Centre of attention this weekend is the big stateside clash for the world lightweight title. New Yorker Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KO’s) defends his Ring magazine title along with the majority of the sanctioning belts against undefeated Australian George Kambosos Jr. (19-0, 10 KO’s) at the Theatre in the basement of Madison Square Garden.
The original purse bid to stage the fight was won nine months ago. It’s been delayed a number of times, but now, after Matchroom took up the reins the contest is finally on. Both boxers have been inactive since October 2020 – Lopez putting in a standout performance to rip the titles from then undisputed champion Vasiliy Lomachenko and, Kambosos defeating former IBF champ Lee Selby in the UK a few weeks later.
Both fighters bring undefeated records to the ring and exude self confidence. There’s also a grudge element to the contest after an altercation earlier in the year in Miami when Kambosos confronted Lopez, and in the latter’s view disrespected him. The champion claims this “is personal”.
The self confessed ‘Takeover’ Lopez has Olympic experience and fought at a much higher level. His victory over Lomachenko was arguably the performance of 2020, rewarded by splitting The Ring magazine fighter of the year with Tyson Fury. The Ukrainian entered the ring on the cusp of booking his place at the International Boxing Hall of Fame but left the ring a defeated and humbled man. Lopez’ challenge Saturday night is, to back that up.
Kambosos has had 13 months to prepare, albeit off and on with re-scheduling but, he enters the US a hungry man. He’s a come forward, busy fighter with respectable power and will be dangerous in the early rounds. The Aussie is extremely comfortable with the magnitude of the challenge “I’m enjoying the moment, I’m very relaxed”, and confident of victory, claiming that when victorious they will build a statue of him in Sydney !
However, the majority of Kambosos’ experience in elite company has been within the ropes of the Wild Card Gym, Los Angeles where he’s sparred with Manny Pacquiao amongst other leading lights. Many of his paid fights have been in Australia against domestic fighters, which as tough as any Aussie is, may be a distinct disadvantage when the New York bell rings.
Lopez, with his father in his corner, confidence is backed up by his boxing ability. He still remains someway from the finished article but is looking to be the future of the lightweight division or, 5lbs higher at junior-welterweight and, maybe beyond. With all the top lightweights avoiding each other a dream follow up fight would have been against undisputed 140 pounder Josh Taylor but who’s now rumoured to be seeking fights at 147 amongst the welterweights.
Lopez is a heavy favourite going in and big things are expected; however, this writer is old enough to remember big things were also promised from Donald Curry in the 1980’s, before he ran into Lloyd Honeyghan. The last few weeks have shown us that shocks do happen – think Usyk, Kiko Martinez, but these were experienced operators with good technical skills.
Kambosos’ ability to cause the shock will be based on confidence, hunger and bravery. Technically he will fall short, but boxing is not always about superior skillsets. If Kambosos can get inside of Lopez solid jab and, the champion has not prepared well in his prolonged absence or, underestimated the tough Aussie, then we will see a fight. However this is unlikely, and the smart money is to expect the champion to retain his title somewhere around the eight stanza.
It should though be exciting whilst it lasts.
The fight is available on the DAZN streaming site in the early hours of Sunday morning (UK time). Ring walks should be around 2am.