By: Boxing Writer Carl Hewitt
Tavoris Cloud will be making the fourth defense of his IBF light heavyweight title against Gabriel Campillo of Spain Saturday night in a fight that came about because his original opponent, Zsolt Erdei, suffered an injury, forcing a complete cancellation of the card that was set for New Year’s Eve. Campillo is the former WBA titlist who engaged in a action-packed and controversial draw with Germany’s Karo Murat, in a bout that served as an eliminator for Cloud’s title. The Spaniard previously held the WBA version of the light heavyweight title before losing a split decision to Beibut Shumenov on January 30, 2010.
Even though he’s undefeated and beginning to cast a shadow in the division, it’s been nearly impossible for Cloud to lure the division’s biggest names. Part of the problem is that his promoter has never featured him on a card as the headline bout. There’s more to it than that, however. Some of the resistance appears to stem from the fact that Cloud’s promoter, Don King, isn’t always willing to negotiate in good faith. According to the promoter of Jean Pascal, Yvon Michel, a deal was in place for a bout between Pascal and Cloud to take place on December 18th. Michel alleges that King demanded options on Pascal, something that turned out to be a deal-breaker. Michel also insists that Pascal’s drawing power is greater than Cloud’s due to his two title defenses against Bernard Hopkins and his 2008 losing effort against Carl Froch in England. Whether that’s true or not is up for debate, but what’s not up for debate is the fact that his fighter no longer holds a title belt, while Cloud does.
With the cable networks employing a tighter budget for boxing shows these days, proven champions like Cloud often get lost in the shuffle, and the fans suffer. Those in the know are quite familiar with the IBF light heavyweight champion, but because virtually no one in the division is willing to tackle him for anything less than a king’s ransom, he’ll continue to fly under the radar for now. And it’s safe to say that the August 2010 pummeling of Glen Johnson opened more than a few eyes.
Be that as it may, boxing fans still want action and this weekend, action they shall get. The pressing question pertains to just what type of action we can expect.
For his part, Mr. Cloud brings the action. And the ‘Thunder’. He’s proven to be equally adept at waging war on the inside against grinders like Glen Johnson and walking down runners like Yusef Mack. It’s this versatility and penchant for violence that makes the Tallahassee, Florida native so highly-regarded. If Campillo stands and trades, chances are Cloud will have a short night’s work on his hands. If Cloud has to find him, expect a ‘Seek & Destroy’ mission similar to the one we witnessed against Mack. The champion is a patient fighter who probes with an improving jab, then delivers frightful punishment to the body and head. It was this attack that gradually ground down Johnson over the second half of their fight eighteen months ago.
Since no opponent to date has been able to seriously hurt Cloud, it’s unlikely Campillo will choose to engage him in a phone booth. Mack showed brief glimpses of what it might take to slow down the hard-charging champion – considerable lateral movement and the ability to stay off the ropes. The problem with that plan is the fact that the champion never seems to lose heart, tire or get distracted — he seems to be an unrelenting cyborg bent on separating opponents from their faculties.
Chances of Cloud looking ahead are virtually nil because at press time, King has nothing concrete lined up for him after this title defense, other than the possibility of participating in a light heavyweight tournament of some sort later this year. Perhaps a ‘Super Six’ similar to the one we just witnessed in the super middleweight division would be the only way to get big names like Dawson and Hopkins in the ring with the IBF champ. Or perhaps we’re asking for too much here. After all, this is a different era in the sport, an era in which the whims and agendas of promoters and cable network executives are more of a determinant than the desires of the fans and fighters. And it’s quite disappointing for those of us who can’t forget the seemingly never-ending run of great light heavyweight clashes that took place nearly every month in the late 70s and early 80s. Michael Spinks, Matthew Saad Muhammad, Victor Galindez, Marvin Johnson, Eddie Mustafa Muhammad – they fought and fought often. Promotional shenanigans and network favoritism weren’t as pervasive in those days, so fans were treated to some real ring classics on a consistent basis. If friction existed between King, Bob Arum and the Duva clan, it never seemed to affect the delivery of a superior product for the fans.
Prediction: Six KOs in eighteen victories indicates that Campillo is a crafty boxer who relies on guile and ring generalship over the distance. It’s a game plan Mack attempted. We saw the results. But let’s assume that the Spaniard is focused enough to follow his plan of attack without any mental lapses leading to untimely and fatal mistakes. In that case, expect him to steal a round here and there, but not quite enough of them to make this a highly-competitive affair. This fight isn’t about Campillo — it’s about how impressively Cloud wants to win in order to make yet another statement to the boxing world. Because his opponent is a replacement, it’s doubtful he will see him as any more of a threat than Mack was. But Cloud is and always has been a hungry fighter. His challenger is a slippery and resourceful adversary. During the course of twelve rounds, it will “rain” intermittently, with the challenger doing just enough to hear the final bell — he’ll consider that his “victory”. Cloud by UD.
(Cloud-Campillo and Williams-Ishida will take place on Feb. 18 (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET/PT) at the American Bank Center Arena in Corpus Christi, Texas. Tickets are priced at $25, $35, $50, $75 and $100 and can be purchased at the American Bank Center box office or online by visiting Ticketmaster.com. You may inquire about VIP packages by calling (817) 296-4546.)
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