George Kambosos Jr. is not going home. Not yet.
Despite the uncertainty around a date for his challenge of undisputed lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. after their June 19 bout was called off due to Lopez testing positive for the coronavirus, the Australian challenger is not in Sydney with his wife and two kids, relaxing after more than three months away in America while he waits to be rescheduled.
“Continuing my grind,” Kambosos wrote me from Fort Lauderdale when I asked if he had left camp to reset at home.
It’s not surprising in the least, given the intensity Kambosos brings to every aspect of his life, but most notably his boxing career. So while most would find any excuse to dial down their work rate until a concrete date was secured, the 28-year-old is doing everything he had been doing before the biggest fight of his career was postponed. And he’s doing it in the United States, far from over 9,000 miles away from his loved ones.
“It's bloody hard,” Kambosos told me before the Lopez fight was pulled from its June 19 date. “It's not easy, and I've been doing it countless times. Camp after camp after camp. But it has put me to where I am today by those sacrifices and going the hard road that I have. Otherwise, I would have been just another Aussie fighter who came over, got taken out and would have been back home. But now I'm fighting for the undisputed championship and I'm ready.”
Kambosos has never wanted to be like anyone else. He’s always followed his own path, and in recent years, that path has prompted him to leave Australia to train in the States. In 2018, five years into his pro career, he made his U.S. debut in Connecticut, knocking out Jose Forero in less than two minutes, and he made it clear that he was intent on leaving his mark, not just at home, but abroad.
“We all know America is the Mecca of boxing,” he said. “This is the place you're gonna make it and it's funny because if you actually look back at my American debut, I said it exactly - America's the place to make it, and if you're gonna make it, you'll make it here. Well, we're here now and we're one victory away from becoming a global superstar and a superstar in the U.S.”
It sounds easy, and on paper, maybe it was, considering that in just his fifth fight after halting the 13-6-1 Forero, Kambosos was beating Lee Selby in Wembley Arena to earn a shot at Lopez’ belts. But paper and reality rarely match up, and there are so many things that make his trips overseas difficult, not the least of which is watching his kids grow up through facetime and not in person.
“It's very hard leaving the kids and leaving the family; I've been away for about nine weeks now,” he said on May 31. “I put my body through hell to give every bit of opportunity to win this fight. The kids are growing, the kids have changed. They're talking more, they're changing every day and that's the sacrifice I have to make.”
He paused, then continued.
“But it's gonna be all worth it.”
In his wallet, it will be, as he is expected to make over two million dollars for the Lopez fight, but money has never been the be-all end-all for Kambosos. If it was, he could have stayed home in Australia.
“It's been a hard road because everyone looks at the big bucks now and says, well, you're making a few million and I can afford to have an unbelievable training camp, but my past fights, I was on small amounts of money, so by the time we worked everything out - training expenses, living costs, sparring partners - you're pretty much breaking even. And when you've got two kids and you've got a family, you start to think, okay, it's gotta crack somewhere. But that's where the motivation comes in. That's where I knew that if I stayed focused, kept that tunnel vision, I could see the road and I was manifesting this moment and everything to come. And without me taking that risk many times in my career before to come over to the U.S., to get the best of the best, I would not be where I am today.”
Kambosos did succeed in spite of the odds against him, so he looks like a genius now. But early on, critics didn’t expect him to get within shouting distance of an undisputed title this fast, and they had valid points. So why just him and not every other prizefighter down under?
“It's easy when you become a big fish in a small pond,” he explains. “They might be making a not bad amount of money, and it's an easy road. People don't want to get out of their comfort zone and that's pretty much 99.9 percent of people in this world. They don't want to take a risk, and they're worried about what people would say if they fail. I've never been like that. The one thing I said to myself is, 'I'll take the hardest road possible, I'll chase the hardest fights, I'll go into the backyards, I want to leave my mark, I want to leave my legacy.' It's a hard road, but the blueprint is there. And not many will do it.”
“Ferocious” did, and after defeating Selby by split decision to improve to 19-0 with 10 knockouts and get his shot, he’s one win away from making it all worth it. And he gets to do it against a fighter he pictured doing it against.
“Straight after the Selby fight, I was adamant that I want to fight Lopez and I had Lopez in my head,” Kambosos said. “I knew we were gonna fight. I think I've had that vision since two years ago when we first met that we were gonna fight each other. So I've had my eye on him. He's been taking the lead, he's done it, but I've been following nice and close, and we're here now. But on that side, there's a lot of distractions. I know the distractions are crazy. At the moment, he's fighting 20 other people but he's not fighting myself. (Laughs) He's gonna get a rude awakening, because there's only one man, one warrior on the other side of that ring, so he'd best be prepared.”
Two years ago, Kambosos and Lopez were cordial with each other, just two rising stars chasing glory in the ring. Today, being cordial is out the window. Understandable, since the two will be getting into a fist fight, but there is an edge to the matchup, and Kambosos doesn’t mind taking the lead when it comes to gamesmanship.
“I don't think he's as invested in this whole fight,” said Kambosos of Lopez. “He's had to take the money and he doesn't really care because he's talking about everyone else except for Kambosos. He might say he's focused on Kambosos, but we know that's not true. And I said it to him in his face. We had the press conference and the next day we had a go at each other again, and I said it to him. He goes, ‘I see something in you.’ I said, ‘You know what you see? You see yourself in the (Vasiliy) Lomachenko fight, a hungry underdog. I'm the underdog and I'm coming to take what's yours.’ I believe he feels that this is the kind of fight where he wants to get it out of the way.”
That’s not a shocker, considering that a win over Kambosos opens the door for Lopez to face the man he beat for the belts - Vasiliy Lomachenko - in a rematch, move up to try and dethrone undisputed junior welterweight king Josh Taylor, or get into the ring with the three fighters he may join in what is hoped to be a “Four Kings” scenario for the modern-day: Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia and Devin Haney.
Those are a lot of intriguing fights with a lot of money attached to them. Kambosos wants to ruin the party for “The Takeover.”
“I'm sorry to be a party pooper, but I'm here to wreck the party,” he laughs. “I'm the intruder coming in, the guy that no one invited to the party, but I'm here anyway. I'm knocking on the door, and you better let me in or else I'm gonna kick the door in.”
As good as Lopez is, it’s hard not to be intrigued by what Kambosos brings to the table when the two meet, hopefully in August or September. He’s got that fire that Lopez brought to the Lomachenko fight, as if he knew that on that night, he was not going to be denied.
George Kambosos is here for a reason, and it sounds like he’s not going home to Sydney without some belts in his luggage.
“I saw a lot in his eyes in that press conference,” he said of Lopez. “I'm the kind of guy that he doesn't want to deal with that's young and just doesn't care; I'm a warrior and I'm coming to fight. I'm ready to take shots to land my hard shots and I'm prepared for whatever way this goes. Kill or be killed. And he's never come up against somebody like this. Everyone else has been scared of him, and he saw firsthand that I don't give a damn about him; I'm coming to take what's his.”