Whether it should be blamed on bad luck, officials' incompetence or boxing's business as usual, Gabriel Campillo has irrefutably been handed a raw deal.
Few, if any, active fighters operating at the highest professional levels have been saddled with as many shady decisions as Campillo -- the 34-year-old former light heavyweight titlist -- has. For several years, his 2010 split-decision loss to Beibut Shumenov, in which Shumenov received an immediate chance to reclaim the belt he had lost to the Spanish southpaw, was held up as Exhibit A in the case of Campillo vs. Highway Robbery. But a 2008 majority-decision defeat to Karo Murat in his native Germany and, more recently, last year's split-decision loss to Tavoris Cloud in -- brace yourself -- Texas were every bit as egregious. Campillo, now 22-5-1, could just as easily be 26-2.
So as this week's fight promotion wrapped up, Campillo began narrowing his focus for Friday's bout with Poland's Andrzej Fonfara in Chicago (ESPN2/ESPN3, 10 p.m. ET), where Fonfara now lives and has a growing fan base. Lingering doubts about his chances of getting a fair shake against another local guy, and specifically in the U.S. (where Campillo is now 0-3), could have been forgiven. But Campillo had none.
"To me, I won the fights," he said of the Cloud and Shumenov decisions. "[As far as I'm concerned] I won two titles of the world right here. And I'll keep coming back as long as they want me."
Fonfara (23-2, 13 KOs), no doubt, wants Campillo, who is his ticket to a title shot after Friday's fight at U.S. Cellular Field -- the first pro fight at a Chicago baseball stadium in more than 50 years -- was recently declared an eliminator. Friday's winner will land a major fight with 48-year-old legend and current 175-pound titlist Bernard Hopkins, assuming B-Hop wins his Oct. 26 defense in Atlantic City, N.J.
Then again, how sweet would it be for Campillo if Hopkins were upset by the challenger, who is none other than Murat? Regardless, if he handles Fonfara, Campillo either gets an A-list fight against a future Hall of Famer or a chance to set things right against the man who stung him not once, but twice (there was also a 2011 split-draw in their rematch, also in Germany).
Campillo claims to harbor no frustration about the setbacks he's encountered along the way -- "I'm fine," he said -- instead preferring to look ahead. And why not? A win against Fonfara, whose most notable achievement to date was outlasting a faded Glen Johnson in a unanimous decision last year, leaves Campillo at the foot of yet another title shot.
It's hardly a done deal, though. Setting aside Fonfara's limited experience against top opposition, he appears to be growing into his power at age 25. The Johnson decision was the lone outlier in a string of knockouts for Fonfara dating back to a 2009 no-contest against Skyler Thompson. That's 10 stoppages in 11 fights, after Fonfara had finished his man just three times in his first 14 bouts.
But although Fonfara's length (6-foot-2, 77-inch reach) and stiff jab have recently given many light heavyweights fits, those advantages will be all but moot against Campillo (6-foot-1½, 76-inch reach), a slick counterpuncher -- and a southpaw to boot. There's little that could prepare Fonfara for the technique and activity level that Campillo will bring to the ring on Friday.
"I'm going to use everything I have: my power, my speed, my stamina," Campillo said. "I've trained for it."
No one questions those attributes. What Campillo must prove, though, after being savaged by Sergey Kovalev in a third-round TKO loss in January -- one of the unimpeachable defeats on his record -- is that his mind and chin are sound. A June stoppage win over sub-.500 opponent Ionut Ilie was useless in terms of gauging Campillo's current fitness.
But if his only other previous KO loss is any indicator, Campillo has a right to feel confident. A 2007 stoppage at the hands of Vyacheslav Uzelkov -- Campillo's first professional defeat -- was followed by the Spaniard's steady climb to a 175-pound title. And, at least as far as the immediate future is concerned, no one is comparing Fonfara's power to that of Kovalev.
"After the loss with the knockout, I learned a lot," Campillo said. "But I don't think it will happen again."