Luke Campbell was one of the most promising prospects to emerge out of the 2012 GB Olympic boxing team. A gold medallist and a likeable character he emerged victorious from his first twelve fights as a professional. But his smooth rise was unexpectedly interrupted last month after he lost in a split decision to French fighter Yvan Mendy.
In a world where young fighter’s undefeated records, however inflated by easily overcome opposition, are held sacrosanct, the defeat to Mendy is undoubtedly a setback for the fighter from Humberside. When boxer’s are beaten in the early stages of their career, doubt is inevitably cast on their pedigree. Have they been overhyped? Have they been found out? Fighters can go from being touted as invincible to dismissed as also-rans in the course of one bout.
To rush into judgements about Campbell’s long term career prospects after a bad performance would do him a disservice. Occasionally things just don’t work for a number of reasons. Campbell’s father has been battling cancer and this will no doubt have provided an emotionally draining distraction. Mendy’s work rate and intensity seemed to overwhelm Campbell at times. Perhaps he had just not prepared properly for the fight he found himself faced with. While, as it is often pointed out, amateur success is not a reliable forecaster of a pro career, the Olympic gold medallist hasn’t become a bad boxer overnight. He still has many qualities, even if they were on show too rarely against Mendy.
However, it’s equally rash to write the defeat off as a mere hiccup just yet. Mendy was more or less able to boss the fight, Campbell’s reddened face served as testament to the punishment he dealt out. Campbell was knocked down and never looked like the better boxer throughout the fight. But as impressive as Mendy looked, his record isn’t mind blowing. He’s 30 years old and has lost four fights. He clearly has talent as he demonstrated well enough in December, but he can’t quite be classed as top level on the basis of his career so far.
The fact that Mendy was able to give Campbell so much trouble and perhaps beat him by a bigger margin than the judge’s cards suggest is worrying. There are tougher fighters out there that Campbell will have to take on if he wants to rise to the expectations placed on him.
In fairness to Campbell, he seems to be dealing with the loss well. After the fight he congratulated Mendy and vowed to come back stronger. Reasonably standard fare from a beaten boxer but a positive response to what must have been a pretty demoralising and frustrating night.
Judging from his Twitter feed, Campbell isn’t shutting himself away or in the grips of personal turmoil. He is currently stateside, travelling and enthusiastically posing for photos with The Rock.
An early defeat can have contrasting effects on a boxer. On one hand, it can ruin them. The praise that has been heaped on them suddenly disappears replaced by questions and criticisms. Some take this to heart. Their belief wavers and they start to wonder if they ever really deserved the plaudits.
For others though, defeat can be a turning point in their career in the other direction. It is an often repeated cliché in boxing and sport in general that you learn more from a loss than a victory.
Campbell’s performance against Mendy suggests that their are many lessons he needs to study but from what can be seen so far he seems prepared to learn them.
The golden boy on the rise storyline may have been temporarily suspended, but it is far too early to write off Luke Campbell. Hopefully, he is determined to prove wrong those that do.