- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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The long-awaited all-Hull, England, showdown between lightweights Tommy Coyle and Luke Campbell finally will happen on Saturday at Craven Park in their hometown as they meet in a world title eliminator that will position the winner for a shot at Jorge Linares.
Coyle said he has embraced his role as the underdog and is predicting that not only will he hand his former pal his first loss, he'll do it by knockout in a fight that promoter Eddie Hearn of Matchroom Boxing has been building for the past year.
“He's been really disrespectful in the buildup; maybe he's changed. People do change. The Luke Campbell I remember was a fun kid,” Coyle said of the fighter he was once close to going back to their amateur days. “We had lots of banter and played tricks on each other. I've said before that we didn't have any money at all -- but now, according to him, we're just associates.
“Associates don't travel the world together and help each other out. I think he has tried to make a feud up to get bad blood going, and it didn't need that. I am a big underdog. Luke's an exceptional fighter. But I am a professional, and I have prepared as hard as ever, it doesn’t matter if I am fighting Luke Campbell or Donald Duck.”
Campbell (11-0, 9 KOs), 27, had the better amateur career, making it to the 2012 Olympics and winning a gold medal. Coyle (21-2, 10 KOs), 25, didn’t make it that far as an amateur and opted to go pro in late 2009.
In February 2014, Coyle gained notice outside of England for his 12th-round knockout of Daniel Brizuela in their extraordinary fight of the year candidate, which featured eight knockdowns as they each hit the floor four times apiece. In October, Coyle put a big name on his record as he stopped faded action star Michael Katsidis in the second round.
“I didn’t expect to get this far in my career,” Coyle said. “I really believe I am too much for Luke Campbell at this stage of his career, I really do, and I am going to go in there and knock him out. I'll prove all the critics wrong on Saturday.”
Although Coyle’s resilience can’t be questioned after the performance he turned in against Brizuela, he questions Campbell’s heart.
“I'm not the greatest fighter. My dad said to me when I was 5 years old that pain is just an emotion, and I've had that drummed into me, so you will need to knock me out cold to beat me. If I can find a way to get up, I will, and I'll keep coming at you.
“I don't believe that Luke Campbell has that in his DNA. He's an exceptional fighter, and he's better than I'll ever be, but this fight won't come down to that. I'm too much for him too early.”