London 2012: GOLD FOR BRITAIN! Tears as Luke Campbell claims bantamweight title
PUBLISHED: 23:23 11 August 2012 | UPDATED: 23:23 11 August 2012
Luke Campbell beat John Joe Nevin
Luke Campbell broke down in tears after realising a dream he has harboured since he was 12 years old and being crowned Olympic champion with a compelling 14-11 victory over Ireland’s John Joe Nevin at ExCeL tonight.
The Hull 24-year-old saved his best performance of the competition for the night when he needed it most, repelling the challenge of the Mullingar man who had shone throughout the tournament and with whom he had split their two previous meetings.
With the golden glow of Mo Farah’s 5,000-metres victory still radiating around the packed arena, Campbell stepped up to the mark, even flooring Nevin with a short right in round three to put the seal on a thoroughly classy victory.
In doing so, Campbell ensured Great Britain’s boxing team of their best performance at an Olympic Games since 1908, guaranteeing they will surpass the 1956 total of two golds and three bronzes, with finals for Fred Evans and Anthony Joshua to come on Sunday.
Campbell said: “This is a day I’ve dreamed of for a long time and to actually be here and have achieved it, I’m lost for words. It means everything to my family and my city and I’m glad I’ve been able to make them proud of me.
“My plan was to let my punches flow and listen to my coaches. If the knockdown came it came, but I wasn’t looking for the stoppage. After that I just had to carry on with what I was doing, and not be silly.”
Campbell had looked every inch an Olympic champion in the making since he burst onto the scene in 2008, coming from nowhere to win the European bantamweight title in Liverpool with a superb display of reach and counter-punching.
Campbell’s subsequent progress had been far from straight-forward, with injuries and a loss of form threatening to leave him out in the cold, having been briefly dropped from the Great Britain team by the previous regime.
Campbell added: “It was a real low point for me in 2009. I’d had my best year ever in 2008 then obviously the system changed and different coaches came in, and the whole of 2009 was a misery for me.
“You could say at one point I was looking to get out of there. I didn’t want to box any more because I didn’t like that environment. Then Rob (McCracken) came in and changed the system and I felt very confident under the new team.
“I’d been to the worst place possible in my career and after that, what else was I afraid of? I went out there and enjoyed what I was doing. I had 23 unbeaten fights in a row, I got better and better and I got myself here today.”
Campbell had received the loudest cheers on the way to the ring, but there was still a sizeable Irish contingent who cheered a bright start by Nevin, who surprised his old rival by beginning on the front foot.
A close fight was almost guaranteed given the nature of the pair’s most recent meeting, when Campbell edged the verdict on countback after a 20-20 draw in the semi-final of last year’s World Championship in Baku.
Nevin’s tactics seemed to play into the hands of Campbell to an extent, and the Hull man landed with a slick combination, and although Nevin also landed it was Campbell’s sharper shots that gave him a deserved 5-3 first round lead.
Campbell was producing a textbook performance, blocking the majority of Nevin’s best efforts and countering well, although the Mullingar man came on well towards the end of the round, landing a peach of an uppercut and a stretching right hand to narrow the deficit to a single point at 9-8.
Given what was at stake, it was no surprise the third round should turn into a cagey affair, Campbell landing the first two rights of note before decking Nevin with a superb stabbing left as the Irishman lunged in to throw a right hand.
Campbell’s lightning counters were making the difference, and at the end of an intriguing bout there could be little doubt that the Hull man had done enough to achieve a dream he has had since he first laced on gloves.
Nevin was disappointed but magnanimous in defeat, saying: “You always want more but Luke is a brilliant boxer and the best man won on the day. I won’t argue with the decision - it wasn’t meant to be today.
“I would have given my right arm for a bronze medal before the Games so this is a dream come true for me. My mother has decided where my medal is going to go and it’s going to go up in her cupboard.
“Where ever I go from here I think I’ll have a good career, either pro or amateur. And whether pro or amateur I’ll always be competing for my country. You haven’t seen the last of John Joe Nevin. I would love to go pro but it’s all about my future and what I will do after boxing as well.”