The “Duel in the Desert” between WBO Junior Welterweight Champion Tim Bradley and Nate Campbell ended in a storm of controversy when Campbell was unable to continue after suffering a cut that appeared to come from a clash of heads but was ruled the result of a punch.
Coming off his title unification win over Kendall Holt in April, Bradley gave up his WBC title to defend the WBO version against the experienced Campbell, who was making his debut at 140 pounds after failing to make weight in his last lightweight effort. As a former three-belt titlist at 135 pounds, Campbell was considered Bradley’s most difficult opponent to date. And, as compensation for taking on such a stiff test, Bradley was allowed to fight essentially on his home turf in Rancho Mirage, California. Bradley is from nearby Palm Springs.
But home field advantage was never a factor as Bradley surprisingly made the fight look easy. Aside from one straight right hand across the jaw in round one, which Bradley took well, Campbell was held at bay by the champion’s faster hands. Unable to put any punches on Bradley, Campbell spent most of the first two rounds running his mouth in an attempt to psyche the younger fighter out.
The 37-year-old Campbell, 12 years older than the man pressuring him, was starting to look like he didn’t have it anymore as Bradley jumped on him with a flurry to begin round three. During the assault, the fighters bumped heads, and Campbell stumbled back along the ropes, animatedly looking to Referee David Mendoza to complain. Mendoza hesitated, taking a look, and then signaled to the officials at ringside, though he didn’t audibly explain the gesture.
Bradley, meanwhile, proceeded to pounce on Campbell with fifteen unanswered punches against the ropes. As he was being hit, Campbell looked to Mendoza to argue further, revealing a bad cut over his left eye. While Campbell complained, Bradley fought, continuing to hammer in shots while Campbell was pinned against the ropes. Campbell’s only response was a shake of the head as he was too exhausted to even counter.
Campbell sagged against the ropes, looking like he might actually be stopped since he wasn’t able to defend himself or return fire. Bradley’s lack of knockout power enabled Campbell to survive to the bell, but it was on his stool that the biggest surprise of the night happened.
Campbell walked back to his corner, checking the condition of his eye out on the video wall, before taking a seat. With a shake of the head, Campbell leaned over the ropes and told his trainer, John David Jackson, that he couldn’t see. While his corner men tried wiping the blood away for a better look, Campbell adamantly refused treatment. Stopping his corner men from working on him, a panicking Campbell audibly told them to stop the fight.
Fully aware that he was on his way to being stopped or losing on the cards should the cut worsen after four rounds, and with the knowledge that he could walk out with a no contest should the bout end at that point, Campbell saw a way to escape without a loss and went for it.
The problem was Mendoza had never ruled that Campbell’s cut was from a butt, though replays later seemed to confirm that to be the case. And so the fight was stopped, with Bradley winning on a technical knockout.
In Mendoza’s defense, a head clash is often extremely difficult to notice in-fight. Oftentimes, it’s the fighters’ reactions that indicate a butt rather than the butt itself. This scenario is the number one reason boxing is desperately in need of instant replay for official fight decisions. Campbell was the latest victim in a situation that has come up in three notable fights in the last year.
After seeing Bradley celebrate and questioning Mendoza about the verdict, Campbell was predictably outraged to discover that, by quitting, he had suffered a loss rather than a technical draw. Campbell pleaded with anyone who would listen to his case, but the fact was he tried to work the system by opting out before another round could be logged, which he knew would have cost him the fight on the scorecards.
Aside from failing to make sure the cut had been ruled the result of a head butt, Campbell actually did the smart thing, though it will surely bring him under scrutiny now, especially since the cameras caught him telling his corner men to stop the fight even before the ringside doctor took a look at the severity of his cut. He essentially quit in a bad situation, which will tarnish the warrior image he so desperately tries to project for himself. Realizing he was out of his league against the younger Bradley, he got out while he still could.
In an effort to protect his rapidly deteriorating reputation, Campbell delivered a tirade about how he’s the only fighter willing to take on everyone else in boxing. During his tantrum, he expectedly called for a rematch, inciting a war of words between his promoter, Don King, and Bradley’s promoter, Gary Shaw, who both hinted that they would be interested in a rematch, though Shaw was more noncommittal about the possibility.
And in truth, a rematch probably wouldn’t look much different. Unless Campbell can somehow turn back what looked like clear signs of aging, he’ll be in for a rough night against Bradley, who was better in every way – at least for three rounds.
WITTER EXITS A QUITTER AS ALEXANDER PICKS UP WBC TITLE
In the biggest fight of his young career, undefeated Devon Alexander picked up the WBC Junior Welterweight title vacated by Tim Bradley this spring when he made former champion Junior Witter quit on his stool after eight chess-like rounds.
In a strange twist of fate, Witter, who lost the WBC title to Bradley in his hometown of Nottingham, England, was trying to win the title back on what was essentially Bradley’s home turf. He started out well, switching between conventional and southpaw stances to hit Alexander with both hands in round one. But he fought erratically, even doing a complete somersault after missing wildly at one point.
Witter was winning the second round as well until getting caught by a left-right combination from the southpaw Alexander that made him stumble aside in the final seconds. Alexander also took the third round when he wobbled Witter into the ropes with a right hook near the end of the round. Though Witter mocked Alexander by acting more hurt than he was, the judges needed something to separate the fighters in otherwise close rounds, meaning Witter surely dropped the round.
Witter bounced back by winning round four, but the biggest moment of the fight came in round five when Witter hurled a wild left hand and ate a big one in return from Alexander that snapped his head straight up. Badly hurt, Witter fell into the ropes before coming off and grabbing Alexander around the waist to avoid hitting the canvas. It was a brilliant veteran move to recover from a brilliant shot and allowed Witter to get out of the round without losing an extra point.
Rounds six and seven could have gone either way as Alexander’s work rate dropped off, enabling Witter to score enough to get by. But in round eight, Alexander was much more assertive, forcing Witter to play defense and hold more often.
After the round, Referee Dr. Lou Moret urged Witter to hold less or risk losing a point, and Witter surprisingly responded by getting off his stool, walking across the ring and embracing Alexander, thereby opting out of the fight, despite not taking serious punishment and still very much in the fight. The stunned fans booed as Witter left the ring, and Alexander’s stablemate and fellow St. Louis native Cory Spinks entered the ring to celebrate with him. Alexander revealed another trait he had in common with Spinks when he began crying in joy over the victory.
Witter later explained from his dressing room that he quit due to an injured elbow, which he felt was inhibiting his ability to throw punches. At 35 years of age, his career may be in jeopardy as his days of being a serious contender draw closer to an end with this most recent loss.
Meanwhile Alexander now finds himself in the same position Bradley was in at this time last year: the undefeated WBC Champion with a big win over Witter. Perhaps Alexander will continue in the footsteps of Bradley and attempt to unify his title with Bradley’s in the coming year. Right now, it seems like one of the most logical matchups to make in the 140-pound division.
Tags: Boxing, Devon Alexander, Nate Campbell, Tim Bradley, Timothy Bradley, WBO