Confident Campbell a cure for all ills
By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Disgruntled boxing fans, take note.
To those disgusted by the lack of sustained violence during recent pay-per-view extravaganzas and considering a move toward the promissory mayhem of UFC and its ilk, I hereby make one last case for the square-ringed, glove-handed side of the aisle.
Though a 35-year-old lightweight with five career losses might seem a foolhardy candidate on whom to take a stand for maintaining a troubled sport's fan base, the life-long Floridian both eloquently and menacingly stated his own case during a phone interview earlier this week.
"I'm in there to hurt my opponent," Campbell said, referring specifically to unbeaten incumbent Juan Diaz, whom he will face for the WBC/WBA/IBF titles on March 8 in Cancun, Mexico. "I'm a nice guy, but I'm not in the ring to be a nice guy. I'm not going in there to be his friend."
Not exactly the "Well, gee, I'll win if things go well for me" type, huh?
In the interest of full disclosure, Campbell -- a father of three who claimed the title "America's Hottest Granddad" after his oldest daughter gave birth in 2006 -- will enter the ring as a prohibitive underdog against the 33-0 Diaz, who's held one belt or another at 135 pounds for more than three years.
Nate Campbell will face Juan Diaz for the WBC/WBA/IBF titles on March 8.
The 24-year-old Texan is also something of a fan favorite, both for his perpetual motion style in the ring and an engaging back story out of it -- he's a full-time pre-law student at the University of Houston, lives at home with his parents, Fidencio and Olivia, and obeys an 11 p.m. curfew.
Meanwhile, the comparatively anonymous Campbell has come up empty in two career title shots, losing via eighth-round TKO to Robbie Peden for the IBF super featherweight belt in 2005, and by disputed split decision to Isaac Hlatswayo for the IBO's crown at 135 in April 2006.
But to hear the Jacksonville native/Tampa resident tell it, none of that will matter in March.
"I ruin fighters," Campbell said, pointing to lackluster performances by recent foes Kid Diamond, Matt Zegan and Wilson Alcorro -- along with prolonged inactivity from Ricky Quiles and Francisco Javier Olvera -- since their respective meetings from 2005 to 2007.
"When I get in there and hit a guy, he stays hit. Guys who I fight aren't the same once I put my hands on them, and it'll be the same for Diaz. It'll go on as long as he can take it, and if he can take it for 12 rounds, it'll be the worst 12 rounds of his life, I promise you."
And, lest a title win at age 36 -- Campbell will celebrate a birthday the day before -- be a final prelude to a triumphant ride into the sunset, the 5- foot-7 right-hander instead claims a successful Diaz fight will be more a beginning for his career than an end.
"I'm better than I've ever been and I'm going to keep proving that I'm better," he said. "And that's the scary part, that at age 36 I'll be getting better. I'm going to take the title and defend, defend, defend, until you guys are tired of talking to me.
"I'm smarter and I'm more experienced and I understand the game better now than I ever have. You'll wish I'd just go away, and you'll be saying to yourself, 'I wish somebody would just eat him or something.' I'm going to be a dynamo."
Previously, Campbell's rise to the championship brink at lightweight had been more sporadic than dynamic, featuring his own stretch of inactivity since a sixth-round stoppage of Alcorro at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa in July.
He'd won a pair of so-called IBF "title eliminators" in two outings prior to Alcorro, but sat idly by as then-incumbent Julio Diaz instead defended against veteran Julio Chavez in February and then lost the crown to Juan Diaz in October.
Campbell's frustrated wait ended on New Year's Day, when Tampa-area promoter Terry Trekas called to let him know the bout with Diaz "Juan, that is" had been signed.
"I was ecstatic," he said. "I couldn't be more thankful. That's the whole reason I'm still here and I'm still doing this, to get that title fight. There was nothing I could do for a while. I was pretty much stuck in the position I was in, but boxing is the primary thing in my life and there was never a time when I didn't think it was going to happen.
"I'm so much more motivated than you'd ever even believe."
Coming soon to a big top near you -- The Mike Tyson Circus?
Scattered reports this week indicate the 41-year-old former heavyweight champion is considering a comeback that would match him for a third time with mid-1990s foil Evander Holyfield, now 45.
Tyson has been inactive since a 2005 TKO loss to Kevin McBride, which dropped him to 50-6 overall and marked his second defeat in three outings since a violent beating at the hands of Lennox Lewis in a final championship-level opportunity in June 2002.
Holyfield took Tyson's WBA heavyweight title via 10th-round TKO in November 1996 and defended the crown in the infamous ear-biting rematch seven months later.
On whether a third bout with Holyfield is possible, Tyson reportedly said, "Sometimes I say yeah it is and sometimes I say it isn't. I'm in one of those up in the air moments. It's something I want to do. It all depends on how many tickets are involved.
"I think I am going to go at it hard one more time. I just want to get in the gym for three months and then see how I feel about it. (Holyfield is) the guy for me to fight and I can always get up to fight him. He's the kind of fight that could make me have an affair for boxing again. I don't know if I will fall in love with boxing again, but I am ready to have a love affair for a few months."
Others have recently lent credence to Tyson's continuing star status.
California-based trainer Max Garcia, who's working with ex-heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe on a possible return to the ring, mentioned Tyson as an attractive opponent for Bowe during an interview last month. And Roy Jones Jr., who'll face Felix Trinidad at Madison Square Garden on Jan. 19, was asked this week about the chances he'd meet the winner of a Holyfield-Tyson match.
"I could see myself fighting the winner of anything," Jones said.
And lastly for this week -- cheers to Ricky Hatton.
Thumped by Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a bid for supremacy at 147 pounds last month, the British favorite apparently didn't let a few cuts and bruises get in the way of his holiday revelry.
According to London's Daily Mirror, Hatton spent a recent four-day stretch in Spain flexing the sort of muscle at the bar that he couldn't quite harness in the ring -- downing 57 pints of beer, 17 vodka and Red Bulls, four vodkas, three whiskey chasers and a bottle of Moet champagne while spending time with girlfriend Jennifer Dooley in Tenerife.
"You'll see me again in the ring," Hatton said. "Unfortunately, I lost in Vegas but that's the end of it. A few more drinks and I won't remember anyway."
The Times of London reported Monday that Hatton and his handlers were pondering his next in-ring performance, which could come in late spring.
Among the opponents mentioned were incumbent junior welterweight champions Paulie Malignaggi (IBF) and Junior Witter (WBC), while a bigger-money match with Filipino favorite Manny Pacquiao could happen later in the year.
"People are still very keen on Ricky. I met with HBO and they want to work with Ricky again and there was also interest from Showtime," said Gareth Williams, Hatton's attorney. "Pacquiao was one of the names mentioned, but there have been no talks with Bob Arum."
Until next week -- if you can't be good, be careful.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has been a professional sports journalist since 1988. He is a periodic contributor to the Dave Smith Show on Sporting News Radio (radio.sportingnews.com), provides 'In The Ring' boxing commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com) and is available for free- lance print, radio or TV assignments at email@example.com.