STAR TRIBUNE (Mpls.-St. Paul) Newspaper of the Twin Cities
Patrick Reusse; Staff Writer
Matt Vanda has been training for 10 weeks in Hollywood, Fla., in preparation for Friday night's 12-round fight against Luis (Yory Boy) Campas at Target Center. If he wins, the 154-pounder from St. Paul is supposed to get a big-money fight with Fernando Vargas. And if he loses? "If things go wrong, I'm retiring," Vanda said. "Training like I've been doing kills you. If I go through this, and it's not going to mean anything for me financially, I'm done. I'm going to get a regular job." This would seem to make Vanda, 26, a desperate fighter when he enters the ring on Friday night. Still, he figures to rate as the runner-up to Campas on the desperation meter. Campas, 33, has had 93 professional fights. He won his first 56. He has fought Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad and Vargas. And, after all of this, he's broke. "He has no money in the bank," trainer/manager Joe Diaz said. "That's why we have been fighting so much - so his wife and three kids can live a decent life down there in Mexico." Pedro Fernandez, the editor of the boxing website ringtalk.com, has been attempting to publicize what he claims was a blatant ripoff of Campas by his previous promoters, Top Rank Boxing. Most of Fernandez's outrage has been aimed at the May 3, 2003, title fight between Campas and De La Hoya in Las Vegas. According to Fernandez, Campas signed a contract for $100,000, but the actual deal with Top Rank was for $200,000 - and the WBC and WBA were paid sanctioning fees as though his purse was $300,000.
"They took advantage of a man who doesn't read, write or speak any English - having him sign a contact with no one to read it to him," Diaz said. Lee Samuels, an executive and the publicist for Top Rank Boxing, did not return a message left on his cell phone Monday. Mitch Hampp, the manager of Top Rank's boxing gym in Las Vegas, said: "If Campas has a complaint, it shouldn't be with us. And Joe Diaz doesn't know what he's talking about." Campas was inactive for nearly 11 months after being TKO'd by De La Hoya in the seventh round. Diaz took over Campas' career and got him back in the ring on March 26, 2004. He is 6-1 in that time and will fight his eighth bout in 13 months on Friday night. "We're grateful to Team Freedom for bringing us to Minneapolis for this fight," Diaz said. "Yory Boy's purse is $20,000, but we're going there to win, and to get him another chance at Vargas a payday where he finally gets what's coming to him." Diaz said Campas' problems in recent months go beyond financial.
His wife, Mabel, lost twins last fall because of an infection in her womb. More recently, Diaz said, she was attacked in the family's hometown of Navojoa, Mexico by unknown assailants. "She was chloroformed, abducted, knocked around, told by her attackers to forget about any investigation into the finances of Yory Boy's previous fights, and then thrown out of the car," Diaz said. This tale makes the difficulties faced by Vanda since his unimpressive split decision victory over Sam Garr on Jan. 16, 2004, seem mild. Two weeks after being given that victory by hometown judges, Vanda was arrested outside a St. Paul home where he rented a room.
This came after drugs were found in the house. Vanda hired Earl Gray, the bulldog of a defense attorney, and was able to get out of the mess when charges were dropped because a judge ruled the police search was illegal. "Earl was able to prove I didn't do anything to be arrested," Vanda said. "Earl's not cheap, but he's worth every dime. If I had wound up in jail, my career would be over." Team Freedom, the California boxing company, took over Vanda's career from Tommy Brunette and his brothers after the Garr fight. Although the parting was not amicable, Vanda was saddened and shocked when Brunette died on Feb. 18 at a boxing card. Vanda, 33-1, has three victories and his only loss (an eighth-round knockout by Armando Velardez in August 2004) with Team Freedom. After the loss, he changed his training site from California to work with trainer Norm Wilson at Warriors Boxing Gym in south Florida. "Much better sparring partners for him here," Wilson said. "I'm not going to sit back and say Matt's the champion of the world, but he's improved a lot. "The first time I worked with him, I said, `What's that?' He said, `A jab.' I told him, `If that's what you're going to call a jab, I got applications in the car. Wendy's, Burger King are hiring, and you're going to need a job.' " Vanda and Campas are fighting for the 154-pound title as sanctioned by Dean Chance's IBA group. What they really are after Friday is a date with Ferocious Fernando. They are after a payday that would enable Vanda to realize that weeks of arduous training can lead to something, or enable Campas to receive some financial reward for a long, heroic and so far unfortunate career. One or the other can happen. Not both.