Archdeacon: Left for dead, boxer Jeff Camp shows his fight

Jeff Camp after a quick knockout victory in 2016. CONTRIBUTED
Jeff Camp after a quick knockout victory in 2016. CONTRIBUTED

CLAYTON – Riddled by bullets and bleeding badly, he lay on the asphalt next to the Dollar General on Salem Avenue in Trotwood.

His eyes were open, but he could not see.

“My visual was all white,” he said quietly. “That’s all I saw, just white.”

Jeff “The Nightmare” Camp – who’d been an amateur boxer of note here and now was a colorful pro known as much for his nickname and custom-made gold fight garb and mask as his 5-2-1 record – had been shot five times last Oct. 15 by an unknown gunman who had been sitting alone in a Chevy Equinox parked near the rear of the store.

Camp was a kind-hearted assistant manager there and the first bullet from the .45 caliber pistol hit him in the left temple. He fell and immediately was shot twice more in the back, once through the left forearm and another bullet grazed his neck.

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The last shots, a witness said, had come as the gunman – wearing a black hoodie and blue medical gloves – stood over the fallen boxer.

With that, the guy – who remains at large, his motive unknown – sped off in his car. Later, a stolen Equinox was found in flames on Shakespeare Avenue.

Although Camp had no vision after the shooting, he said he did have memory:

“I’d just gotten a head shot and I knew you don’t usually beat that. Laying there, my first thoughts were, ‘You’re about to go see Mommy.’ That’s what we called my grandma when she was alive.”

Mary Ann Camp Louis, who’d played a big role raising Camp, had died in November of 2006.

“I was thinking, ‘You ain’t seen her in so long. She’s gonna be happy to see me and I’ll be happy to see her,’” he said. “‘Maybe she can explain what just happened.’”

It was just past the noon hour and Camp and another employee had finished stocking the store for Halloween and Thanksgiving.

When he’d stepped outside to put some empty boxes in the trash, he said a red flag went off when he saw the car: “I wondered why it was parked on the side when there were plenty parking spaces up front. And when I walked passed it, another red flag went up. There was a person in there looking straight ahead. He wasn’t talking on his phone, nothing like that.”

Returning to the store, Camp passed the vehicle again.

“That’s when I heard the door open behind me,” he said. “I turned to see what’s what and I was shot in the head. Laying there, I heard the other shots go off.”

At that exact same time, Tempestt Camp, Jeff’s wife, was headed to their home in Clayton.

An LPN working toward her RN degree while also running her own health care business, working as a unit manager at a Trotwood nursing facility and caring for a home full of young children, she had just talked to Jeff by phone a few minutes earlier.

Uncharacteristically, she said she’d thought about paying him a visit at his job: “I don’t know why, but that day something felt different and I wanted to see him.

“But when I called, I could tell he was busy. So I told him to call when he got done.”

Jeff Camp and his wife Tempestt at her 30th birthday party this past March. CONTRIBUTED
Jeff Camp and his wife Tempestt at her 30th birthday party this past March. CONTRIBUTED

But that call never came.

As he lay there expecting to die, Camp suddenly heard sirens. And the next thing he knew, a paramedic was at his side:

“I couldn’t see him, but I heard him say ‘Jeff The Nightmare Camp. I’m sorry this is the first championship fight you’re in, but Man, you gotta win this one!’ “I remember them putting me on a stretcher, rolling me into the back of their truck and the guy saying, ‘Jeff, we got five minutes ‘til we get to Miami Valley Hospital. That’s a five-minute round you’re gonna have to fight through. Do that and you’ll get your title.’”

Soon after the rescue vehicle drove off with her husband, Tempestt arrived at the scene. Jeff’s sister had learned of the shooting on social media and had called Jeff’s cell phone. A coworker had answered, told her he’d been shot and she called Tempestt.

“I rushed there and then went chasing the ambulance down Salem,” Tempestt said. “I was frantic and wasn’t stopping at red lights and that’s when the police officer who’d followed me pulled me over. He said, ‘We don’t want you to crash! Get in and we’ll take you there.’”

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When they got to the hospital, she said the chaplain helped her get back to see her husband before he was taken into surgery. She said doctors weren’t sure Jeff would survive.

Although he’d lifted his right arm when asked to do so in the ambulance, Camp said he initially didn’t respond to similar requests at the hospital:

“They told me later that’s when my wife came over and said ‘Baby, you hear what they’re saying? Lift your right arm.’

“They said I smacked my lips to her and then threw my arm up. Wifey had gotten me to respond. And that let them know there still was some fight left in me.”

Boxing success

Camp initially played football at Dunbar High School and then transferred to Isus Trade and Technology Prep. At 18, he finally walked into the boxing gym of veteran local trainer Kenny Miliner.

Four years later, he won the middleweight crown at the 2011 Missouri Black Expo in St. Louis and the following year he won the middleweight crown at the Ohio State Fair.

He was then a longshot entrant in USA Boxing’s Last Chance qualifying tournament in Cincinnati. Winners would advance to the U.S Olympic Trials and have a chance at making it to the 2012 London Games.

He shocked everyone by winning three bouts before losing a close decision in the quarterfinals. In the process, he said Cincinnati pizza baron and boxing patron Buddy LaRosa gave him “The Nightmare” nickname.

His Cincinnati showing caught the eye of the organizers of the World Series of Boxing and he was flown to Los Angeles for a fight the next day against amateur standout Kanat Islam, a Chinese-born middleweight who’d fought in two Olympics, won bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and today is the World Boxing Organization’s unbeaten middleweight champ with a 28-0 pro record.

