by David P. Greisman
Kevin Bizier had not even had his first pro fight until seven months after Nate Campbell had risen to the top of the lightweight division. But this was no longer 2008 — and this was no longer the 135-pound weight class.
Campbell, one month away from his 41st birthday and at welterweight, was too small and too worn. Bizier, at 28, was too big and too fresh.
While Campbell still had his experience and veteran tactics, Bizier’s size and power proved to be too much. Bizier scored an eighth-round technical knockout over Campbell, who remained on his stool as the ninth-round was to begin, citing a back injury.
Campbell said afterward that a health condition that has bothered him before had flared up in the second round, when he and Bizier “got tangled up, and all the extra weight threw me.” That led him to stop jabbing as much, he said, and he continued to deal with an opponent who had a size advantage over him.
That wasn’t Bizier’s only advantage. And Bizier wouldn’t be Campbell’s only enemy — time would be, too.
Campbell had been a late bloomer in boxing, turning pro a month before his 28th birthday and becoming a second-tier contender in the junior lightweight division before finding his greatest success at 135 — and in his mid-30s.
Campbell stopped previously undefeated Kid Diamond in 2005, lost a split decision to Isaac Hlatshwayo in 2006, then won an elimination bout over Ricky Quiles in 2007 that landed him a shot at top lightweight Juan Diaz in 2008. Campbell took it to the younger Diaz, taking a split decision and taking three world titles with him. He would defend them once, besting Ali Funeka in 2009.
That would be his last big win.
Campbell’s challenge of Timothy Bradley later that year would end on a head butt and, after an appeal, as a “no contest.” He would go on to lose three in a row, falling to Victor Ortiz, Walter Estrada and Danny Garcia. Perhaps done as a featured fighter in the United States, Campbell turned to international outings, beating Sherzod Nazarov in May 2011 in Russia and then losing to Khabib Allakhverdiev elsewhere in that country four months later.
But Campbell had a slight resurgence in 2012, scoring a stoppage of former contender Victor Cayo in the Dominican Republic, then outpointing Krzysztof Szot in Poland. It wasn’t much, but it was enough to bring him to the Bell Centre in Montreal against the undefeated Bizier in the main event of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
Campbell still knew how to fight, using jabs and looping right hands from a distance, digging to his younger foe’s body from in close, and turning into uppercuts when working off the ropes. He still had the savvy, but he didn’t have anywhere near as much ability or energy to use it. That would be due to his age, and any injury could only exacerbate his situation.
Bizier, well, was busier, sending heavy shots into the body of a Campbell whose best days were two divisions below — and who would promise a return to junior welterweight after this loss.
He would often send multiple hooks to Campbell’s head and body, also landing solid right hands that Campbell couldn’t always avoid. Bizier’s activity rate was particularly statistically noticeable in the fourth, when CompuBox credited him with throwing 103 punches, contrasted with 38 for Campbell.
Bizier continued to land and continued to wear down Campbell, who could work to defend himself but couldn’t do enough to make Bizier respect him. In the seventh, Campbell resorted to the mental game, sticking his tongue out at one point, standing by the ropes and daring Bizier to approach him at another. But he wasn’t winning rounds or the fight.
The battle ultimately wouldn’t be worth continuing — not with a 12-round distance, not with Campbell losing, and not with Campbell hurting.
Bizier was too much for Nate Campbell on this night, and frankly, too much for him at this point in his career.
Bizier, who fights out of Saint-Emile, Quebec, improves to 20-0 with 14 knockouts. Campbell, of Jacksonville, Fla., falls to 36-10-1 with 26 knockouts and 1 no contest.
On the undercard, Baha Laham didn’t have any other choice than to fight Tyler Asselstine in the manner he fought him.
Coming in on four days’ notice, and stepping in against a taller, rangier (and fellow undefeated lightweight) opponent, Laham needed constant pressure to try to break Asselstine down and get him out of there early.
And when that didn’t happen, Laham needed grit to last the 10-round distance — and come out with a majority decision win.
The scorecards read 95-95, 96-94 and 96-95, with those close tallies reflecting a closely contested battle that started out furiously, fizzled down the stretch but remained a war of attrition.
Laham came out aggressively from the outset, and Asselstine was willing to oblige, both men exchanging hooks to the head and body from in close. Asselstine couldn’t keep up with Laham or hold up under his pressure, however, and began to slow down after the opening few rounds. Laham persisted with numbers, while Asselstine began to seek opportunities to load up on single shots. Asselstine wouldn’t use much in the way of jabbing or footwork to keep Laham away throughout the fight, instead opting for pushing or holding.
Laham was setting a pace Asselstine couldn’t keep — and couldn’t avoid.
But then after the halfway point of the fight, Laham showed signs of fatigue in the sixth round, being pushed back to the ropes by Asselstine and then, when his opponent moved away at one point, waving him back in. Laham found another surge of energy in the seventh, and then Asselstine found a go-to weapon in the eighth, sending out repeated uppercuts against a foe who was consistently coming straight in with his head down.
The final stanzas largely devolved into a sloppier, slower version of the earlier action. Laham’s sustained offense proved enough for him to eke out the narrow decision
Laham, a 31-year-old fighting out of Montreal, is now 11-0-1 with 4 knockouts. Asselstine, 26, of Toronto, is now 12-1 with 7 knockouts.
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]