Boxing bids farewell to the “Galaxxy Warrior” Nate Campbell today after a memorable 10-year career that spanned junior lightweight to junior welterweight and included a one-year reign as lightweight champion of the world.
Campbell got a late start in boxing, trying out for the U.S. Olympic team at the relatively old age of 27. When he failed to make the team, Campbell ended his amateur career and turned professional to support his wife and three daughters. Prior to boxing, he worked an assortment of odd jobs but believed he had the ability to succeed in the squared circle.
Late to the dance, Campbell made up for lost time by going 23-0 with 21 knockouts. His impressive three-year run landed him an HBO bout with Joel Casamayor, who only a year before had controversially lost his portion of the junior lightweight title to Acelino Freitas in a unification bout. Campbell not only held his own against Casamayor, but deserved the win in the eyes of many viewers.
Having fought one of the world’s best 130-pounders so close, Campbell was hungrier than ever for the spotlight and jumped back into the ring just four months later, in May of 2003. He would have been well-advised to wait because he only managed a draw against Edelmario Martinez. Thus began the up-and-down nature that would define the remainder of Nate’s career.
In a mouth-watering match with Robbie Peden in 2004, Campbell had his man reeling from body shots and ready to go in the fifth round. But Nate foolishly dropped his hands to admire his handiwork and learned the hard lesson of protecting yourself at all times when Peden knocked him cold with one shot.
Needing to get back in the win column, Campbell looked for revenge against Edelmario. He got it in a rough-and-tumble affair that saw Nate drop his foe three times. Out of desperation, Edelmario low blowed his way out of the fight, and Campbell found redemption by way of disqualification. Revenge against Peden, however, was not to be had, as Nate was knocked out once again in their rematch in 2005.
For the next several years, Campbell continued the trend of looking like a superstar one moment and very average the next, obliterating the highly touted Kid Diamond Almazbek Raiymkulov on an HBO pay-per-view but losing split decisions to head-scratching opponents Francisco Lorenzo and Isaac Hlatshwayo.
Finally, in March of 2008, Nate put it all together for the biggest fight of his career. Undefeated Juan Diaz held three of the lightweight titles and put them on the line against Campbell in Cancun. Spring Break couldn’t have been better for the “Galaxxy Warrior,” who roughed Diaz up, cut him and left Mexico the new lightweight champion after a split but very one-sided decision victory.
Though Diaz had collected three of the division’s four titles, it was Casamayor who was recognized as the linear lightweight champion. It seemed Campbell would get his long-awaited second chance at Casamayor, but the parties failed to come to an agreement and Casamayor instead lost the lightweight title to Juan Manuel Marquez later in the year. Campbell turned his attention to undefeated Joan Guzman, but the fight fell apart at the twelfth hour when Guzman failed to make weight. Nate bravely opted to go through with the fight anyway, but Guzman opted out, leaving Campbell without an opponent until 2009.
Having been on the shelf for nearly a year, Campbell prepared to defend his gold against the sizeable African force Ali Funeka. This time, however, it was Campbell who failed to make weight and lost his hard-earned titles on the scales. The added weight advantage helped Nate score two crucial knockdowns that led to him winning the bout, but he alienated some of his fans by not making weight when his much taller opponent had found a way to do so.
Campbell blamed the weight troubles on his aging body and appropriately went up to 140 pounds to continue his career. Opportunity came fast, as he scored a date with undefeated WBO Champion Tim Bradley. It went just as fast, as the young and relentless Bradley tore into Campbell and never gave him a chance. When a head butt opened a cut over Nate’s eye, he lobbied for the bout to be stopped rather than suffer the knockout that was sure to come. Initially ruled a win for Bradley, the fight was changed to a no contest upon further review.
The next two fights of Campbell’s career proved to be his last. After losing a lopsided decision to stablemate Victor Ortiz this spring, Campbell proposed taking time off from the sport to heal from an inflamed pelvis that was limiting his fight game. But he was back in the ring before the end of the year to suffer a decision loss to unknown Walter Estrada, who was knocked out in a single round by Yuriorkis Gamboa. At age 38, Nate is hanging up the gloves at the right time.
Campbell can hold his head up for his achievements in boxing and knowing that he exits the sport with his dignity in tact. Boxing rarely shows such graciousness toward late entries, but Nate worked hard to become the exception to the rule. He took his lickings, many of them bad, but when the stars aligned, he was capable of holding his own with and beating some of the best in the game.
Tags: Boxing, Nate Campbell