THE famous Rocky Balboa quote “it ain’t about how hard you hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward” could not be more applicable to Hull’s golden boy Luke Campbell.
In 2016, East Yorkshire’s London 2012 gold medallist was floored by defeat and family illness that left him questioning his desire to go on.
Campbell suffered a shock defeat to unfancied Frenchman Yvan Mendy, during a time in which he was having to deal with his father’s well-documented battle with cancer.
Any defeat for a rising boxer can be damaging, but in true Balboa fashion, Campbell lifted himself off the canvas in 2016, with three wins out of three to put his world title ambitions back on track. “Everything happens for a reason, I think everyone knows I shouldn’t have got in the ring that night, but I did, I lost and here I am now,” Campbell told The Yorkshire Post.
“It’s not just me who has experienced a defeat, and I’ve bounced back from it.”
If 2015 produced a number of setbacks to the previously smooth transition into the pro ranks from his gold medal exploits at London 2012, then this year has seen him bounce back in style.
Starting with a win against Dewsbury’s Gary Sykes and followed up with a solid victory under the radar against Argenis Mendez in Leeds, 2016 culminated in a sickening body shot that ended his bout with Liverpool’s Derry Mathews and with it any doubts over Campbell’s credentials.
“I’m delighted with how this year has gone,” said Campbell.
“I don’t think people gave me the credit I deserved for beating Mendez, he was probably the most skilful opponent I’ve boxed, but I’m not sure British boxing fans know that much about him.
“I’ve had an awful lot on this year. In addition to three big fights, I’ve had the move out to Miami and the new start with a new trainer (Jorge Rubio).
“I’ve been away from my family a lot and I’ve had to take a lot of new information on board. I’m feeling good at the minute and I’m getting into a rhythm at the right time in my career.”
Many boxing pundits and fans alike predicted a difficult night’s work for Campbell against previous world title challenger Mathews, who has a win and draw against former WBA lightweight champ Anthony Crolla and stoppage wins against Yorkshiremen Tommy Coyle and Curtis Woodhouse on his CV.
Campbell’s fourth-round stoppage win surprised a few, but not the Hull man and his team, who planned for an early finish.
He added: “The plan was definitely to try and get Derry out of there, while preparing for a hard 12-round fight.
“Everybody was saying how tough it was going to be for me and that it was a 50/50 fight, but we were always confident.
“There was a definite plan to work the body and I thought I could get him out of there in six, but to do it inside four in that fashion was even better.”
If 2016 was the year that Luke Campbell got back on track after spending much of 2015 on the ropes, surely 2017 will be the year he announces himself on the world stage.
“I’ll sit down with Eddie (Hearn – promoter) and discuss options,” said Campbell.
“There are plenty of options out there for me, but we need to see which one is the best.
“I don’t mind which route we take, but I want to win a world title in 2017.”
And where better to go and win that world title than in his native Hull?
He added: “I’d love to fight for a world title in Hull, that would be a dream come true.”
Before such grand ambitions are realised, Campbell would not rule out a domestic dust-up with British champ Scott Cardle, but he doubts the Scot would agree to fight him.
“I would love to fight for the British title, but is Scott Cardle going to give me that fight? He wouldn’t want to fight me.”