Pre­view­ing Luke Camp­bell-yvan Mendy, Matty Askin-lawrence Okolie, and more

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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

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