THE REST OF THE BILL
Previewing Luke Campbell-yvan Mendy, Matty Askin-lawrence Okolie, and more
‘I’M A DIFFERENT FIGHTER NOW THAN WHEN HE BEAT ME’
IN boxing as in life, it’s all about who you know.
Back in December 2015, former amateur standout Luke Campbell was 12-0 and in the process of being groomed for a world title shot by his influential handlers, Matchroom Boxing. Having dismantled the all-action Tommy Coyle in 10 rounds four months previously, next up for the highly touted Brit was Yvan Mendy, who at the time was regarded as a decent but relatively unthreatening opponent.
Unfortunately for Campbell and Matchroom, Mendy proved himself to be more than just decent, and anything but unthreatening. The Frenchman – with four losses to his name – belied his middling status by pulling off a major upset in defeating Campbell via split decision on away turf in the UK.
Coming off a major victory and boasting a high ranking with the WBC, Mendy could’ve been forgiven for expecting a world title shot to come his way. However, without the backing of an internationally renowned promoter, the man from Pont-sainte-maxence has instead had to make do with a series of rather low-key appearances in his home country – seven, to be precise. The silver lining for the 33-year-old is that he has at least been victorious in each of these bouts, therefore cementing his lofty standing in the WBC ratings, where he is now positioned at the top of their list of lightweight contenders.
Campbell, 18-2 (15), has also had seven outings during this period, though whereas Mendy has failed to significantly kick on since their clash, the Hull southpaw has largely flourished, fighting on high-profile bills and picking up the Commonwealth crown. The 30-year-old even managed to get the world title tilt so desired by Mendy, 40-4-1 (19) 1NC. Despite failing in his bid to become the WBA champion one year ago, Campbell enhanced his reputation by pushing the brilliant Jorge Linares all the way in a high-quality contest. Only a split verdict prevented Campbell from dethroning the pound-for-pound star in Inglewood, California.
In boxing as in life, it’s all about who you know. But this is taking nothing away from Campbell, who has bounced back impressively from his demoralising defeat to Mendy and made the most of the opportunities he has been afforded to improve as a fighter.
This Saturday (September 22), in the chief support to Anthony Joshua versus Alexander Povetkin at Wembley Stadium, live on Sky Sports Box Office (UK) and DAZN (US), Campbell gets his chance at revenge against Mendy. The old foes collide over 12 rounds once again, with the fight serving as a final eliminator for the WBC
135lb crown, which is currently held by undefeated pound-for-pounder Mikey Garcia, who also owns the IBF belt.
“I want to clear Mendy off my record,” said WBC No. 2 Campbell, who will be having his first fight under the guidance of trainer Shane Mcguigan. “I can’t wait to right that wrong. I’m a completely different fighter now than when he beat me. I’m bigger, I’m wiser, and my boxing ability is 10 times what it was back then.”
During their first encounter, Campbell was undone by Mendy’s relentless forward march. Despite swallowing some crisp counters in the early rounds, the teaktough visitor would simply not be deterred. After Campbell was dropped by a clubbing left hook in the fifth, the momentum swung back and forth for the remainder of the bout. However, with Campbell regularly being forced to work off the back foot by his ever-advancing opponent, two of the three judges ultimately favoured Mendy’s aggressive approach (115-112 and 115113), while only one official sided with the smooth-boxing Campbell (115-113).
As well as hitting the deck against Mendy, Campbell was also floored by Linares and EX-IBF super-feather champ Argenis Mendez (w ud 12 – July 2016), although he quickly regained his composure on all three of these occasions. Operating behind a high guard for the most part, the rangy Yorkshireman thrusts out sharp jabs that morph into sneaky lead hooks, followed by long straight lefts. A smart and skilful punch-picker, the 2012 Olympic gold medallist uses clever feints and educated footwork to manoeuvre himself into range. Once in position, he unleashes fast flurries, spiteful one-twos and cruel hooks to the body.
Although Mendy conquered Campbell away from home, his other two contests outside France have both resulted in unanimous points defeats, albeit against respected rivals in Ukrainian Viktor Postol (June 2012) and Finland’s Edis Tatli (April 2015). Having fought as a super-lightweight for the first half of his career, the former French champion and European title challenger is a strong 135-pounder. He will be relying on his experience, physicality and fitness to see him through again, but it may not be enough this time.
Also on the show, Blackpool’s Matty Askin, 23-3-1 (15), defends his British cruiserweight strap against Hackney’s 2016 Olympian Lawrence Okolie, 9-0 (7), in an interesting step up for the unbeaten ex-commonwealth king. Meanwhile, Liverpool’s popular former British and Commonwealth heavyweight boss David Price, 22-5 (18), comes in at short notice to take on Saint Petersburg’s undefeated Sergey Kuzmin, 12-0 (9) 1NC, over 10 rounds. Rounding off the card is another fighter yet to taste defeat in 2017 World gold medal-winner Shakhram Giyasov, 4-0 (3). The Brooklyn-based Uzbek takes part in a six-rounder at welterweight.
THE VERDICT A compact undercard, though not short of intrigue.
GOLDEN BOY: 2012 Olympic champ Campbell has grown into a top pro
CHAMPION: Askin is bringing his British cruiserweight title to Wembley Stadium
CHALLENGER: Okolie’s ascent through the professional ranks is moving at a rapid pace