Corey Erdman

Campas, still fighting after 25 years, 118 bouts, finally nears retirement

Luis Ramon Campas sits on the edge of the bed, gathering a load of laundry, and packing his bags for Australia.

“Yori Boy” is getting ready for his 118th professional boxing match on Saturday against middleweight Les Sherrington, but one of the most active fighters of the modern era is still a husband and a father of three.

At 40 years old, he knows all about honoring his duties.

“(He fights) to pay the bills and stay alive,” said trainer and manager Joe Diaz. “He’s the real legend for all kids to look up to.”

Campas (100-16-1, 79 knockouts) is married to the woman he fell in love with in high school, and now has his children in private school. The only way he knows how to finance that is by fighting, which he has been doing professionally since July of 1987.

After a quarter century of getting punched in the face however, the former titleholder is starting to ask himself the same question that most fans ask when they see his name on an upcoming bill.

Should I really be doing this anymore?

“After all these years of fighting, I just can’t say it’s over. But I’m at the point now that pretty soon I’m going to have to hang up the gloves,” Campas told RingTV.com. “I’ve been fighting for 25 years. I turned pro at 15. But there wasn’t ever a point yet where I could say it’s over. But right now, after this fight, it’ll probably be this year. There (will) probably be one more fight, maybe two more fights, and that’s gonna be it.”

Nobody who actually sees Campas in action these days is particularly concerned for him though. In fact, most are impressed that a man of his age with the amount of his fights he’s had is competent and competitive at a reasonable level in the sport.

In the past two years, he has dominated recognizable gatekeeper Matt Vanda, and upset a 25-1 Rogelio Medina.

He loses on the occasion that he steps up in competition, and bullies novice youngsters who think they can take advantage of an old man.

It’s the latest chapter in a storied career that has seen the double tough Mexican’s role change many times. In the early 90s, he was hailed as the next Julio Cesar Chavez, compiling a 56-0 record with 49 knockouts by the time he ran into Felix Trinidad, and was stopped in the fourth round. Two years later, he met the man he considers to be his toughest opponent, then-WBO welterweight titleholder Jose Luis Lopez, and suffered another loss.

The mainstream audience believed this to be the beginning of the end for Campas—way back in 1996.

“I had a lot of rope left. But Lopez beat me good,” said Campas with a chuckle. “He had tremendous power in both hands. But I had so much left in me, that it didn’t mean a thing.”

He had plenty more jump seven pounds north at junior middleweight, where he captured his first world title the next year, stopping an undefeated Raul Marquez in the eighth round.

With a title and plenty of recognition, Campas became a popular B-side fighter for bigger names, losing to Fernando Vargas, Oba Carr and most famously in 2003, Oscar De La Hoya.

Campas claims he took home around $30,000 after all was said and done from the De La Hoya bout, forcing him to continue hustling around for the past nine years, taking fights anywhere he could without a nest egg to rest upon.

Joe Diaz has been in his corner through all of it. He was there for the pay-per-view main event against De La Hoya, the loss of his license in Arizona and a $43 million claim against the state and Top Rank that ensued. Diaz even battled through a near-fatal heart attack in 2011, and still managed to get Campas five fights in Mexico, where he was still licensed to compete.

“Of all the fighters I’ve had, and I’ve had many, nobody is more dedicated and trains harder than Yori Boy Campas,” said Diaz, who has worked with fighters such as Buddy McGirt and Oscar Bonavena.

These days, on top of his standard work in the gym, Campas still wakes up at 5:00 AM to run five miles, and follows that up with half an hour of chopping wood, a three mile cool-down walk, and then an hour of shoveling gravel. (Writer’s note: These “old school” methods shouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed Campas. He drank an ancient herbal potion before the De La Hoya bout because Mexican Indians drank it at the Battle of Puebla in 1862.)

His fitness level, much like his recent performances in the ring, is impressive given his age and the circumstances. As a result, he’s earned a visit to a country he’s never been to this weekend.

Maybe one of his last as a fighter, the only profession he’s ever known.

So what will he do once his career is over?

Campas pauses for a moment, as though he’d pondered retiring but not what would happen afterward.

“I know how to make furniture,” he says with some uncertainty. “I’d like to build a new house for my family, closer to the center of the city.”

One way or another, Yori Boy will pay the bills and stay alive with his two hands.

 

 

Photos / John Gurzinski-AFP and Al Bello-Getty Images

Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman

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