Tavoris Cloud defends his IBF light heavyweight title against Gabriel Campillo tonight at the American Bank Center in Corpus Christi, Texas. As par for the course for Cloud, it’s been a while.
Cloud, 23-0 with 19 KOs, is a fan-friendly puncher who has thus far had a career plagued by setbacks and stints of inactivity. He had two fights in 2008, one fight in 2009, another two in 2010, and again, only one bout last year. That doesn’t quite describe a bullet train towards big money bouts, but questionable decisions, promotional conflicts, plus bad luck, such as Zsolt Erdei pulling out of a December 31 bout due to a hand injury, has continued to hedge his momentum.
Still, he’s an explosive fighter who seeks thrilling knockouts over a win-now-look-good-later approach, and even if fights are few and far between, he provides enough in each performance to create a lasting impression. His triple left hooks, mixed with violent uppercuts and hard-hat body work, are as caustic as they are eye-catching. And he’s shown himself to be undeterred by return fire, capable of taking a decent punch and bouncing back from rough stretches.
But Cloud, Tallahassee, Florida, like most sluggers, isn’t without vulnerabilities. Equipped with slow feet to offset relatively fast hands, he had issues catching up with Yusaf Mack last June before finally short-circuiting him with a leaping left hook in the eighth round. Mack, a guy that likes to move but isn’t particularly slippery, exposed Cloud’s affinity towards following his prey instead of cutting off the ring.
Also, while he has rocks in his gloves, he isn’t great at finishing a staggered opponent. Fulgencio Zuniga and Clinton Woods weren’t easy men to hurt, and the 30-year-old had both of them skating. Glen Johnson is one of the most durable fighters in recent memory, and even he got put on shaky legs from one of Cloud’s volleys. But each of them survived, because instead of tearing into the rib cage and keeping his dazed adversary guessing with a variety of blows, he opted to loft haymakers into their guard.
So knocking out Gabriel Campillo, known for a set of steely whiskers and a sturdy guard, can prove a difficult task. Campillo, 21-3-1 with 8 KOs, comes from the Winky Wright school of fighting: while opponents wear themselves out prodding through and around his earmuffs, he consistently stuffs a jab in their mouth. The southpaw tends to be a slow starter, but once he gets going, his right hand is active and pesky, and he compounds it with accurate straight lefts and uppercuts.
But Campillo probably won’t take advantage of Cloud’s cement feet. The 33-year-old is more comfortable coming forward behind the aforementioned guard than fighting off his back foot. Cloud won’t have trouble finding him, and even if he has difficulty landing flush head punches, thrashing Campillo’s midsection alone should bag him rounds. Moreover, evident by his eight knockouts in 25 bouts, Campillo’s punch lacks starch, and shouldn’t deter Cloud from banging away at the taller man’s body.
When Cloud meets a durable opponent, it’s a competitive and entertaining clash. Saturday night likely won’t be any different. But because Cloud’s punches have the zip that Campillo’s arsenal lacks, any debatable round will be a Cloud round, regardless if Campillo is the more accurate of the two. Campillo, Madrid, Spain, dropped close – sometimes dubious – decisions against Beibut Shumenov and Karo Murat, and Cloud is a far more violent puncher than either of those two. He’ll need to conclusively outwork his younger adversary to have a realistic chance of winning the title.
Win or lose, hopefully we see Tavoris Cloud return to the ring quicker than we’re accustomed to.