TAMPA - Nate Campbell has all the confidence in the world that he will do well when he steps into the ring March 8 in Cancun, Mexico against WBA, WBO and IBF lightweight champion Juan Diaz (33-0, 17 KOs). To describe how he arrived at that level of confidence, Campbell (31-5-1, 25 KOs) immediately started singing lines from Donny Hathaway's cover of Leon Russell's "A Song For You".
"I've been so many places in my life and time/I've sung a lot of songs/ I've made some bad rhyme/I've acted out my life in stages/with 10,000 people watching ...," Campbell harmonized. He continued, "I know your image of me is what I hope to be ...."
After career-threatening charges of armed burglary, false imprisonment, witness tampering and domestic battery were dropped by the State Attorney's Office in November and his wrangling for a shot against Diaz was agreed upon, it is no surprise Campbell is in the singing mood.
"Winky Wright said it first in the Felix Trinidad fight, then I said it in the Ricky Quiles fight, and I'm saying it again - this will be one of my best performances," said Campbell, the IBO's No. 1 contender. "This will blow the minds of the people watching."
FISTS OF STEEL: Tampa's Chevelle Hallback (26-5-1, 11 KOs) will attempt to secure a third title when she faces Melissa Hernandez (7-1-1, 2 KOs) for the vacant IFBA's lightweight belt Feb. 7 at Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, Calif. Despite Hernandez's lack of experience, Hallback isn't one to look past an opponent she calls a "busy fighter."
"I don't underestimate anybody," said the current IBA and WIBA women's lightweight champion. "The person who's in the ring, even if they only had one fight, I'm going to train as hard for them as I would for somebody who has 30 or 40 fights. Anybody has a puncher's chance. When you get between those ropes, anything can happen. I never take anybody lightly."
This is the second time Hallback, who briefly lived in Temecula, has fought at Pechanga Resort and Casino.
"I love fighting at the Pechanga, I feel at home there," Hallback said after a training session at the West Tampa Boxing Gym. "That's the main thing, you don't want to just be known at home, which, I've only fought at home one time. ...You just don't want to be known at home, you want to be known worldwide. I want to be known in the United States, North America, South America, across the world."
Hallback, who has also fought in Canada, Japan and Mexico, hopes the exposure will allow her to one day make history. She wants to become the first female to fight on HBO.
THREE THE HARD WAY: Antonio Tarver has made his quest to add to his IBO light heavyweight title a playoff-like system.
"Right now, my goal is three fights, three belts, undisputed by the end of the year," Tarver said.
Round 1 begins April 12 against Clinton Woods at the St. Pete Times Forum. According to Tarver, he'll take Woods' IBF lightweight title, then he's going after Danny Green's WBA light heavyweight belt. After that, he'll take on the winner of the Chad Dawson-Glen Johnson fight, which on the undercard of his bout with Woods, for the WBC belt.
"I'm going to have all the belts, so there won't be anywhere for these guys to run," Tarver said. "By the end of '08, I will be undisputed. Beyond a shadow of a doubt, the light heavyweight champion of the world."