NICK CAMPBELL etched his name into the history books with victory in a bloody heavyweight brawl on Saturday night.
The former rugby professional – an Island resident since 2013 – became the first boxer in 71 years to claim the Scottish national belt after grinding down the colourful Jay MacFarlane inside a packed OVO Hydro Arena in Glasgow.
Not since 1951 had two Scots duelled for the heavyweight belt – adding flavour to a contest between two relatively inexperienced, raw battlers on the undercard to Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall’s undisputed world light-welterweight title bout.
The tussle for Scottish supremacy was far from pretty but it was packed with entertainment; swaying each way before MacFarlane’s resistance was worn down to the point of no return in the seventh round.
The win, by TKO, takes Campbell to a perfect professional record of 5-0-0.
‘Jay is a tough man. He took some shots,’ said Campbell (32). ‘He was fighting in his home city, as was I, and I knew he didn’t want to get beat and that it would take a lot to get him out of there.
‘He caught me with two good right hands and two big body shots … I’m not going to say they didn’t hurt but I was never worried and I was never dazed.
‘Those seven rounds will be invaluable. The experience I’ve gained from it, against someone who was there to win, is massive.’
MacFarlane, who appeared for Friday’s weigh-in dressed as ‘Braveheart’, with a painted face and body to accompany his green hair, shouted in Campbell’s face after the pair had posed for photographs. The pre-fight bravado was met with the words ‘empty vessels make the most noise’, and the Islander let his fists do the talking when it mattered most.
At 18st 2lb, Campbell was giving up a stone-and-a-half to his rival – a former Scottish cruiserweight champion – although that extra weight did MacFarlane no favours. The heavily tattooed, kilted 23-year-old began the fight with a provokative, hands-down approach, but what was viewed as early arrogance turned out to be an apparent lack of conditioning.
Campbell, sporting a Jersey flag on his shorts, looked calm and composed in the opening stages and made his first real breakthrough in the second round, when he connected with a right-hander which left MacFarlane stunned and shaky.
Athleticism looked as though it would prove the difference and with his opponent throwing laboured swings it appeared that it was Campbell’s fight to lose.
A bloodied nose early in third did little to alter that view in MacFarlane’s favour, although he enjoyed a revival in the fourth – an indication that he had been biding his time. Campbell was caught by a big right hook in what was the first sign of trouble and his movement steadily began to slow.
Sky Sports commentators had branded Campbell’s approach as ‘basic and novicey’, but any concern in Campbell’s corner was short-lived. The former Jersey Reds forward responded with numerous clean, powerful head shots in the fifth. MacFarlane stood firm and often offered a wry smile once hit, although referee Kenny Pringle was keeping a close watch on his swollen left eye.
Momentum switched once more in the sixth, with two right-handers and a huge body shot causing Campbell visible discomfort, and both fighters looked as though they were running on empty as they returned to their corners – for what would be the final time.
A right-handed upper-cut 20 seconds into the seventh sat MacFarlane down. He was quick to rise to his feet and continued to hang on, soaking up shot after shot to the head.
Campbell may have wondered what it would take to unravel a man who had clearly taken strength from a difficult upbringing, which included time spent in a Caribbean orphanage after his mother and then-partner were arrested for drug smuggling while on a family holiday.
MacFarlane refused to quit, but the result was taken from him two minutes into the seventh, when Pringle stepped in.
‘I’ll be back in Jersey on Tuesday,’ Campbell said. ‘It’s a tough old sport so I’ll take a bit of down time, get back as close to 100% as I can and then make a plan.’
In tomorrow’s JEP: ‘Sky Sports pundits don’t like me’ – Campbell