We got a great fight where we expected it.
We got one where most did not as well.
That’s a winning weekend for fight fans.
It turned out the wait was for worth it for the lightweight championship showdown between George Kambosos and Teofimo Lopez. Would things have turned out differently had the fight happened closer to Lopez’s upset of Vasyl Lomachenko?
There will never be answer to that question.
What we know for sure is that, with both men coming off a layoff of more than a year, it was Kambosos who emerged as the new lineal lightweight king with a better game plan, better composure, and a gritty eleventh round performance that stands with the best three minutes any fighter has had in recent memory.
Kambosos had it going his way through much of the first eight rounds. Kambosos scored a knockdown in the first and boxed his way to a lead. Lopez came on in the next two rounds, scoring a knockdown that had Kambosos’ legs wobbling for a large chunk of the tenth. For both men, it was gut check time with two rounds to go.
Kambosos had depper reserves. He went out and commanded the eleventh. When Kambosos needed it most, according to CompuBox, he threw 67 punches to Lopez’s 32 and landed 15 to Lopez’s 7. Then, in the twelfth, Kambosos almost tripled Lopez in landed punches. Kambosos continued to outclass Lopez in the post-fight interview, heading home to Australia with one of the biggest upsets of 2021.
Futures: Kambosos waited a long time for his shot. Now, he can sit back and wait for the next few weeks. Gervonta Davis, Vasyl Lomachenko, and Devin Haney will all be in action in December. Davis and Haney hold versions of WBA and WBC belts, respectively, in the class. All would be attractive opponents for a champion sure to be seen as vulnerable with a whole lot of lightweight hardware available to win. Kambosos could make a career high payday in his next fight against one of them so all he has to do is let the bidding commence.
The question for the new lightweight king will be whether we saw the best of him on Saturday or whether Kambosos might be the sort of battler who gets better as champion. He was certainly better than most expected before the Lopez win and earned better than any future assumptions about his ceilings.
Lopez is in a much different position. Lopez was red hot in late 2020 but he and his team appear to have overplayed his hand behind the scenes. There was a chance Lopez was headed toward a shot at Jr. welterweight champion Josh Taylor but now he will need to win a fight or two to get in that line, assuming Lopez heads up the scale. Lopez’s corner provided little assistance on Saturday to a fighter who came out of the blocks looking for a Tyson-Spinks moment and ended the night embarrassing himself on the microphone.
Lopez is a talented young fighter. He showed some of that youth on Saturday. It’s not a sin and he has plenty of time to regroup and resume the road to greater stardom he appeared to be on before suffering his first defeat. Lopez, and the boxing world, will soon find out whether he was yet another talented flash in the pan or has the chops to dig in and stick around.
Kambosos wasn’t the only man to emerge from the fire with new glory this weekend.
Fulton Gets Halfway
In two appearances in 2021, Stephen Fulton has gone from emerging contender to holding half of the major belts, WBC and WBO, in the deep and largely youthful Jr. featherweight field. There is so much talent at 122 right now that it was easy to wonder over the last year or two if the pieces were coming together for the sort of memorable run in the division we had in the late 90s at the dawn of Boxing After Dark.
Fulton-Figueroa was the sort of fight that would have fit in great on those shows.
In a fight where it was hard to pick a winner round by round, Fulton was just a little cleaner, a little accurate, enough of the time to merit the decision. Figueroa made it hell. The echo of some of the body shots Figueroa landed boomed through the televised audio. It was the sort of fight that elevated both young men and the sport they represent.
Figueroa’s interruption of Fulton in post-fight interviews was in the same tacky ballpark as what Lopez did after Kambosos, but Figueroa’s effort made his disappointment more realistic. Large framed for the weight class, Figueroa sounded ready to move up and might not get a second crack at Fulton until Fulton is ready to make his way to featherweight. Figueroa’s first loss came in a contest where he left it all in the ring.
It just wasn’t enough Saturday night. It won’t be the last chance at glory.
Futures: Looking ahead, there are desirable fights and realistic fights for Fulton. A showdown, at least immediately, with the other unified titlist at Jr. featherweight is probably not realistic. Murodjon Akhmadaliev recently defended the WBA and IBF belts for the second time and has been fighting on DAZN. Fulton is under the PBC umbrella of shows. Fulton-Akhmadaliev would give us a clear king of the class. Maybe they can get there eventually.
Fulton has other options that are both desirable and realistic. Former titlist Daniel Roman, who Akhmadaliev beat for his belts, has looked good since the loss and would be an excellent opponent. So would Raeese Aleem, a winner on the Fulton-Figueroa undercard. With two title wins this year, both over undefeated foes, Fulton made his case to at least be in the conversation for Fighter of the Year. If Fulton keeps winning, it will only be a matter of time before Fulton facing a Naoya Inoue coming up from bantamweight moves to the top of the most wanted fights list for hardcore fans.
Figueroa moving to featherweight would be a good call. Under the PBC umbrella, Gary Russell is likely to defend next against Rey Vargas. Leo Santa Cruz, the WBA featherweight titlist still despite not having had a fight in the class for going on three years, might be something that could happen if Santa Cruz is still an active fighter. Santa Cruz has been out for over a year since a loss to Gervonta Davis. It would be an interesting clash of young and old.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, a member of the International Boxing Research Organization, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America.