Kambosos upsets Lopez: Wizard of Oz now unified lightweight champion
SAN DIEGO, Calif., November 27, 2021 – After all the drama, delays, and declarations of war, boxing fans were rewarded with a thrilling championship fight and those magic words after 12 hard rounds: “And the new.”
George “Ferocious” Kambosos of Australia (20-0, 10 KOs) walked into the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and walked out a national hero after a stunning upset defeat of unified champion Teofimo Lopez Jr. of Brooklyn (16-1, 12 KOs). Kambosos won a split decision victory by scores of 115-111 and 115-112, with the third card 114-113 for Lopez Jr.
Kambosos Jr., a 13 to 1 underdog, did it by applying solid boxing fundamentals, consistency with his best punches, and unwavering confidence. He credited his hard work in the gym and his determination. Kambosos Jr. said it would change his whole career.
“I believed in myself. I backed myself. Now, look at me. I have all four jewels. I’m the emperor,” said Kambosos as he held the WBO, WBA, IBF, and Ring Magazine belts.
Crediting his trainers Mick Akkawy and Javiel Centeno, Kambosos Jr. said, “We worked unbelievably hard in this camp. Every day I got better and better and better. I learned more and more. I never took my foot off the pedal.”
Lopez Jr. refused to accept the outcome.
“I won tonight. The referee raised my hand. Everyone knows I won tonight. Look, I ain’t no sore loser. I take my wins like I take my losses. I don’t care what anyone says. I’m The Takeover. I don’t stop. I won this fight.
“I know how these people work. Referee knew I won tonight. People know I won tonight,” declared Lopez Jr., as the knowledgeable New York fans boos their hometown fighter’s attitude. Lopez Jr. said he won 10 of the 12 rounds.
“Listen, you’ve got to move on, bro. You’re delusional, man,” commented Kambosos Jr.
Determination defeats bruised pride
Lopez Jr. said he would end the fight in the first round, and he came out aggressively as expecting looking for the one-punch knockout. But Lopez Jr. wasn’t watching for the incoming fire, and Kambosos Jr. landed a perfectly timed right hand, dropping Lopez Jr.
From this point, the narrative of the fight was in Kambosos’ hands. The knockdown did serious damage to Lopez Jr.’s oversized ego. Bruised pride got in the way of Lopez Jr. bearing down and doing the work instead of searching for the big knockout punch. When Lopez Jr. was busier, he won rounds, but his performance was inconsistent.
It was Kambosos Jr. who worked combination punching behind a jab, repeatedly hurting Lopez Jr. with his overhand right.
He showed a good chin and worked in front of Lopez Jr. at a responsible, effective distance. Kambosos Jr. stayed balanced on his feet and kept up good hand speed to the final bell.
Of the overhand right, Kambosos Jr. said he was inspired by legendary trainer Cus d’Amato’s advice to Muhammad Ali facing Joe Frazier for the first time. “Hit him with the best right hand of your life. I hit him clean. I put him down. It changed the fight.”
Lopez Jr. found a little magic in the 10th round, a chopping right scoring a knockdown of Kambosos Jr. with 1:45 left. Lopez Jr. tried to end the fight, but Kambosos gathered himself and let Lopez Jr. punch himself out as he caught his breath. Later, Kambosos said he was trying to entertain the fans too much and got caught.
Winner of Haney vs. Diaz Jr. stamps a trip to Australia
Kambosos Jr.’s training paid off in the championship rounds. He was still energetic and actively throwing hard shots. Lopez Jr. didn’t have it in him. It’s hard to pin down the blame. Was it his struggle to make the 135-pound weight limit, the long layoff, or his rough bout with COVID-19?
Lopez Jr. admitted to the weight struggle. “I’ve been feeling this for two years now. They’ve been draining me for a long time. I should have dropped the belts, but no excuses, man. You shouldn’t be booing me,” Lopez Jr.said to the fans.
