clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Thunder or lightning?: Campbell-Guzman a harsh style clash

New, comment

Unless you've been living under a rock, you're aware of one certainty going into Saturday night's three-belt lightweight title fight between WBA/WBO/IBF 135-pound ruler Nate Campbell and undefeated challenger Joan Guzman.

That certainty? They don't like each other.

Campbell and Guzman spent a couple months worth of time throwing insults back and forth, writing open letters filled with jive talkin' that lit up the press release pages around the internet. If they were trying to get people hyped up to see them fight, they succeeded.

Guzman444333_medium But even if they didn't talk so much at the expense of the other man's pride, this is a dynamic, interesting, and potentially explosive fight. Guzman (28-0, 17 KO) is moving up to lightweight after finding nobody willing to fight him at 130. He thought he had a fight with Alex Arthur, but several issues came up and that one was called off. Guzman chose to abandon his strap, which was given to Arthur in the boardroom, and head up to 135, joining fellow super featherweight departees like Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez. The three best (in most minds) in the division were making the leap.

Like Marquez, Guzman's first 135-pound test comes Saturday, against the 36-year old Campbell (32-25-1, 25 KO), who is riding high off of a March upset win against Juan Diaz in Mexico. Despite that huge victory, the biggest of Campbell's hard-working career, "The Galaxxxy Warrior" remains the underdog against Guzman.

He doesn't care, though.

"What is there about this little man that makes anybody even think he can beat me?" Campbell recently asked. Campbell's manager, Terry Trekas, claims he tried to put $100,000 on his fighter in Vegas against the nearly 2-1 odds by which Guzman is favored, but his bet was rejected because there isn't enough money going the other way.

Or at least, that's the story he'll tell.

But there are very good reasons folks are favoring Guzman. The 32-year old Dominican has fought off the odds his whole life, rising out of extreme poverty to become a world-class athlete. He's also a fighter that has rare natural skills; his speed can be overwhelming, and though he's no one-punch slugger, he has enough pop that it has to be taken seriously.

As Showtime analyst and color commentator Al Bernstein says, "He's an interesting fighter because he does so many things wrong, but he's able to overcome them because he's so fast and he's such a good athlete."

Guzman's wide punching isn't textbook or even pretty. But he's got the type of God-given ability that he is nevertheless among the sport's best, pound-for-pound. That's his reputation, anyway.

Campbell, though, questions Guzman's record, noting that the best fighter he's faced has been Humberto Soto, who Guzman widely outpointed last fall. He has had a career marred by inactivity and a trouble with finding willing top-flight opponents to go toe-to-toe with him. Not that that is really his fault, but you have to realize that his 28 professional fights have come in 11 years worth of professional time, missing all of 1998 and fighting two times every year from 2002-05, and just once in 2007. He will also fight only once this year, unless something very surprising comes along.

_mg_3030naba_medium Campbell's career began, believe it or not, three years after Guzman turned pro. When Nate Campbell entered his first pro ring on February 5, 2000, he knocked out journeyman Scoey Fields. The Tampa-based fighter would start his career with 23 straight victories before meeting up with Joel Casamayor in 2003.

The former Gold Medalist from Cuba had just one loss on his record, a tight decision against Acelino Freitas, and he outpointed Campbell over 10 tough rounds. Following his first pro loss, Campbell went to a draw with Edelmiro Martinez, and then beat Daniel Attah in an eliminator to an eliminator, knocking Attah down three times along the way.

In an official eliminator fight, Campbell met up with Robbie Peden.

In one of the stupidest moments you'll ever see, Nate dropped his hands completely and dared Peden to load up and hit him. Well, Robbie did just that, socking Campbell in the jaw with a vicious left hook against no resistance, knocking Campbell out.

Two fights later, he lost again, in a split decision against Francisco Lorenzo. The 23-0 start had led into a 3-4-1 stretch that seemed as though it would eliminate Campbell from serious contention in the division. He went from promising threat to tough guy a notch below the best in a flash.

Since then, though, he's gone 6-1, losing only to Isaac Hlatswayo, and laying serious beatings on the likes of Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov, Matt Zegan, and Ricky Quiles. When the time came for him to get another shot at the serious big time, he took advantage of a bad cut and a young, rattled fighter, scoring the win over Diaz.

Now, here we are. Nate Campbell is headlining on Showtime in a world title fight. He's a great story, and a solid, genuine guy in a sport filled with phonies and actors.

I'd love to say that I think Campbell, a hard puncher, will be able to beat Joan Guzman, who has a habit of making his fights stinkers by avoiding confrontation, as he did in the second half of the bout with Soto. 

So I'm sad to say that I honestly don't see it. I don't think Nate Campbell is overrated, and I don't think Juan Diaz became overrated when he lost to Campbell. I think Nate Campbell is a fantastic fighter and a legitimate threat against anyone at 135 pounds. I can't see him finding a way to beat Guzman, though. While he calls Guzman a "little man," the fact is they're roughly the same size, with Campbell holding a reach advantage that he'll need to put to full use.

He's going to have to find a way to stop Guzman from springing in and out, using his lightning hands to score on combinations. He'll have to hurt Guzman to the body. But Guzman is nothing if not a very intelligent fighter, and he's trained by one of the best in Floyd Mayweather, Sr.

I'm not going to lie and act like I'm one of these boxing writers that doesn't root. I'm rooting for Nate, because I like him. But I'm picking Guzman to win because I think he's the better fighter.