WBA champion Campillo excels on opponents’ home turf

Gabriel Campillo has not had any problems venturing into enemy territory, which in boxing can prove hazardous to one’s record, not to mention one’s health.

In his past two fights, the reigning WBA light heavyweight champion fought his opponents on their home turf. In June, he outpointed Hugo Garay in Argentina to win the title. In August, Campillo traveled to Kazakhstan and outlasted Beibut Shumenov in a controversial 12-round majority decision.

"When we get into the ring, it’s just the two fighters; nothing else matters," Campillo, a 31-year-old Spaniard, said through an interpreter. "It’s much more difficult when you fight someone in their hometown. But you have to fight where they tell you, so I never worry about what happens outside (the ring). All I know is the last two fights, the judges saw it the right way."

Campillo (19-2, five knockouts) will make his U.S. debut Friday when he defends his title in a rematch against Shumenov at the Hard Rock Hotel. And although Shumenov now lives in Las Vegas, Campillo is convinced he’ll get a fair shake from the Nevada Athletic Commission.

"Yes, I believe I will be treated fairly," he said.

Campillo said he clearly won the first fight despite the Shumenov camp trying to put a different spin on it by referencing the statistics from the fight compiled by CompuBox that showed Shumenov dominating the action.

"They can say what they want," Campillo said. "But I know the truth, and the truth is I beat him, and I will beat him again. I’m much better. I’m stronger, and I know what to expect from him."

Does he? Kevin Barry, who trains Shumenov (8-1, six KOs), said Campillo won’t recognize the fighter he sees across the ring come Friday. But Campillo doesn’t seem concerned.

"The trainer is not the issue," he said. "It’s all about the fighter."

The other difference in the rematch is Campillo won’t have to worry about getting paid. After he beat Shumenov in August, Campillo wasn’t given his share of the purse right away, and he had to take legal action to get paid.

NAC executive director Keith Kizer said that KZ Event Productions, which is co-promoting Friday’s card with Golden Boy Promotions, has given the commission the money for the fight. The NAC handles distribution of checks after fights.

Campillo didn’t want to talk about money. His focus is on keeping his belt.

"I want to be champion for a long time," he said. "I worked very hard to get the title, and I don’t want to lose it."

If he does hang onto the title, perhaps he will be able to cash in on endorsements in Spain. Despite being a world champion, Campillo finds himself lagging far behind Spain’s other great athletes in popularity, particularly tennis star Rafael Nadal, basketball great Ricky Rubio and many soccer players who play in La Liga, Spain’s premier division.

"I’m not a big celebrity back home," he said. "Boxing is not as popular in Spain as the other sports.

"It doesn’t bother me that much, but if I keep winning, maybe my popularity will be bigger. That’s why this is an important fight for me. To fight in Las Vegas is what every fighter dreams about."

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913.

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