Dubious decisions and raw deals come with the territory in boxing, especially for a virtual stranger in a strange land. But the road has been particularly difficult on Spanish light heavyweight Gabriel Campillo, who on Feb. 18 lost yet another head scratcher in the homeland of an opponent -- a split decision to Tavoris Cloud in an IBF vacant championship bout in Corpus Christi, Texas.
After visiting the canvas twice in the first round and exposing his vulnerabilities against the tough, undefeated Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs), Campillo steamrolled through the rest of the fight in his uncomfortable southpaw stance, relying on a dominant mid- to long-range game, accumulating points and cutting off the ring on his opponent to keep Cloud moving into his punches. But judges David Robertson and Joel Elizondo stunningly gave Cloud the edge by margins of 116-110 and 114-112, respectively, while the more experienced Dennis Nelson had it for Campillo at 115-111. A wave of protests ensued. Paulie Malignaggi and Bernard Hopkins were among the first boxers to tweet their discontent, and even ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. broke all protocols by using the social network to announce the Cloud-Campillo call was "one of the hardest decisions I've ever had to announce."
Campillo (21-4-1, 8 KOs), 33, born in Madrid, is no stranger to these frustrations. Almost all his defeats have come by small margins and with title belts on the line. Only his first loss, at the hands of Ukraine's Vyacheslav Uzelkov in Kiev in 2007, ended in a decisive result against him (TKO in six). Since then, Campillo has traveled the rings of Europe and America with mixed results. In Argentina in June 2009, a WBA title fight against tough but undisciplined local credit Hugo Garay ended in a close majority decision for Campillo that would have been a wide unanimous verdict anywhere else. Two months later in Kazakhstan, Campillo risked his belt against local star Beibut Shumenov, who came up short in his effort to dethrone the champ. But Campillo wasn't as fortunate when Shumenov got his next chance, in 2010 in Shumenov's adopted city of Las Vegas. Wildly contradicting scorecards (117-111 in Campillo's favor, and then 117-111 and 115-113 against him) felled the Spaniard, starting a spiral of unfriendly foreign-soil decisions that reached its nadir in the Cloud fiasco.
Having regrouped from the fight and with his eyes already set on new challenges, Campillo talked to ESPNdeportes from his home in Madrid about his thoughts on the Cloud defeat and its repercussions.
How did you feel during the fight?
Well, physically I felt really well. It was the one fight in which I felt better prepared [than any other] in my entire career. Even though he did catch me with a punch in the first round, I got up feeling well. I just wanted to finish the round moving around, and start the second round fresh and new. And that's what I did. And from the second round on, I believe the work we did was excellent. I was feeling very loose, very comfortable, and the truth is that I felt really well.
In the last round, when you seemed to ease off just a bit, did you think you were already winning? Are there any regrets on your part about getting careless or losing focus at any time?
I actually believe that the work we did was quite good. If we had to repeat the fight, I believe we would be doing the exact same job. I think we did the job we had planned for months before the fight, and I believe it paid off. I think I was better than Cloud at all times.
How do you feel about the support you got from the boxing world after the fight?
Well, clearly this is the best thing I got from this fight, to see the support of everyone in the boxing world, both in my country of Spain as well as from the fans in the country where the fight was made, the United States. I believe the public was completely honest and impartial, and they can't be fooled by these kinds of hometown decisions.
Do you think that your being a Spaniard and coming from a country with virtually no boxing tradition or structure has any kind of weight when it comes to facing fighters from countries with a lot of support behind them?
Yes, I believe this could be one of the factors that weigh heavily against me and against Spanish fighters in general, since we don't have a strong federation or a strong media infrastructure that could help us fighters get the attention we deserve. This could be one of the factors, but it's also true that these types of decisions happen in many other fights or with many other fighters of other nationalities who do have a strong boxing infrastructure backing them up. This is something I would love to see finished in the world of boxing, because I believe it's causing much harm.
Do you think this controversy could help you generate enough interest among Spanish fans to get recognized and maybe bring a title bout to your country, to generate some kind of support and advantage for you?
Yes, sure. Trying to put a positive spin on what happened around this fight, I believe this is the greatest benefit we got. The repercussions in Spain have been so great regarding what happened with this fight and with this robbery that we've been getting a lot of attention in the media, and this may lead to bigger opportunities. We just need to be there to grab them.
Have you had any negotiations in this regard?
Right now, I'm away from all that. Right now, you should ask my manager, Sergio [Martinez, the middleweight champion], and my promoter, Sampson Lewkowicz, to see what news they may have. I am on vacation right now, awaiting news from them.
Do you believe you'll have to make style adjustments in order to be more aggressive and try to get more KOs to end future controversies?
Well, it's clear that during certain moments of the fight we need to apply some extra aggressiveness and punching power, and that's something we'll have to work on for our next fights. As a fighter, I always want to improve and evolve, and I believe this is something I can improve, and I'm going to put everything I have into it to get better. But anyway, I don't believe it should be that way. When you win a fight, even by a point, they should give you the respect you deserve and declare you the winner. But, hey, if this is what it takes to win away from home, that's what we're going to do.
Two judges in the Cloud fight had almost no world title bouts on their résumés, and they were the ones who saw you lose. Do you have anything to say about that? Do you suspect any kind of wrongdoing?
Sure. We're going to sit down with my team and take a close look at the judges they give us, and the referees, too. We'll check them out with a magnifying glass, and if it happens, as it did in this fight, that they aren't experienced enough to be in a big fight, we'll have to ask for new judges and for officials who are up to the task they are assigned.
Do these kinds of defeats have any effect on your immediate or long-term goals? Do you believe you will eventually have to settle for lucrative fights, win or lose, instead of looking for a legitimate championship and a fair deal in your title defenses?
As an athlete and as a boxer, what I love most, even more than making lucrative fights, is glory. I am more moved by glory than by greed. My main dream has always been to become a world champion, and I continue to have that dream. Making money is secondary. If it comes, it comes. But above all, I aspire to achieve glory in this sport, which is what I like to do. I love being a fighter, I love to win and I love being a champion.
What are your expectations from now on? Do you have any opponents in mind or are you focused just on the rematch?
What I would like is that, now that I have shown that I am one of the best -- because I always knew, but now I have demonstrated it because I have been better than the champion -- and now that I am one of the elite fighters in the light heavyweight division, I would love to face all the champions, or the most amount of champions that the division has to offer, be it [Bernard] Hopkins, [Chad] Dawson, [Nathan] Cleverly or whomever. To measure myself against the best and to see whether I am the best or merely one of the good ones.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.