By Cliff Rold
It could have been a unification fight.
What appears to be the best-matched contest of the weekend should feature an exciting, violent IBF titlist against an exciting, cerebral WBA beltholder. The judges screwed Gabriel Campillo out of his WBA belt against Beibut Shumenov in 2010. They almost gave screwed him again in a draw last year against Karo Murat.
Saturday night, he can find redemption against a man who never fights to get to the cards.
Redemption isn’t a storyline contained to the title affair. At Jr. Middleweight, Paul Williams tries to bounce back from what should have been two straight defeats (no, there is no rational argument for his winning against Erislandy Lara last year) against one of the best stories of 2011. Can his opponent keep lightning in the bottle?
Let’s go the report cards.
Title: IBF Light Heavyweight (2009-Present, 3 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 175 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 174.5 lbs.
Hails from: Tallahassee, Florida
Record: 23-0, 19 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #3 at Light Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 4-0, 1 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 3 (Julio Gonzalez, Clinton Woods, Glen Johnson)
Previous Titles: WBA Light Heavyweight (2009-10, 1 Defense)
Weight: 173.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 173.2 lbs.
Hails from: Madrid, Spain
Record: 21-3-1, 8 KO, 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #4 at Light Heavyweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-1
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 2 (Hugo Garay, Beibut Shumenov)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 1 (Beibut Shumenov)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Cloud B+; Campillo B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Cloud A-; Campillo B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Cloud B; Campillo A-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Cloud A; Campillo B+
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 155 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 155.3 lbs.
Hails from: Osaka, Japan
Record: 24-6-2, 9 KO
BoxingScene Rank: #6 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-1 (all interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated or Faced in Defeat: 0
Previous Titles: WBO Welterweight (2007-08; 08)
Weight: 153.5 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 155.2 lbs.
Hails from: Augusta, Georgia
Record: 40-2, 27 KO , 1 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 2-2, 1 KO, 1 KOBY (3-2, 2 KO, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Defeated: 7 (Sharmba Mitchell, Antonio Margarito, Carlos Quintana, Verno Phillips, Winky Wright, Sergio Martinez, Kermit Cintron)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced in Defeat: 2 (Carlos Quintana, Sergio Martinez)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Ishida B+; Williams A
Pre-Fight: Power – Ishida B; Williams B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Ishida B; Williams B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Ishida B; Williams A
Beginning with the Jr. Middleweights, a question is posed: take away Ishida’s shocking first round upset of James Kirkland last year and would this be viewed as anything but a mismatch? While Williams enters off a knockout loss to Sergio Martinez and protracted beatdown against Lara, consider the quality of those foes.
Martinez is one of the best fighters in the world and still the reigning Middleweight king. Lara, given opportunities, might prove the best Jr. Middleweight in the world. Prior to Kirkland, Ishida was your average fringe player.
Oh, the power of the upset.
Ishida is better than cries of mismatch would have made him without the Kirkland win. An awkward southpaw, he has a little bit of range and is willing to move. His problems come in the form of the speed and volume Williams brings and a lack of power. Even if Ishida can counter, what does he have to slow the Williams offense? His only hope is to make Williams chase him, counter, and get away before Williams responds in volley.
It’s a long chance.
The same cannot be said for Campillo against Cloud. In a Light Heavyweight division full of fresh talent and good matches, this is one of the best that could be made. Both men throw punches. Both men come forward.
Both men are going to get hit.
Of the two, Campillo is the lighter hitter. He makes up for it with a volume offense and a sound defense. He rolls and counters beautifully and never seems to get excited. Fighting tall, he is able to see opponents and react without going into a shell.
Cloud is, simply put, one of the most exciting fighters on the planet. Given the entertainment value he provides, his inactivity is a disgrace. Cloud should be on T.V. as often as he feels like. This fight, win or lose, will serve as evidence for why.
Cloud’s danger here could be early. He sometimes needs to warm to task and, against Campillo, could fall behind early. Against Campillo, one of his strengths comes in style even if he does. Unlike Campillo foes like Hugo Garay, Shumenov, and Murat, he isn’t going to back up and let Campillo press like the Spaniard likes too. When Campillo comes forward, he’ll find Cloud ready to push him back.
While Campillo is great at the volume game, Cloud is lethal in terms of power combination punching. He sets shots up and finishes with the sort of hard hooks and crosses that multiply affect over a fight. Campillo’s better defense is still one that is unafraid of letting an opponent land. If Cloud doesn’t get locked up when Campillo is throwing, he can wear those defenses down.
Chins count too. Campillo has been stopped before. Cloud hasn’t looked hurt yet and faces a man without stopping power. Both have sensational stamina.
It’s a pick ‘em affair.
Williams-Ishida, in contrast, is a pick him affair. Him, in this case, is Williams. Ishida is the perfect opponent for Williams to get back to winning against while getting credit fore besting the ‘man who beat Kirkland.’ Unless Williams is completely shot, and he hasn’t looked it yet, he should be able to roll over Ishida round after round. The Japanese battler has never been stopped. Williams will force his corner to do the honors by the ninth.
At Light Heavyweight, no outcome would be a shock short of Cloud being stopped early. Ultimately, the choice is Cloud to win by a late stoppage. He’s too physical, and too strong, for Campillo to outwork him for a whole fight. After a close first half, Cloud should pull away and break Campillo down. The 35-year old legs of Campillo will fade as the power punches mount and Cloud will take a step closer to…
…well, let’s just hope it’s not another long break.
Report Card Picks 2012: 3-1
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]