Although the fight was stopped in the fourth round, Camp fought admirably and made his name known.

After switching trainers, he turned pro in 2014, a move that began with a thud: a draw and two losses. Rededicating himself, he then won five straight fights.

Before the win streak began, he’d reached out to local urban clothes maker Aaron Harrison and asked him to make a fight uniform to go with his gold boxing shoes.

Jeff “ The Nightmare” Camp, the promising Dayton pro boxer in the gold uniform and mask he’d wear into the ring. CONTRIBUTED
Jeff “ The Nightmare” Camp, the promising Dayton pro boxer in the gold uniform and mask he’d wear into the ring. CONTRIBUTED

That gave birth to the eye-catching ensemble and mask that became his trademark.

Early in his pro career, Camp met Tempestt Melvin – the former Trotwood Madison High cheerleader and track athlete turned nurse – who had signed up for a boxing venture pitting first-time women fighters in an event at the Chrysler Union Hall.

Camp had agreed to help tutor the women and ended up paired with her.

“He gave me pointers and we were just friends, but to other people we were looking more like a couple,” Tempestt laughed. “A lot of people started asking, ‘Are you two together?’ and I said, ‘Oh no.’”

Eventually the answer was “Yes.” They began dating five years ago and married in 2018.

She already had three small children of her own and he had three young kids, as well. They then had their own daughter, Ja’Bre.

They now live in Clayton with four of the children.

As Camp was trying to relaunch his career, he also worked at Dollar General and, in the process, became a Good Samaritan.

The store manager said Camp would often reach into his own pocket and pay for items for people in need. He especially helped children.

But then came the shooting and the fight for his life.

“My oldest two sons were informed, but our four kids at home are young and we didn’t want them to be afraid,” he said. “They told them that me and Moms were going on vacation.”

Tempestt said: “At first they were really excited for us and were like ‘OK, we’ll see you guys.’ But then one week turned into two and two turned into three and they began to cry.

“They said, ‘We want you all to come back home!’”

Tempestt and Jeff Camp gather three years ago with their children:
(left to right) Jaedon, A’Launi, A’Niylah, Ja’Bre, Rodney, Jeriden, Trey’von. CONTRIBUTED
Tempestt and Jeff Camp gather three years ago with their children: (left to right) Jaedon, A’Launi, A’Niylah, Ja’Bre, Rodney, Jeriden, Trey’von. CONTRIBUTED

‘Focus on the positives’

In the hospital it was anything but a vacation for Jeff.

“The first week or so I think I only woke up a couple of times,” he said. “The first time I saw my wife. She was smiling and said, ‘I love you.’ I couldn’t say anything and fell back asleep.

“When I woke up a couple days later, the doctor told me he’d YouTubed me. He said he knew I was a good boxer, but what my body was doing in here showed I was one hell of a fighter!” He said had to relearn how to walk: “They had me walk in a circle and then pick up the pace to make sure my feet and brain were on the same channel.”

When it was suggested he might have to change his moniker to The Miracle, he nodded:

“This definitely is a miracle. It feels like a special light has come over me.

“I’m really humbled by it. All I can say is ‘praise on high!’ And ‘praise to my wife’ for stepping up like she has.”

Tempestt admitted: “To be honest, it was really a hard struggle for me at first. But I never let him see it because I didn’t want him to feel down.

“One of the hardest things came once he was home and I was giving him a bath. I was drying his back and one of the bullet fragments was sticking out. I had to dig it out. That made it real for me.”

He still has other bullet pieces in his body. He’s had to deal with some “random headaches” and there’s been some memory loss issues, but his eyesight is fine.

And he said he’s feeling more like his old self each day.

He and Tempestt celebrated her 30th birthday with a small party in Trotwood in March. And he said he’s tried not to obsess about the shooting:

“You can overthink it and end up depressed, so I focus on the positives.”

And while his wife said he’ll have a position in her health care business, he said he’s found himself shadow boxing as he moves around their home.

“I’m definitely thinking about trying to fight again,” he said. “A coach in Toledo told me about Terence Crawford and how he got shot in the head and still went on to win several world titles. So that’s motivation for me.”

Jeff Camp with the new boxing uniform he hasn’t yet worn. The new slogan “Living Proof” has never been more apropos. He miraculously survived after being shot five times – in the head, neck, back and arm – while working at a Dollar General store on Salem Avenue last October. Tom Archdeacon/CONTRIBUTED
Jeff Camp with the new boxing uniform he hasn’t yet worn. The new slogan “Living Proof” has never been more apropos. He miraculously survived after being shot five times – in the head, neck, back and arm – while working at a Dollar General store on Salem Avenue last October. Tom Archdeacon/CONTRIBUTED

Two months ago, Crawford was named the best pound for pound fighter in boxing by ESPN. He’s 37-0, is the reigning WBO welterweight champ and has held world titles at three different weight classes.

In September of 2008, he was shot on the right side of the head by a 9 millimeter handgun. But the wound was grazing and he was released from the hospital later that night.

“I’d love to be able to contact him and see how he felt,” Camp said. “With me, when everything gets better I’m going to go hit the heavy bag. If it doesn’t feel right I’ll stop, but if it feels good I’d like to have a couple of fights.”

He said he already has a new fight uniform. It was made by Harrison before the shooting and it’s more apropos now.

He went upstairs in his home and brought the garments down for me to see. They were baby blue, silver and white and in big letters across the front of the top, it bore the name of a sponsor from Cincinnati:

“Living Proof.”

He laughed and nodded: “I am living proof. “I’ve proved I’m as much of a fighter as I ever was.”

Actually, he’s more.

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