Nate Campbell: speaks on his childhood, and a little bit of Boxing...
As told to Chris Robinson (November 1, 2004)
When it comes to interviewing fighters I try my best to take a different path. I sometimes like to tap into other areas of their psyche, and explore their life outside of the ring and sometimes outside of boxing in general. I feel it makes for a good read and oftentimes you will see sides of a fighter that you have never seen before.
Photo © Brendon Pierpaoli, DoghouseBoxing
So with that, I present you with the most recent edition of 'A View from the Galaxy,' where we of course talk some boxing with Nate Campbell, but also let you into several other areas of his life. In this piece you’ll get the chance to become more familiar with Mr. Campbell on such areas as where he grew up, what he did as a youth, and most importantly, his father, who he holds close to his heart.
On Edwin Valero, the 12-0 Venezuelan prospect who is making an underground name for himself as a potential superstar down the road…
“Yeah he’s got all knockouts but he hasn’t fought anybody. He’s fought all club fighters. Of course you put him in with someone who stands in front of him and he’ll look great. I’ve heard people bragging about how great he is and that he’s 12 and 0 with all knockouts but I looked at his record and said ‘Who has he fought?’
I mean hell, I fought John Trigg in my 3rd fight. John Trigg had a bad record but he was better than your average ‘opponent.’ In my 4th fight I fought a guy called Sergio Olivas who was undefeated, 8-0 with 6 knockouts and I went into his backyard and beat him. I fought Ivan Dawson who was 5-0-1. I just can’t get excited about a guy who hasn’t fought anyone yet. I’m not saying he [Valero] can’t punch or that he isn’t a good fighter but I need to see it for myself. It’s hard for me to put stock into a guy from just seeing him in sparring.
I remember when Joel Casamayor was sparring Juan Lazcano and some people were saying Casamayor was taking it to him and others said it was evenly matched. What one guy sees with his eyes another guy might see completely different with his own set of eyes, that’s why I can’t be sold on anyone until I really see it myself. As far as people saying Valero is going to be a force in the division, well everybody’s a force until they get hit. Everybody has a plan until they get cracked once. Let me tell you what a prospect is. A prospect is a guy who you think is going to be something because of your early perception of them. How many prospects come around that don’t pan out? We have a whole Olympic team of them if you look around. Sometimes you have to reserve judgment and just wait and see.”
On Vivian Harris’ recent victory of Oktay Urkal…
“Great win for Vivian. I love Vivian’s work ethic. With Manny Steward now being with him, I love Manny Steward. I’ve always had this thing to where I’ve compared my trainers to Manny Steward and thought more of my trainers, but I’m not in that place anymore. I love Steward as a trainer and I think the world of him as a person. Manny was in my corner for my last fight. Manny trained my trainer, John David Jackson, so what more can I say? You really can’t say anything bad about Emmanuel Steward, it’s like sacrilegious.”
On the recent whispers that Kostya Tszyu has been looking great in training, which had lead to some people to change their prediction to a Tszyu victory when he meets Sharmba Mitchell in their rematch…
“Sparring is one thing, fighting is another. Sparring is controlled, while there isn’t anything controlled about fighting. Fighting is when you have two guys swinging away at each other with 8 oz. gloves on, and that’s what it's gonna be. And Sharmba isn’t going to be dancing to Tszyu’s rhythm, Sharmba’s gonna be looking to set his own pace. I don’t expect Sharmba to knock him out, I just think Sharmba has been busier. The last time Tszyu fought he was getting it taken to him by and older Jesse James Leija, and Leija isn’t what he used to be. I thought Jesse was tied up in that fight."
On the recent announcement that WBO Jr. Featherweight champ Joan Guzman will be bumping heads with Marcos Licona on the Tszyu-Mitchell undercard…
“ I’m familiar with Guzman a little bit. As far as Licona, I remember sparring him out in California and he’s a tough, rugged fighter. Rugged, very rugged. Guzman I’ve been keeping an eye on, I noticed he’s fought in Florida a lot. Marcos is busy but he’s not a bigger hitter, but he does take a lot of shots. I don’t really know how much of a chance I can give Licona in this one.”
On alcohol and drugs, and how they’ve affected his life…
“I’ve never had a bad habit. I don’t drink and I don’t smoke. My biological mother had a drug problem when I was a kid and I saw what that can do to somebody. My father drank himself to death. I loved my father tremendously, he was my life. I don’t want to end up that way.
Growing up there was this guy I knew, he lived here in Jacksonville and he lived on the streets. He was a drunk. People would always ask me ‘Why do you stop and talk to that guy? Why do you give him money out of your pocket?’ And I would tell people, ‘Because if it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be where I am today with my belief in the non alcoholic movement.’ I was 17, and people couldn’t believe I was wasting my time talking to this guy. But my momma always told me you can learn something from anybody, you just have to listen. And this guy stopped me one day and said ‘You know your friends just look at me as a bum, a drunk, an alcoholic but I wasn’t always this way. I was once one of the best pitchers in the world. The best pitcher in the United States when I was in high school. I didn’t go to class like everyone else did, I would just show up to games dead drunk and the coach would put me in the game and we would win. I would shut teams out, being drunk on the mound. But this shit right here, this idiot's oil (alcohol) ruined me. I gave my career away to this stuff.’
