Nate Campbell coming out of retirement
When former unified lightweight titleholder Nate Campbell announced his retirement in November, he did so with a heartfelt statement a few days after a shocking eight-round decision loss to journeyman Walter Estrada.
"I know it's time for me to hang it up," Campbell said at the time. "I've reached the point where I can still see the openings, but I just can't get my shots there in time. In this business, a tenth of a second delay is too much. ... If I do struggle in fights like this, then what would that mean for me against a top-tier fighter? I didn't enter this sport to be anyone's opponent. I entered this sport to become a world champion. I am fortunate that I was able to accomplish that goal. I would have liked to continue on to win titles in other divisions. However, when your body tells you that it's time to go, then it's time to go."
And now, it's time for Campbell to make a comeback.
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Although Campbell said he meant those words when he said them, he has changed his mind and has signed to face rising junior welterweight Danny Garcia (20-0, 14 KOs), a standout amateur who has developed into one of Golden Boy's top prospects. Campbell (33-7-1, 25 KOs) is, by far, the best opponent of Garcia's career.
They will meet in a scheduled 10-round fight April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana undercard, although Garcia-Campbell is not slated to be part of the HBO PPV telecast.
"I can get up for this," Campbell told ESPN.com on Wednesday night. "Everybody is counting me out. I kinda like it. I don't have anything to prove. All the weight is on him. He is supposed to beat the old man up. He can't have a bad second. I guarantee you this: After my sparring session [Wednesday], an old guy ain't what you want to call me."
Campbell said after he retired, he was still going to the gym and training, even though he did not intend to fight again.
"I was missing the ring," Campbell said. "I just kept working out, kept training. I was going to the gym like I always had. I'm a gym rat. I was sparring. There was no pressure. I was able to do my thing."
He said he made the decision to come out of retirement a couple of months ago after talking to his 21-year-old daughter, Jazmyn.
"My daughter knew I was missing the ring and said to me, 'Daddy, do you really want to retire?' I'm like, 'I'm good.' Then one day I was in the gym and had a great day in the gym and I was like, 'Hold on.' My daughter asked me a simple question: 'Did you give everything you had in your last fight?' I said no."
As for his retirement announcement, Campbell said, "I shouldn't have said nothing. I miss boxing. I didn't want to go in the gym for a few days after I lost, but then I said I would just go to the gym and work out. I wasn't training for anything in particular, but I would go to the gym. And what's the saying? If you hang around the barbershop long enough, you will get a haircut."
And now Campbell is what he said he did not want to be -- somebody's "opponent."
Garcia, who turned 23 on Sunday, is the fighter on the rise and an important step for young fighters on the way to a title shot is to get the name of a former champion on their record. That is why Campbell was offered the fight.
"Golden Boy believes I am done, let's be honest. I'm OK with that," Campbell said. "I realize this. If they thought that I had an ounce of fight left in me I wouldn't be getting this fight. But I like to be the underdog, so I am getting what I like."
Campbell, who turned 39 on March 7, said he has felt good in training and has the proper focus going into the fight. He compared the fight with Garcia to his 2005 match with Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov. Campbell, who was coming off a loss, was a big underdog to Raiymkulov, then a rising contender. But Campbell knocked him out in the 10th round to rejuvenate his career. In 2008, Campbell outpointed Juan Diaz to claim three lightweight world titles in another upset.
"For the first time in a long time I am focused on this fight," Cambell said. "This fight is the first time I have made a decision to cut everything off and train for the love of what I'm doing, not for the publicity or the money, just to be a fighter. I came in as a fighter and I told my [three] girls that I will go out fighting, really fighting and giving it everything I got.
"I ran this morning. I'm having fun training with John David [Jackson]. John told me the other day, 'I knew that you weren't retiring because there's too much fight left in you.' Roy Jones told me the same thing. When I told Roy I was taking a fight, he told me, 'There ya go, that's what I'm talking about.' Everyone else knew I would fight again. I meant everything I said when I retired, but my daughter asked me that simple question. When I made the [retirement] statement, I felt like I had done everything I could."
Campbell, who did not begin boxing until he was 24 and did not turn pro until he was 28, said he has been making money since retiring by selling car engines.
"I was doing OK, but it's not boxing money," he said. "But it keeps steaks in the fridge. I'm no millionaire, but at the same time, this [comeback] isn't about money. I just want to fight. Let's see what I got left and how I feel about what I'm doing.
"I am at a place in my life where I don't care what people think. I used to. Now I don't. I am at peace with the decision I am making."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.
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