- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Nate Campbell has been a professional fighter for only 10 years, but it's been a long 10 years, and at 38, he realizes that it's probably time to go.
His mind and spirit want to do it in the ring, but his body is no longer letting him. All you have to do to realize that is watch a couple of rounds of his shutout decision loss to Victor Ortiz that took place at the Madison Square Garden Theater on Saturday night on the Amir Khan-Paulie Malignaggi undercard.
Campbell just couldn't pull the trigger. What's refreshing is that Campbell understands this and realizes he would probably be better served stepping away than fighting on to be nothing more than a stepping-stone opponent for some hotshot prospect trying to put his name on his record.
If Campbell does walk away, he can do it with his head held high. He fought everyone, never ducked a challenge and got a lot out of his ability considering how late he came to the sport.
Campbell never did make big money, and he suffered through bankruptcy to make matters worse. But nobody can ever take away the night of March 8, 2008. I was ringside at the bullring in Cancun, Mexico, when Campbell fought the fight of his life and took it to Juan Diaz to win a decision and three title belts.
Unfortunately, Campbell could never capitalize on the big win. He had problems with promoter Don King afterward and lost a much-needed money fight with Joan Guzman when Guzman pulled out at the last minute, which forced him into bankruptcy. Campbell was on the shelf for 11 months before returning to outpoint Ali Funeka, he but lost his titles on the scale when he couldn't make 135 pounds. His move up to junior welterweight did not go well. Timothy Bradley Jr. smacked him around until a head butt in the third round rendered the bout a no-contest. Then came the poor performance against Ortiz.
I've always liked and respected Campbell, who showed a lot of class after the loss. His adviser and close friend Terry Trekas forwarded an e-mail to me Sunday. Here's what Campbell had to say about his future:
"First off, I want to thank my family, my fans and Golden Boy for all the support I have gotten since the fight. And a sincere congratulations to Victor Ortiz for a well-deserved victory. I can't take anything away from the kid. He beat me fair and square, and I wish him much success. The big question of course that everyone has been asking me now has been, 'Is that it for Nate Campbell?' And the answer to that is 'quite possibly.'
"Unfortunately, my body just won't do the things anymore that my brain tells it to do. I still have the hunger, the skill and the desire to fight the very best out there. But at 38 years old, my body just doesn't seem to want to cooperate with me. I pulled my sciatic nerve in camp for this fight and honestly thought I had worked it out, and everything was fine. I felt great before the fight. No excuses. Even better that I felt for the Bradley fight. But by the second round, I couldn't plant my left foot at all. I couldn't cut him off. I couldn't do much of anything except hope that I could bait Victor to stand inside and make it a brawl, and he proved himself to be too smart a fighter to fight my fight. He's obviously learned that lesson since the [Marcos Maidana] fight. I give him much credit for that. But it is what it is. I've only been a professional prizefighter for 10 years, but it seems the wear and tear of the fights, the training camps and the countless rounds of sparring, well they just don't seem to take to well to a guy in his late 30's in the lighter divisions.
"So Terry is setting me up to see a specialist in Tampa next week and myself, [trainer John David Jackson] and Terry are all in agreement that if there's nothing they can do in regards to my sciatic nerve damage, then I'm going to hang it up.
"I've always been an honest fighter and if I don't believe I can beat these guys, then I'm just not going to do it anymore. It's never been about paydays. It's always been about being able to compete with the best. And if that isn't going to be possible anymore, then I'll just do something else, whether it's commentary, training, management, or whatever. I will not allow myself to be somebody's opponent just for money. If I can't compete at the level I feel I need to, then I'm done and I can leave this game with no regrets and my head held high.
"I've been an underdog my whole life. Guys like me aren't supposed to win multiple world titles and fight big fights on the world stage. I got to do that. I got to live my dream and no matter what happens, nobody can ever take that away from me. It's mine forever. So we'll see what the doctors say. If they say that's it, then that's it. If they say that I can spend six months rehabbing it and it will be good as new, then we'll see about that too. But no matter what happens, I have way too much respect for myself, this sport, my team and the fans who spend their hard-earned money to ever step into the ring in a fight I don't believe I can win, no matter what. That's not who I am. So again I thank everyone for all the support they've given me, and we'll see how this plays out in the coming weeks."