Roberto Cammarelle was ‘someone to be feared,’ an ice-cold tactician who dissected heavyweight rivals, but he refused to pursue revenge over Anthony Joshua.
Four years before his final fight against Joshua, the Italian had prowled around the Olympic campus in Beijing, seeking out his semi-final opponent at the 2008 Games, Britain’s David Price.
Cammarelle wanted to issue a warning to Price, a declaration that the Liverpudlian would not repeat the heroics of Audley Harrison, who had defeated Italy’s Paolo Vidoz on his path to the gold medal in Sydney.
“I remember perfectly,” Cammarelle told Sky Sports.
“Before the fight as we were warming up, I went to speak to him and his coach in a room, and I told him, ‘I don’t think it will happen again, the way it happened when an Italian boxer had a fight against an Englishman in 2000.'”
Cammarelle was true to his word, stopping Price in the second round, not long after initiating that fleeting moment of intimidation.
Had Cammarrelle overwhelmed Price with pure power?
No, it was all part of a plan.
“I studied the way he fought and he had some difficulties with his right guard, and despite being a rather tall athlete, I thought that the best way to compensate for that was to shorten the distance.”
A perfectly placed left hand sent Price sagging into the ropes. The fight was over.
Cammarelle’s threat had been recognised by Paul Walmsley, who was previously the World Class Programme Coach at Team GB.
“He was getting that name and that reputation, someone to be feared. Everyone was looking where he was in the draw,” said Walmsley.
“He seemed so hard to beat. He just did the basics very well.
“He wasn’t a one-punch knockout merchant, or anything like that. He was more of a tactician. A real tough man.”
Alexander Povetkin was one of the rare amateur rivals who could outwit and outhit Cammarelle.
Every bout ended in defeat for Cammarrelle, including the semi-finals of the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
“That was my bete noire actually. It was five times and five defeats, although I thought I beat him on two occasions.”
But the Russian’s absence in Beijing cleared the path for Cammarelle to comfortably stop Zhilei Zhang in the Olympic final.
Cammarelle added World Amateur gold in Milan, a year later, but a destructive British rival was waiting in the quarter-finals when the tournament headed to Azerbaijan in 2011.
Anthony Joshua had arrived in the amateur ranks, overwhelming opponents with raw aggression, although Cammarelle was different.
“Josh is big, powerful, everything, but Cammarelle was the old wise fox and I thought he could play with Josh here,” said former Team GB coach Walmsley.
“He’s on a different level experience-wise. It was frightening going in, but at the same time, if there was any sign of any danger to Josh, I would have just got him out of it.”
But it wasn’t just Cammarelle who came armed with cruel tactics.
“I remember one thing about Cammarelle, he always got in close and held,” said Walmsley. “He totally relaxed. I remember saying to Josh, when he holds and gets inside of you, just find a bit of space and smash him in the stomach.
“I was looking directly up and I could just see Cammarelle’s back and he’s holding Josh. I was going, ‘Don’t let him switch off,’ and Josh just went bang and you could see Cammarelle’s feet come off the floor a bit. I thought, ‘That’s took the wind out of his sails.'”
Joshua’s controlled brutality gained a 15-13 win and a parting message from Cammarrelle.
“I remember saying, ‘Now you won, you have to progress further in the competition, because I was supposed to qualify,’ and I had to thank him for that.”
Joshua left Baku with a silver medal and a newly earned status as a genuine Olympic medal contender.
Nine years on, Cammarrelle still holds his own opinion about his last fight against Joshua, the Olympic final at the London 2012 Games.
“I think the public very much influenced the judges,” said Cammarelle.
“I was under the impression at some point that regardless of any move by Joshua, the crowd was cheering even if it was a miss, and I think it certainly influenced the final result.”
Walmsley disagrees and has pointed out that analysts have even confirmed that Joshua deserved his victory on countback after the bout ended with the score tied at 18-18.
“The performance analysis people back in Sheffield, they went through it, and counted punches landed, and punches missed, and Josh was by far the clearer winner on punches landed.
“At the end, I thought I was going to have a heart attack.
“I’m a bigger critic of anyone, our performance of our boxers, and I thought he edged it.”
Cammarelle bowed out of the sport after a final bout in March 2016. A few weeks later, Joshua was crowned as an IBF world champion.
Why hadn’t Cammarelle followed him into the pro ranks in pursuit of greater reward?
“When I started boxing, Mike Tyson was the best-paid athlete in the world at the time,” said Cammarelle.
“That was my model in becoming a professional, but then after a while, I became more and more attracted by the world of the Olympics.
“When I won the medal in 2008 at the Olympics, I was 28-years-old, and at that point, becoming a professional in Italy was not really worth it, from an economic standpoint.
“I would have had to move to another country, either Germany or the US, and I just didn’t feel like it.”
Cammarelle’s final tactical move was to know when to say farewell.
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