by Cliff Rold
Beibut Shumenov, quietly, continues to reign as the WBA titlist at Light Heavyweight. IBF Light Heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud is scheduled to make his annual appearance against Bernard Hopkins on March 9 in a big event.
With different officials, with what many would say were better scores, another man could occupy either of those spaces. All other things being equal, he could be one of the sports few unified titlists, maybe even the recognized best in the world at 175 lbs. Fate had something else in mind for that man.
Saturday night on NBC Sports (9 PM EST/6 PM PST), former WBA Light Heavyweight beltholder Gabriel Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KO) returns from injury and ignominious outcome for the first time since dropping a split decision to Cloud in February 2012. It his fifth fight since a dubiously scored rematch defeat that cost him a belt versus Shumenov, his second since a debatable draw against Karo Murat.
Campillo’s return will be widely overshadowed by a big HBO card. His pay will likely lag behind what a champion could receive. His opponent, Sergey Kovalev (19-0-1, 17 KO), is the sort of talented, high-risk, low-reward challenge a champion can wait on.
At 34, a top fighter’s window for accomplishment and savings deposit growth is typically closing. Campillo is fighting to keep his window open. He should have one if not two belts to cash in on right now. Boxing’s proliferation of belts may take away from their merit, but they maintain significant value as economic markers. Campillo, at #3, is in position to improve his IBF rating. He is unrated by the WBC, WBA, and WBO.
The boxing world isn’t giving him much of a window to play with.
It isn’t fair.
Boxing often isn’t.
Without a consistent knockout punch, Campillo relies on high output and defense to outbox opponents. He’s as watchable a defensive fighter as boxing has right now. It hasn’t worked out for him in fights where it should have. Outside a stoppage loss in 2007, he may not have an earned blemish on his record.
It is a graphic example of the downside of the unlucky. In extraordinary circumstances, highly debated decisions can pay off for the man seen as victim. Most of the time, the sport just keeps going.
The Shumenov and Cloud decisions didn’t just hurt for those days. They hurt every time Campillo has to take less than he earned. To the victors have gone rewards. To the rightful winner, the reward is more time on a long road.
There have been worse decisions and greater victims. Debatable scores are as old as the Marquis of Queensbury Rules. It is a weak apology for boxing’s enduring weakness when it comes to scoring.
There are also worse landings. A nationally televised, likely crowd-pleasing match isn’t without opportunity. But a loss likely ends opportunity altogether in a fight he might not have been in, or could have been in with the cushion of title immediacy behind it.
That’s the worst part. Unearned losses leave fighters in position where they can’t afford possible earned losses, something Campillo could surely suffer this weekend though he’s favored. Bad decisions alter the trajectory of careers, take money out of pockets, impact the futures of the families of fighters, and can hasten moves to the exit.
An optimist could argue they also set up great possibilities, the chance for redemption in the end, for a turn of fortune that makes for a satisfying end. That optimism would largely come from observers, fans and writers and T.V. guys who like the story that goes along with the sport.
Storytelling doesn’t pay bills.
Campillo will go out to win this weekend. Let’s hope if he does, he does.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Annual Champ for Champ: https://www.boxingscene.com/not-pound-poundchamp-champ-2012--61315
Molina Bounces Back: https://www.boxingscene.com/john-molina-regroups-back-hunt-with-one-shot--61316
Always enjoy putting together the annual Champ for Champ list but there was one pretty bad omission this year. Anselmo Moreno got overlooked, and with his lengthy run at Bantamweight he still merited a nod. Next year…Ricky Burns-Miguel Vazquez doesn’t scream action classic. However, when paired with the recent Adrien Broner-Antonio DeMarco fight, we’re seeing a real paring down at Lightweight. It’s not a great division right now, but all that can be asked is to make the fights that are there. It’s happening. Let’s hope it all leads to a final…Super Middleweight is already pared down but it continues to deliver with a lock champion up top. Carl Froch-Mikkel Kessler II being signed is a boon for fight fans and one wonders where it will land on U.S. airwaves. The last time, it was a Fight of the Year contender on Showtime. Based on fight quality, HBO, Showtime, and Epix should all want this…Ring Magazine’s decision to skip over Chris John in determining their Featherweight champion isn’t shocking. This sort of 1 vs. 3 decision has been par for the course at Ring for the last decade. What makes this one a little odd is how little Mikey Garcia has under his belt in letting his “3” trump John’s “2.” Garcia’s rise through the ranks is purely about attrition and circumstance. John may have stepped off the gas in recent years, but his 17 title defenses include some real contenders over the years. Garcia’s two most notable wins are Bernabe Concepcion and lucky former titlist Jonathan Barros. Neither was rated by Ring going into those fights. That’s not a knock on Garcia as a fighter. He’s good. He may well beat Orlando Salido on Saturday. But, to fill a vacant title with one man just beginning to step up is hasty at best. The winner should not be seen by anyone as THE Featherweight Champion of the World.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]