Campbell (right) at war with Jorge Linares. Photo / @HBOboxing
The first fight was a stepping stone that turned into a stumbling block, and now it’s about putting things right.
On December 12, 2015, Olympic champion Luke Campbell, then unbeaten in 12 fights, faced off against the vastly more experienced Frenchman Yvan Mendy. The quick-fisted Campbell had looked sizzling during the embryonic stages of his professional development and was being fast-tracked to a world title opportunity. But then disaster struck. Mendy floored the younger fighter en route to a 12-round split decision victory.
Campbell, who is currently rated No. 8 by The Ring at lightweight, was obviously disenchanted with his first professional setback. However, the affable young contender from Hull, England, was suffering from an illness coming into the bout and insists he was way below par.
And a lot has happened since. Last September, Campbell’s beloved father lost a brave battle to cancer only days prior to his son’s 12-round split decision defeat to then-Ring and WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares. That tragic news wasn’t made public until after the fight, and the warrior-like performance Campbell put on that night can only be described as astonishing. The, a few months later, the decision was made for “Cool Hand” to switch from trainer Jorge Rubio in Miami to a closer base with Shane McGuigan in London.
This Saturday the pair take on Mendy in a rematch at Wembley Stadium in London, and this is a real fight.
“My mindset is on point and this is just like any other fight,” said Campbell with defiance. “Mendy is ranked No. 1 with the WBC and I’m ranked No. 2. It’s the top two lightweights in a final eliminator. I don’t hold grudges and I’m not upset about what happened in the first fight. It hurt at the time, I’m not going to deny that, but I need to beat the best in this sport. He’s in the way, and by beating him, I will get to clean my record. Sure, I’ll get satisfaction out of doing that.
“After the first fight, I wasn’t hurt because of him, I was hurt because of myself. I have nothing personal against him. It’s not about getting a rematch and getting one over on him. I want to be the best, so I want to beat them all. I don’t want to lose. I give this sport my life, day in, day out, sacrifice everything for boxing. You haven’t seen the best of me and September 22nd will be the first moment you see what I’m capable of.”
The first fight featured some brutal give-and-take action. Mendy, who is currently rated No. 9 by The Ring, had suffered prior defeats to an upcoming Viktor Postol, as well as European champion Edis Tatli. Against Campbell, however, he wouldn’t take no for an answer and looked strong as he backed up the former amateur standout.
“I didn’t notice him as being stronger than any other lightweight,” insisted Campbell. “Don’t get me wrong, he’s strong; he’s a solid fighter. He’s very tough and he’s a hard man. He’s durable and he’s never been stopped. But they’re all strong when you get to a certain level. You don’t get to where he is without having strength and power.
“I just need to be the best I can be. It’s nothing to do with the shots he throws, or what he does good. I just know if I’m on form and ready, which I know I am, then I’ll beat him. I haven’t seen one of his fights since we met in the ring. I know he’s unbeaten in seven, but my coach will look at all that. Shane will tell me what to do and I’ll do it.”
As Campbell said, the Mendy rematch is a final eliminator for the WBC lightweight title. That belt, as well as the IBF version, is currently held by pound-for-pound star Mikey Garcia, who has been all over the scales in recent outings. There was a brief rumor that Campbell and Mendy could contest the vacant title if Garcia went ahead with a proposed move up to welterweight.
“There’s no movement on that right now,” confirmed Campbell. “If Garcia is talking about moving up to welter, and he does make the move, then I’d love to fight Mendy for the title. I don’t think that’ll happen, but you never know. For now, I just need to concentrate on who’s in front of me, and we’ll see what the next step is.
“If that belt gets tied up after this fight, then I’d love to face (Jorge) Linares again. If I’m cleaning up my record, then let’s face him too. Why not? And he’s ranked high with the WBC, so if Garcia vacates that could be a title fight. I learned a lot in the Linares fight, and I actually thought I won. I thought I won seven rounds, and that was with me getting put on my arse in the second round. That’s the reason they say I didn’t get the decision. But I faced a three-time world champion in his back garden, on his show, so I was always up against it. I’ve had my bad luck now – it’s gone – and now it’s time to get what I deserve. I’m gonna work for it and show you that I can do it.”
Campbell-Mendy II will be chief support to the unified heavyweight title bout between champion Anthony Joshua and challenger Alexander Povetkin. The bout will be shown live on Sky Sports Box Office in the U.K. and DAZN in the U.S.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
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