Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Timothy Bradley vs Nate Campbell Preview

Michael Nelson previews the upcoming Timothy Bradley vs Nate Campbell junior-welterweight clash.

Photo © Justin McKie

Timothy Bradley (pictured landing a booming right hand to the chin of Junior Witter) had his sights on unifying all the major titles in the Jr. Welterweight division. WBC shenanigans have since soured him, and a man well familiar with the cynical politics of the boxing game tried to warn him a year ago.

"Timothy oughta be the maddest guy in the world," Nate Campbell said in a Leave It in the Ring podcast with Bradley three weeks ago. "Me and Timothy met after he got my main event when that boy Guzman wouldn't fight me... Timothy had the same WBC belt that Manny Pacquiao had. I remember Timothy said 'well, this is the big belt, this is the one everbody's after'. I looked at you Timothy and told you right in your face 'look here man, they're all the same when it's all said and done. You're gonna find out, they're all full of doo doo'. They were gonna stick it in him eventually."

Make sure to check back in with us on Saturday night for our live blog coverage of this event

Stick it in him they did. Prior to his WBC and WBO unification bout with Kendall Holt in April, the WBC announced that the winner would have to quickly relinquish one of the belts, making Bradley's goal of unifying every title a seemingly impossible one. Timothy chose to reject the mandatory fight with Devon Alexander - a promising, but untested Don King fighter - and drop the WBC strap in search for more significant bouts and paydays.

With the ambitious schedule he's been on, it's hard to doubt the undefeated Palm Springs native when he says he only wants to fight the best opponents. In addition to Holt, Bradley has defeated Miguel Vazquez (who soundly outboxed Breidis Prescott last weekend), Junior Witter, and Edner Cherry within the last two years. Now he's facing a tenacious veteran that he admittedly looked up to, a man who held three of the Lightweight titles before struggles to make weight forced him to move up a division.

A man who believes being undefeated is overrated and prides himself in proving it.

Nate Campbell's title winning effort against Juan Diaz in March 2008 was one of the more memorable upsets in recent years. Juan was 33-0, having just mowed down fellow titlists Acelino Freitas and Julio Diaz. The 37 year old Campbell was seen as more grass to be shredded.

But young Diaz quickly found out how unrelenting that foliage was. Campbell painted the 23 year old with right hands and left hooks to the midsection until Diaz' sides were shades of red and purple. Further, rough inside work mixed with pinpoint counter punching resulted in a nasty gash over Diaz' already swollen left eye. Throughout the second half of the bout, Diaz, now with compromised vision and a battered rib cage, got thrashed by a reinvigorated fighter who had finally gotten his title shot after years of faux eliminators and empty promises. Campbell took Diaz' belts and earned his long sought-after recognition as an elite pugilist.

His time at the mountain top, however, was a frustrating one. His efforts to goad Joel Casamayor into a rematch of their closely contested 2003 bout went unanswered. Then after finally locking down a bout with Joan Guzman last September, the fight was scrapped when Guzman couldn't make weight and decided against performing because of health issues. Ironically, Campbell himself would fail to make weight in his following encounter against the freakishly tall Ali Funeka. Stripped of his belts, he went on to battle through heavy fatigue in the middle rounds to gut out a close decision, fatigue that he claims resulted from a total of nine hours in the sauna the previous day.

Campbell can't afford to spend too much time struggling to make weight before August 1st, as fatigue would likely result in a loss against the energetic Bradley. Timothy fights the championship rounds as vivaciously as he does the beginning rounds, bouncing in and out with combinations and alertly countering lazily thrown punches from a weary opponent.

Unless age is finally catching up to him though, Campbell's stamina issues with Funeka was an aberration. He showed boundless energy in breaking down Diaz. And he is known for his relentless bell-to-bell beatings, including the frightening one in 2007 that overwhelmed Ricky Quiles. Teddy Atlas was heard screaming at referee Jorge Alonso to stop the fight during a 12th round that was hard to watch.

The bludgeonings revolve around his cruel dedication towards punishing his opponent's body. Launching uppercuts into the sternum and mixing in left hooks to the sweet spot, Campbell has hurt nearly all of his opponents with body shots. Sometimes they recover. Many times they don't. Bradley's going to have to deal with a body attack he hasn't come close to dealing with before.

Bradley's no slouch when it comes to body punching himself. It was his primary mode of attack against the length of Kendall Holt. But Campbell has the decided edge on the inside; it's where he's most comfortable, and even inside of a clinch, he's constantly hitting his opponent with his free hand and bumping him with his shoulder.

Timothy will have to do his most effective work on the outside. Although some think he doesn't have much more than a high work rate, his ring IQ may be his greatest strength. You rarely, if ever, see him get handled in all three minutes of a round because he makes adjustments on the fly. That awareness, combined with head movement and a constant, pesky jab, makes him a difficult man to corral. One moment, he's on his back foot looking to slip a jab and counter with a left hook to the liver; the next, he's pushing forward with jabs to the gut, looking to land an overhand right.

Nate's an astute counter puncher that loves to shoot right hands over his opponent's stick. But he's right hand happy from the outside, rarely throwing a lead left hook or a hook off a jab. The slippery Bradley is one of the best in the game at rolling away and underneath rights. He's far more susceptible to getting touched with his opponent's left hand - either being clipped with a left hook or knocked back by a stiff jab. Holt, a significantly bigger man than Nate, flashed a heavy, well-timed jab and a sharp counter hook that gave Bradley fits. While Campbell has a busy up-jab and a solid left hook thrown on the inside, Bradley won't have to worry about Nate's left hand as much.

What he will have to worry about is Nate matching his work rate, something that Holt didn't come close to doing. How Bradley will react to a skilled fighter who isn't easily discouraged is yet to be seen. Although the Desert Storm has been 12 rounds three times before, Nate can take the young man to unfamiliar waters and attempt to drown him if he sustains a punishing body attack, even if he loses rounds in the process.

It promises to be explosive, no matter who comes out on top. Both men have been jaded by high-jinks born from sanctioning bodies attempting to squeeze every last drop out of the cash cows while discarding those on the peripheral of stardom. The only option for the ignored is to continue to face the best possible fighters until they can no longer be denied. Ultimately, when hungry fighters seek recognition and respect, boxing fans are well fed. The collision course on August 1st was naturally set.

Somebody's getting wrecked. Hopefully the impact resonates beyond just the hardcore fanbase.

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