Lost two of three fights outside Spain

FitzHitz says: Garay in 9

Last week's picks: 2-0

Overall picks record: 97-37 (72 percent)

Lyle Fitzsimmons is an award-winning 20-year sports journalist, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a frequent contributor to Stone Cold Sports on the MVN Network (stonecoldsports.com) and several sports radio talk shows throughout the U.S. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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

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