‘I was thinking I’m just wasting time.’ Luke Campbell tells John Dennen why he chose to call it a day at just 33 years of age
LUKE CAMPBELL has retired. The decision was not expected, he is just 33 years old, but has to be admired.
The pinnacle of his career came when he won the Olympic gold medal at London 2012. He was one of the most successful amateur boxers GB had ever had, becoming the first Englishman in 47 years to win the European championships and also winning World championship silver. Turning professional in 2013, he filled arenas in Hull with his dedicated fan base, headlining at an open-air stadium twice. He competed at the highest level as a pro. Jorge Linares edged him out on a split decision when they boxed in California and Campbell fought a brilliant Vasiliy Lomachenko at the O2 in London for the WBC, WBA and WBO lightweight belts. Mostly recently he boxed rising star Ryan Garcia, dropping the American before being halted himself inside seven rounds.
“It’s hard to express the words because I’ve never been in this position before with these feelings and emotions,” he told Boxing News. “I’ve been sitting on this decision for six months.”
His reason for retiring is simple and compelling. Family. “I committed myself for 22 years in the sport of boxing and I’ve been on the road for 20 years. I’ve been away, in training camp, travelling the world with GB and as a professional I’ve been away non-stop. For weeks on end, having one or two days back home every weekend and that’s it. Then I’m back away again. I’ve sacrificed so much now. I have given it my all. Now I’m just going to sit back and enjoy the fruits of the labour, what I’ve put in,” Luke, a father of three, explained.
“Before I announced it, I tried to picture myself going away, going back in training camp, away from the family. Then I’d just think ‘I’m wasting time’. I’m going to be stuck away back in training camp, blocked off from everything else and think I’m literally just wasting time. Time I’ll never get back and that’s the way I’d think of it in the last month or two.”
Spending more time with his family during lockdown also shaped his thinking. “Massively. I’ve never spent so much time at home and it made me realise, actually I love being home with my family, and that was a massive spanner in the works for my career. It certainly was. If Covid never came and we didn’t go into lockdown then who knows? I most likely probably would still be fighting. It opened my eyes to what I’ve actually got and had and still got,” Luke said. “Some people don’t have a choice. I’m very fortunate and lucky enough to be able to have a choice.”
For Campbell this ending is coming at the right moment. “I actually forgot about this but when I turned professional, I said to myself it would be good to finish around the Tokyo Olympics. I’ve classed everything in Olympic cycles because that’s what I’ve done for many years in the amateur boxing. I thought I’d do two Olympic cycles as a professional boxer,” he said. “Probably subconsciously it was always the goal, to finish around the Tokyo Olympics. I never wanted to continue fighting after the age of 34 anyhow. My goal and dream was always the Olympics. The professional side of boxing was to financially secure my family’s future. The two things I wanted was to secure my family’s future and win the respect of the fans and I feel like I’ve done both.
“I’m very blessed to have such an awesome city behind me, and not just the city but also the fight fans that follow me and support me. Without them it wouldn’t have been possible.”
As an Olympic champion, Campbell is in very select company. “That was my dream. I never really looked past that point,” he said. “I thought let’s see what I can do in the professional ranks but that was never the goal or the dream. But I did alright.
“I could easily have been crowned world champion the night I fought Linares, but they gave it to him on a split. It is what it is but they could have raised my hand that night and me being crowned world champion, no one would have batted an eyelid. I thought I won seven clear rounds out of a 12-round fight but it is what it is. It wasn’t meant to be,” he continued. “[Lomachenko] beat me fair and square and it was a great night. The fans certainly won that night and it went from there. But I don’t need titles or medals or anything like this to make me happy in life. I’m happy.
“Now that I’ve finally closed that door, I feel like a couple of other doors have opened in the world of boxing. I’m very knowledgeable in the sport. I’d love to keep skin in the game and be a part of boxing, because it’s what I’ve done my whole life.”