Luke Campbell hoped it would be third time lucky when he arranged to face Javier Fortuna for the vacant WBC lightweight title on April 17.
After coming up short in his two previous world-title attempts – the first a controversial points loss against Jorge Linares and the second a more conclusive defeat by Vasiliy Lomachenko – Campbell was presented with a third opportunity when WBC champion Devin Haney sustained a shoulder injury in November.
An expected six-month spell on the sidelines meant Haney was named champion-in-recess by the WBC, who subsequently ordered Campbell to meet Fortuna in a clash for the vacant title.
The Olympic gold medallist secured a deal at the start of March to battle it out with Fortuna on the undercard of Regis Prograis and Maurice Hooker’s 143-pound scrap in the States, only for the coronavirus crisis to escalate weeks later.
With lockdown coming into effect across the globe, his date of destiny with the Dominican fighter was shortly scrapped, and to rub salt in the wounds Haney was reinstated as champion a month later.
Though while he takes issue with the WBC’s decision, Campbell is refusing to let the setback derail his focus.
“From my point of view, I don’t think it’s very good [to reinstate Haney] because we were set,” the 32-year-old exclusively tells Daily Star Sport.
“Everything was set; purses were done, deals were done, training camps had taken place and we were set.
“So for them to take that away, it’s not ideal. It’s not nice for myself or Fortuna.
“But things like that are out of our control. I’m a boxer, I’ve got to go in there and box. Everything else around that I don’t have any control of.
“It is what it is. I’ll be coming back better, bigger and stronger. I’m still striving to become a world champion and I’m working hard for it.”
Having been forced to recalibrate his route to world glory, a trickier path now awaits Campbell.
The British star will battle it out with 22-year-old sensation Ryan Garcia for the WBC interim title in November, with both camps reaching an agreement in principle on Wednesday.
Plenty of hype surrounds Garcia following his dazzling entrance to the professional ranks. The American has claimed 20 straight victories and 17 knockouts since making his debut in 2016, albeit against B-class opposition.
“Listen, he’s a dangerous fighter. Let’s be honest,” Campbell admits.
“He carries speed and power, but it’s hard to judge because he’s fought no one and it’s easy to look good against plums.
“When you’re going in there and fighting someone that is world class and can do everything, it’s a different story.
“So I’m excited for this opportunity to show my skills and what I’m capable of doing, and beating a young up-and-coming fighter.”
Should Campbell deliver on his promise and inflict Garcia’s maiden defeat, Haney will hopefully come next in a bout for the WBC’s main prize at 135lbs.
The 21-year-old, who was handed the WBC title when Lomachenko became the sanctioning body’s ‘Franchise champion’ in October of last year, is equally inexperienced against world-class opposition despite earning 24 straight wins as a professional.
Haney’s father fears Campbell will provide his son’s toughest test at lightweight, admitting in a recent interview with Barbershop Conversations that the Hull man’s reach and southpaw stance could be a problem.
“I think Haney and his dad came to watch me fight in Philadelphia when I boxed a Mexican guy [Adrian Yung] who had never been stopped, never been dropped, never been hurt, and he was coming off fighting one of Top Rank’s up-and-coming top prospects,” Campbell recalls.
“He dropped Top Rank’s prospect and this guy just ran for 10 rounds and nicked a decision on points. But I absolutely destroyed him. And he was as tough as nails.
“It was a great performance from myself, I absolutely annihilated him. So they’ve seen me from ringside and they know what I’m capable of doing – and I believe I’m only getting better.”
It has been almost a year since Campbell last bid to become world champion, coming unstuck against a true modern-day great in Lomachenko.
Many felt the masterful Ukrainian would solidify his position as pound-for-pound king by winning inside the distance, yet in the end he was forced to settle for a comfortable victory on the scorecards having been wobbled on a few occasions at London’s O2 Arena.
Campbell was dealt the third defeat of his career via two scores of 119-109 and one of 118-108, but the experience of challenging an elite-level operator proved an invaluable lesson.
“There are no regrets about taking the fight whatsoever. I learnt a lot from the fight,” he says.
“When you’re fighting pound-for-pound top-level fighters, you might pick up a loss.
“All these guys are fighting absolute bums and it’s all about protecting their record and keeping the 0, but you’ve got to look at the greats. 98 per cent of the greats have got losses on their record.
“I’m not saying you should go and get a loss because that’s what the greats do, but when you’re fighting the pound-for-pound best you might pick up a loss on your record here and there.
“And I honestly believe that is the only clean loss on my record. I feel like I beat Linares, I won seven rounds of the 12-round fight. The [Yvan] Mendy fight could have gone either way, but I got the rematch and dusted that result over.
“I honestly feel like Lomachenko was my only clean loss. And let’s be honest, the scorecards were a bit s***.”
At 32 years of age, Campbell’s next world-title tilt could very well represent his last crack of the whip. A third failure may be too damaging of a blow to recover from.
Nevertheless, ‘Cool Hand’ will only walk away from the sport when he can no longer mix it at world level.
“Listen, Campbell says. “Everything in sport is about performance. If I’m performing and I’m feeling good, then I’ll be in the sport of boxing. If I’m not performing and not feeling the way I should be, then I won’t.
“I’m not gonna be one of these fighters that stays in the sport for the sake of it, taking fights and picking up losses against guys that I should be beating.
“I feel like I’m a world-class fighter and if I’m not fighting at world-class level or competing at world-class level, then I probably won’t be in the sport anymore.
“But I know I can beat world-class kids and I am world class myself.”