WORDS are flung easily between rival boxers. But it’s curious that the opening exchanges before a high profile fight, one which could be the most well-attended in the UK this year, should hinge around whether the two participants are, or were, friends.
Luke Campbell and Tommy Coyle go back. Both come from Hull, they’ve been in and around amateur clubs from childhood, even sparred each other back then. But despite Tommy’s protestations that they were in fact friends, Luke, a gold medallist at London 2012, simply states, “We hadn’t spoken for 10 years.”
To get to the top you have to be clear-eyed. Campbell scaled the heights of amateur boxing, winning the Olympics, as well becoming the first Englishman in 47 years to win the European championships and he picked up a World silver medal in Azerbaijan. His ambitions extend to the very top of the professional sport. Luke spent a part of this camp with great Cuban, Guillermo Rigondeaux, a boxer Campbell’s looked up to since his own days as an amateur. “I spent some time in the gym, trained alongside him,” Luke says, “I think he’s one of the best boxers in the world pound-for-pound.” A southpaw and a defensive master, Rigondeaux has been the example to emulate for some elements of Luke’s own style.
As professionals he and Coyle both boxed on the same shows. Luke made his debut at the Craven Park, the same night when Tommy, boxing well until the end came, suffered a stunning knockout against Derry Mathews. Campbell has been clinical in his approach to the pro sport, getting in rounds but also delivering inside-the-distance finishes in nine of his 11 professional contests. For Coyle it’s been a rollercoaster since Mathews, getting off the canvas multiple times against Daniel Brizuela, being hurt by Martin Gethin but scoring a heavy stoppage victory against Michael Katsidis.
Coyle has undoubtedly shown heart to win through these struggles, he’s fought on emotion but Campbell notes, “He fights to his ability.”
It brings them back to Craven Park stadium, to take on each other in an eliminator for a world title. The fight has taken over their city, the biggest event of its kind that Hull has seen but Campbell, hardened through the intensity of the Olympic Games, promises he won’t be swept up in the heady atmosphere. “I’ve been here before. I know how to keep calm,” he says, but adds, “I’m going to enjoy it. This is what it’s all about.”