Win or lose, Lopez Jr. was expected to move up to the 140-pound division and drop his titles. Instead, he handed them over to George Kambosos Jr., who became the greatest boxer in Australian history in a single night. Kambosos Jr. said he’d be willing to give Lopez Jr. a rematch in Australia in front of 80,000 fans. It’s not likely.
Instead, if WBC World Super Lightweight champion Devin Haney wins his fight against Joseph Diaz Jr. next week, expect a unification fight for all the belts next year. Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing are surely salivating over the prospect. And if Diaz Jr. wins, he’s likely to get the opportunity.
Kambosos Jr. said he respects Haney, but he said he would go home, welcome his third child born just a few weeks ago during the lead-up to the fight, and grieve for his beloved late grandfather, George Sr., who passed away during the lengthy camp. Kambosos Jr. implored Lopez Jr. to do the same with his own newborn son. “I want him to enjoy his son. Family is the most important thing. My family, my grandfather, I know he’s in the ring with me.”
Undercard fights: Ogawa, Ford, Zhang, Ali, Cruz score wins
Kenichi Ogawa of Japan (26-1-1, 28 KOs) won the vacant IBF World Super-Featherweight title, defeating Azinga Fuzile of South Africa (15-2, 9 KOs) by unanimous decision in the co-main event. Scores were 115-110 X 2 and 114-111.
The fight was even until Ogawa landed a right hook behind a left feint in the fifth round. A stunned Fuzile managed to take a knee to hold off Ogawa and survive the round. Ogawa continued to outwork and batter Fuzile. Fuzile suffered cuts from headbutts to both sides of the face and was bleeding from the nose. But in a title fight, Fuzile wasn’t going to bow out easily. In the final round, Ogawa scored two more knockdowns to seal the victory with the 10-7 round. Fuzile’s corner should have stopped the fight several rounds before saving the brave Fuzile from unnecessary damage.
Ogawa, whose defeat of Tevin Farmer in 2017 was declared a no-contest due to testing positive for androstanediol, was emotional upon winning the belt that slipped through his fingers.
“After the former fight, I lost the belt. I wanted to bring the belt back for my kids. My disappointment was that I couldn’t throw enough punches, but I landed the right (in the fifth round), and that was enough. My trainer told me to go knock him out. I was looking for the knockout.”
Raymond Ford of Camden, New Jersey (10-0-1, 6 KOs) didn’t like getting a draw in his last fight. Felix Caraballo of Puerto Rico (13-3-2, 9 KOs) paid the price. The formidable gatekeeper coped well with Ford’s fast hands and aggression at first, but the combination punching of Ford finally wore Caraballo down. Referee Ricky Gonzalez stopped the bout at 2:10 of round 8.
Heavyweight Zhilei Zhang (23-0-1, 18 KOs) remained unbeaten tonight in New York City, stopping Craig Lewis (14-5-1, 8 KOs) at 2:10 of round 2. Lewis took the fight on short notice, with his only real preparation working as a sparring partner for Anthony Joshua. Zhang needs to stay busy, as he’s 38 years old and doesn’t have a lot of time to get a chance against a top name.
Somalia native Ramla Ali of England (4-0) scored a shutout in her second U.S. appearance over Isela Vera of Long Beach, California (1-1). Ali was in control throughout, leading to 40-36 on all three scorecards.
New Yorker Christina Cruz (2-0) put on a crowd-pleasing offensive show in her decision win over Maryguenn Vellinga of Park City, Utah (3-3-2 2 KOs). Scorecards for the six-round fight were 60-54 X 2 and 59-55. Building on her record as an accomplished amateur, Cruz has what it takes to become a fan favorite and rise quickly in the women’s flyweight division.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal is an award-winning boxing journalism covering the Sweet Science for Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
Please credit “Gayle Falkenthal for Communities Digital News” when quoting from or linking to this story.
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