A BASN Exclusive With Nate Campbell

By Francis Walker
Updated: February 15, 2009

Nate Campbell had to relinquish his world lightweight championships after failing to make the 135-pound weight limit for his mandatokry defense against Ali Funeka. Belts or no belts, Campbell has a championship heart. Photo Credit: Don King Productions

Nate Campbell had to relinquish his world lightweight championships after failing to make the 135-pound weight limit for his mandatokry defense against Ali Funeka. Belts or no belts, Campbell has a championship heart. Photo Credit: Don King Productions

NEW YORK – When Nate Campbell failed to make the 135-pound weight limit in defense of the unified IBF/WBO lightweight championships against South African Ali Funeka, “The Galaxy Warrior” lost his titles on the scales.

The champion came up three pounds overweight and could only shed off ½ pounds after an allocated two hour time frame.

Campbell could have made millions of excuses and decided not to fight Funeka and move on with his life. Although Campbell decided to go through with the fight, he could have short-changed everyone by collecting his payday without caring.

But that’s not Nate Campbell’s style.

Fighting with nothing on the line but his pride, Campbell proved his professionalism and character by fulfilling his obligation to fight Funeka in the main event of an HBO Boxing After Dark telecast on Saturday at the Bank Atlantic Center in Sunrise, Fla.

In the days leading up to what would have been his first defense of the IBF/WBO lightweight championships; Nate Campbell talked to this fight writer and gave the impression that he would do everything in his power to remain champion. Campbell appeared confident.

“I’m the present – Nate Campbell,” the now former champion told BASN. “Everybody says ‘all these other fighters are going to be the next great thing.’ I want to be the present great thing.”

Campbell realizes ‘American Dream’

Campbell, born in Jacksonville, Fla. in 1972, he grew up in a rough neighborhood in a household where his dad was addicted to alcohol. Campbell was a foster child before he was eight years old and was married with his first child by 18. Campbell went from working a series of odd jobs in supermarkets and fast-food chains before turning to boxing late at age 26.

“I am the American Dream.” said Campbell, who turns 37 in a few weeks. “Anybody can have a good mother and father. When you don’t have either or you have to make it on your own, that’s the American Dream.”

Campbell added: “I am the Pilgrim that came over with nothing and had to learn how to survive on this land. They don’t think about what I had to go through to get what I’ve gotten.”

When Campbell turned professional in February 2000, he was 27 years old. Campbell quickly became recognized as a fast-growing super featherweight contender, as he complied a 23-0, 21 KO record. Suddenly, in the next 1½ years, Campbell went from rising prospect to “opponent” status.

Rough spots

Campbell would drop a decision to Joel Casamayor (L 10) in 2003 before suffering two devastating losses to Robbie Peden. In the first bout in March 2004, Campbell dropped his hands in the fifth round and was leveled square in the mat. The fight was embarrassingly stopped, as Campbell returned to his feet.

In February 2005, Campbell challenged Peden for the IBF super featherweight championship, but the bout was stopped in round eight with Campbell on the losing end.

“If you notice, these losses were at 130 pounds,” Campbell informed BASN. “When I moved up to 135, it was a different animal for me. I didn’t have to kill myself to make weight.”

In the last four years Campbell is 10-2; both losses were split decisions against Francisco Lorenzo (2005) and Issac Hlatshwayo (2006).

Campbell proves ‘genius’ against Juan Diaz

Campbell has won his last five fights. Perhaps the biggest win in Campbell’s career dates back to March 2008 when he lifted the WBA/WBO/IBF lightweight championships from previously unbeaten Juan Diaz.

“I think that I am a genius,” Campbell said. “I look at your strengths and plan a strategy to break you down. Today, these young fighters have no defense, no skill.”

Campbell proved that claim in the Diaz fight when he proved that Diaz was susceptible to body punches. Aside from having a straight forward, aggressive style which consists of volume punching; Diaz had no other alternate plan of attack. Campbell blocked and picked a lot of Diaz’ punches with his gloves, arms, and head movement. Diaz was an open book and Campbell brought the fight and took Diaz belts away.

Campbell vs. Funeka recap

Campbell planned to beat Diaz by attacking his body consistently. Campbell (33-5-1, 25 KOs) also had an intelligent plan for Funeka (30-2, 25 KOs) – the No. 1 ranked contender by the International Boxing Federation.

“He’s 6-feet-1 and I’m going to take his right hand away,” said the 5-foot-7 Campbell. “It’s going to be a show. I’m the better puncher. This guy could get KO’d really fast.”

Although Campbell lost his titles at the scales on Friday, that did not deter him from fighting his hard to win.

Campbell scored two knockdowns of Funeka en route to a 12-round majority decision victory. The judges scored the bout 115-111, 114-112 (Campbell) and 113-113 even.

“I’m hurt,” an apologetic Campbell said afterwards. “I worked my whole life to become world champion and my body said no more. I worked hard to become world champion and I left them on the scales.”

In round two, Campbell rocked Funeka with a wide right hook before dropping him with another right hand to the temple. Campbell applied a lot of pressure behind short, but heavy right hooks to Funeka’s body.

Campbell was the aggressor and the harder puncher, but he had trouble keeping pace with Funeka’s punch volume. Funeka’s strength was his ability to throw punches. Funeka doubled and tripled his left jab before launching right hooks and uppercuts. Funeka’s combination punching brought him back into the fight.

Campbell strained himself in attempt to make the 135 pound limit, but came up 2 ½ pounds short. Campbell, a volume puncher himself, relied heavily on his defense and right hands to Funeka’s body to earn points on the judges’ scorecards.

It appeared as though Campbell was behind on the judges scorecards entering the later stages of the fight. Campbell kept getting hit more frequently. Funeka appeared to be landing the clear punches more consistently, but the edge in power remained with Campbell.

In round eleven, Campbell rallied behind a stiff left and right combination that floored Funeka. Stunned against the ropes, Funeka grabbed and held an aggressive Campbell looking to land his right hand.

Funeka survived, but was again on the defensive in the twelfth and final round. Funeka threw punches, but in attempt to sway Campbell from attacking him. Campbell had a hard time landing the KO punch, but he was persistent in breaking Funeka down with right hands to his body.

Campbell’s lost opportunity

It was awesome to see Campbell wearing the IBF/WBO/WBA 135-pound titles, but did such a good thing really have to end so soon? Say what you want about the multiple titles, but the belts gives fighters leverage and marketability.

The fighters make the titles more popular than what they really are. The fighters themselves believe that when they have a world title belt either around their waist or on their shoulders, they are truly a champion.

Fighters have been fighting for trophies and title belts long before they begin fighting for money. Campbell really didn’t have chance to fully maximize his earning potential while he was world champion. His WBO mandatory against Joan Guzman in September was halted when Guzman failed to make the 135-pound weight limit (ironic).

It would have been wonderful to watch Nate Campbell challenge the winner of the upcoming Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Juan Diaz fight in Houston on February 28, but Campbell needed to remain champion for that fight to be considered a possibility.

More than likely, Campbell will be moving up to the junior welterweight limit of 140 pounds.