Hull’s Luke Campbell aiming to take next step up towards world title glory

Luke Campbell (left) in action against Tommy Coyle. Picture: Richard Sellers /PA.
Luke Campbell (left) in action against Tommy Coyle. Picture: Richard Sellers /PA.
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For boxing fans, there are only a few more hours until Christmas.

The eyes of the world will be upon the O2 Arena tonight for the main event between Anthony Joshua and Dillian Whyte, and with good reason.

For a Yorkshire fighter featured elsewhere on the card, tonight could be the start of a step up to a global stage.

Many attending this evening’s festive feast will be winding down as the holidays approach. There will be no such holiday slack for Luke Campbell. He has promised to be at his best when he steps between the ropes for one of the appetisers being served up prior to the main course.

Campbell burst onto the scene after capturing an Olympic gold medal at the 2012 London games in the bantamweight division. He was duly rewarded with a gold postbox in Hull. The Royal Mail also paid unwitting tribute to the accuracy of his punches inside the squared circle, putting Campbell on a postage stamp.

It may only be three years ago, but in boxing-terms, it is a lifetime for Campbell. No matter how celebrated it was, Campbell’s victory over John Joe Nevin is 13 matches back in his career.

With the opportunity there for a potential world title fight in 2016, he will know he cannot rest on his amateur laurels.

Pythagoras of Samos reached the pinnacle of his career when he had an olive wreath placed upon his head at the 48th Olympiad, but this is not Ancient Greece.

Campbell’s 12 straight victories as a professional outweigh any success he had as an amateur, especially when it comes to deciding WBA champion Anthony Crolla’s opponent next year.

Campbell’s bout with Yvan Mendy provides him with an opportunity to outline his credentials as a contender ahead of current favourite Kevin Mitchell.

Mendy, with four losses over a 37-fight career, is not the toughest opponent Campbell could ever face. However, even a win on the big stage would get people talking. A truly dominant display would hang over any decisions being made over Crolla’s future fights like smoke in a closed room.

It is no real surprise to hear the focus Campbell has been putting on preparation in the build-up to tonight’s fight.

“Training has been going great,” he said.

“I know everybody says that, but I’m pushing my body more, I’m getting more out of it. I’m sparring more rounds on the trot, day after day. I never used to be able to do that, and it shows me my body is getting stronger.

“I’m pushing it more and more. I put everything I can into the training. I’m ready for Saturday night now, to go out there and enjoy it.”

The Mendy fight is a first defence of the WBC international lightweight title for Campbell, a belt he captured in his last fight, against Tommy Coyle. Facing Coyle stretched Campbell in a way he had not been challenged before. It took until the 10th round, plus another minute and a half, for Campbell to break down Coyle’s resistance. No match of Campbell’s before that had ever gone beyond the eighth round.

The southpaw believes that passing that test has been to his benefit.

Campbell said: “I learnt a lot from my last fight. Tommy was a good opponent and a good step up for me. It was the first time we had the build-up from start to finish, which was really good and exciting. A lot of the fans got involved, which was great.

“The fight itself was a big occasion, my first 12-round fight. It was the first time I went 10 rounds. I got him out of there in the later rounds, which shows I am adapting well to the pros.

“I put in a good performance, but I am always looking to improve and get better.

“Tommy really tried to take me out of my comfort zone and put me somewhere I have never been before. I did all that with no problem, so now it is about stepping it up for the next one.”

Mendy’s record may not be comparable with Campbell’s own undefeated one, but that is not to say the 28-year-old is taking his opponent lightly. He sees ‘Le Lion’ as an improvement on those he has previously faced.

Campbell continued: “I’ve seen bits and bobs on Mendy.

“I know he is a solid fighter, he’s got a lot of wins. He has four defeats, but those defeats are coming from world-class fighters. He’s the next level up to what I’ve boxed so far.”

Even though Campbell has only seen Mendy in flashes, there is a clear sense that he will walk into the ring with a strategy in mind. There was a confidence in the way he spoke about the fight, a sureness that suggests he feels able to force his ideas on the match.

Campbell had no intention of making grand declarations about knocking out his opponent, revealing he will take it moment by moment.

“My plan is to break him down”, explained Campbell.

“I want to win every round, take one round at a time, and beat him up one round at a time.

“We’ll see where we go from there. If I see the stoppage, then I’ll put the foot to the floor and I’ll get him out of there. I don’t look for that.

“I will look to go there and beat him one round at a time.”

It may sound simple enough, but events inside a ring rarely go entirely to plan. Campbell cannot prepare for the work that Mendy has done, the French fighter undoubtedly hopeful of seizing the stage for himself.

That is why Campbell has upped his own level, and made sure he is at a personal peak ahead of tonight: “My fans can expect the best Luke Campbell they’ve seen. Every fight I’ve had, they’ve seen a better me inside the ring.

“That’s what I want to do again.

“I want to put a great performance on. Skill, speed, power and let the combinations go.

“They are going to be impressed with what they see.”

Campbell may have been speaking about his fans, but it would be no surprise if he was thinking about influencing boxing’s governing bodies.

With the right display, he might put himself directly in Crolla’s firing line. Campbell would not complain.