Joel Camilleri: “They’re underestimating me”

JOEL Camilleri is under no illusions about the challenge that awaits him on Wednesday night.

Although he is the reigning Australian titleholder and holds more experience, the Melbourne-based slugger is a wide underdog in his first title defence against Tim Tszyu at The Star in Sydney.

In Tszyu (12-0, 10 KOs), remarkably, Camilleri is up against the sixth unbeaten opponent of his professional career.

Despite Tszyu’s favoured status and unblemished record, Camilleri (17-5-1, 8 KOs) speaks with the confidence and swagger of a champion ahead of his biggest test on paper.

“He’s a good boxer, a neat boxer. He likes to control distance, but he doesn’t like pressure,” Camilleri told Aus-Boxing.

“I don’t think his chin is the greatest either, even though I don’t think it’s really been tested.

“It’s about what’s going to happen now, I feel sorry for him, not for what I’m going to do for him, but all this hope and expectation they put on him. It goes down the drain.”

Camilleri, 28 , has never avoided a challenge in his punch-for-pay career, which has yielded five losses for a variety of different reasons.

Having developed dramatically over the past 18 months, Camilleri has seen first-hand how important career progression can be.

For this reason, he believes Tszyu is still in the infancy of his career, which may back-fire on their high profile pay-per-view platform.

“For all I know, Tim might come out and surprise us,” he explained.

“He’s only done 40 or so rounds as a professional, whereas I’m a seasoned professional. I’ve been in with the best fighters in Australia, which he hasn’t, I bet that will show on fight night.

“From 12 fights to 16 fights and from 20 fights to 23 fights, there’s been so much development. Tim has been 10 rounds once, and aside from that, the max he’s gone is five rounds.

“Right now, I think it’s the perfect time to fight him. He’s only had the 12 fights and there’s all this hype around him, he’s just starting to headline pay-per-view cards.

“Maybe, in a few years time, once he has all the experience, he might be the fighter they’re saying he is right now. I just don’t believe what they’re saying, it’s the perfect time.”

Tszyu revealed an ambitious four-fight plan last month, which has Camilleri flanked by stablemate Michael Zerafa, Dwight Ritchie and Jeff Horn.

As far as Camilleri is concerned, the son of former lineal light welterweight ruler Kostya Tszyu will fall at the first hurdle, citing the differences in style.

“The way I’m seeing it, they think I’m the perfect option out of the guys they’re talking about fighting,” he added.

”The style is all wrong for him, and that’s the same with Jeff Horn as well. Our styles, the toughness we bring, our awkwardness, it’s the worst style for him.

“He wants to sit back and box, to be honest, I don’t think he beats any of the four guys he’s been mentioning, including myself. I’m going to bring hell to him.

“They’re underestimating me. Maybe it’s not Tim, but his team as a whole definitely are. They’ve seen what they’ve seen and probably haven’t rated it. But you ask my opponents, on fight night, it’s a completely different story.”

Camilleri will be without his head trainer Sam Labruna on fight night, who will watch on from his Melbourne base. Instead, the defending national champion will be cornered by long-time stablemate Blake Caparello.

With a game plan that has been embedded long before the ink dried on his fight contract, Camilleri believes the outcome will not be affected by his corner.

“It doesn’t matter that my trainer Sam won’t be in the corner,” he concluded.

“He’s been with Blake for 13 years, and during my training camp, Blake and Sam are there the entire time. 

My mind has completely changed in the last year or so, and it is where it needs to be.

“Even though the instructions help, Blake’s advice will be the same as Sam’s anyway.

 Blake’s been educated by Sam enough to tell me what I need to do on the night.

“Once I stop Tszyu, it’s going to be big for the entire camp anyway.

 Apart from his surname, it’s not a big fight for anyone. He hasn’t done anything yet.

“My life will change a lot when I beat him and my name is going to be on the map, where it should’ve been a long time ago. After this there are going to be massive opportunities coming my way.

“Losing is not an option.”

Order the pay-per-view, headlined by Tim Tszyu and Joel Camilleri, by heading to MAIN EVENT.

Photo: Marty’s Knockout Photography