And I didn’t believe this guy for the longest time but one day I was driving down the street with one of my older family members and she called out this guy’s name. She said ‘You see that man walking down the street, do you know what he used to be?’ And I said ‘Well, he told me he used to be a baseball player or something.’ And with that she says ‘Not only was that guy a baseball player, he was the best baseball player I have ever seen.’ This woman told me the whole story of the guy’s life, where they went to school, everything about him. She said he had so much strength in his right arm he could pick up a Volkswagen and throw it across the plate. That’s how much power this guy had but he drank his career away. And that scared me so much and I looked at my father and all my family members that drank their lives away and it really put things into perspective for me.”
On how he made money as a young kid coming up…
“I remember when I was younger I couldn’t read and write but I sure as hell could count. I would always go shopping for all of the old people in the neighborhood just so I could make a buck on the side. They would pay me some money on the side and I’d make 5, 10 dollars a trip. I couldn’t read what the products where, but I knew what they looked like so I’d just grab them off the shelf. I mean I’d be going to the store for seven or eight people. I’d make a dollar here, fifty cents there, and another dollar over here. I mean, hell I made pretty good money just doing that at a young age.”
On where he grew up…
“Man, I grew up in the ghetto, it was called The Villa in Jacksonville. You gotta be tough growing up there. From getting up in the morning 'til going home at night you had to be on your P’s and Q’s. I remember going to school in the first grade. One time I got into it with this joker called Mike. I mean this joker was big, not muscular, just tall. He was in 5th grade and I was in 1st grade and he was starting some stuff with me. He slapped me so hard for no other reason than just to bully me. I fought him as hard as I could but he still beat my ass and sent me home. I went home and thought that was the end of it but I was wrong.
Well, word got back to my daddy from one of his friends on the street that I got my ass beat and I was in trouble. Before the night was out, I was then getting a whipping from my daddy, my grandmother, my auntie, and even my momma came in and spanked me too. They did that because they heard what happened and they knew you had to have a certain amount of toughness to grow up in this neighborhood.
The next day my Daddy took me to school and taught me a crash course on how to survive. My Dad looked around and said ‘Which boy did it?’ I pointed him out and my dad walked me up to him and his friends and said ‘Now you beat this kid’s ass and you don’t stop until I tell you to stop.’ It was either him or me, and I knew I was gonna get another whooping if I didn’t win this fight. That day is when I found out that I could hit. I found out that I could punch. I found out what I could do if I put my mind to it. I mean, I put it on him. Right on the bus stop is where I laid it on this kid and my Dad said ‘If he tries messing with you again, you do the same thing.’
A year later my dad asked my if I knew why he made me do that, and I told him I had no idea why. He said it’s something I had to go through, not because I was scared but because it was new to me and I needed to learn to stand up for myself. He told me if someone takes advantage of you once, they are going to take advantage of you the rest of your life. And where I grew up, you just couldn’t live like that.”
On his father…
“My father died when I was 10 years old, he’s been dead for over twenty-two years now. I was close to my dad, he was my everything. My daddy was sick a lot of the time but when he wasn’t sick he would take me to Bruce Lee matinees. $1.37 for two movies at the Florida Theatre. He took me to see movies like Game of Death, The Chinese Connection, all the Bruce Lee flicks. But when they didn’t have Bruce Lee films they would show Sonny Chiba films and other stuff like The Five Deadly Venoms, karate movies galore. He’d also take me to see movies like Superfly, and Sweet Willie, this movie about this pimp who had a whole bunch of girls with him. And that guy in the movie was just so smooth, I loved it. My dad would always say ‘Boy, look at that guy, ain't he slick?’
When I was little my Daddy would tell me a lot of things, dirty jokes, everything. I was seven, and my grandmother said he told me all these things because he knew he might not be around a long time and he wanted me to hear all the dirty stuff from him, as opposed to somebody else on the street. He told me about girls, about birds and the bees, everything really. My Dad was sick a lot of the times and he knew I was on my own a lot so he looked out for me as much as he could.
Because he was so sick he couldn’t work, he lost his job; he would instead get two checks and some food stamps. He’d always send me to go pick up his checks and stamps and to go get things from the store. He taught me how to cook when I was only four or five years old. He’d always tell me to throw in some bacon on whatever kinda beans you were cooking. He taught me a lot. My father basically taught me how to be self-reliable at a very young age. He told me to rely on myself, depend on yourself, and don’t trust anybody. He said ‘Let your word be your bond and always live by that.’ He taught me that a man is as only as good as his word. He told me never f#ck someone over…unless they had it coming to 'em.”
My dad was in a gang when I was growing up. The name of the gang was the Boomerang Gang and they would put people in the ground. I never really believed that my dad was in a gang but years later his friends from the street would tell me how rough he was and how tough he was. They said he was a wild character, but one thing in life changed him and settled him down. What changed him was me, the fact that he helped give birth to a son. They said when I came along something in him switched. And that’s a great feeling to me, that I could change his life so much from him running the streets to really becoming a good father to me. I became something special to him, I became his chief priority in life and that made me feel special.
But in the end what really shows that my father was here for me are all the things he taught me. Those things I’ve retained and I still use today."
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