THERE’S a crackle down the phone line as George Kambosos Jnr speaks. A snap of interference seems to flicker sporadically, as if a spiteful pulse of energy transmits each time his opponent’s name is mentioned. “We’re in a war zone right now, in preparation, and we’re coming to win this fight by any means necessary,” he tells Boxing News.
On Saturday night in Miami, Florida, Kambosos Jnr will embark upon a huge challenge when he takes on Teofimo Lopez for the world lightweight title. It’s an event the magnitude of which he’s never before experienced, and yet Kambosos Jnr says he feels perfectly at home under the bright lights, buoyed both by the experience of fighting around the world and as a longstanding sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao. “I’ve got tunnel vision. No emotion. I’ve been around this for a long time. The past few fights, there’s been a lot of media around it. You’ve gotta remember, I was with Pacquiao for three world title campaigns so you can imagine the media we were getting in the Philippines and over here in the US fighting on his undercards. That doesn’t bother me,” he said. “I’m cool, calm, collected. I’ve got a job to do, and that’s to beat this kid and take everything off him. If anyone’s struggling it’s Lopez.”
The pair locked horns in April during the fight’s first major press conference, with the champion initially oozing confidence before growing irked at his opponent’s trash talking, claiming he’d put Kambosos Jnr “on a f**king stretcher.” Such a reaction was, however, music to the challenger’s ears, and as he continues to scrutinise Lopez’s record and temperament, Kambosos Jnr is growing ever more confident that he can spring an upset.
“The guy’s fought Lomachenko and Commey and Nakatani,” Kambosos continues. “I won’t take anything away from him, those are three big names but all three are quiet types of guys. I wanted to see how he reacted. Mental warfare is huge in the artillery of the fight game. I only said a few things and all of a sudden I had him freaking out and rattled and jumping out of his chair and taking his shirt off and making a fool of himself. And then when we went face to face and he saw the whites of my eyes and he saw what he’s dealing with he realised real quick that maybe this was a mistake. Maybe they should’ve released the IBF belt instead of being a big boy and trying to defend all of them. Instead of losing one you’re gonna lose all of them now.”
Despite the certainty with which he speaks boxing pundits are making Kambosos Jnr a significant underdog. “It’s been like that for my whole life,” he says. “I’ve always been that guy that people didn’t expect much from. But bit by bit I kept true to myself, I stayed focused on my grind and what I believed I could do. Slowly I started chipping away at it and before you know it people started to believe. I started to turn those non-believers into believers. And that’s what I’m here to do. I’m here to shock the world.
“I’ve been the underdog for so many fights in my career. That’s when I shine. That’s when you see the best of me. When Lopez has been the underdog he shined. But when he was the favourite, like he was in the Nakatani fight and a couple of others, he’s looked very ordinary. So the pressure’s on him. Everything’s on him. I know what I have to do to win this fight. And that underdog mentality serves me well, because the people that have doubted me just give me that extra motivation.”
Teofimo Lopez, of course, is no stranger to being written off by the boxing public himself, just as he was before he vanquished one of the modern greats in Vasiliy Lomachenko back in October 2020. The victory has been transformational for the 23-year-old American, sending his stock soaring. Watching on, however, Kambosos Jnr felt there were still frailties in the young champion’s performance to take cheer from.
“Let’s not forget that Loma had one shoulder. Let’s not forget that he did not throw a punch for six rounds. And let’s remember from rounds seven onwards what happened. When I watch that fight I don’t watch rounds one to six. I watch rounds seven to 12 because that’s where the holes are, that’s where the mistakes are. And that’s where the fight’s going to be won my end.”
One of the most notable aspects of this fight has been the financial rewards divvied out for both men. Lopez’s team were adamant that his status as a unified champion should be reflected in pay-per-view remuneration. An ugly public rift with promoter Bob Arum ensued, only to be compounded by an unprecedented $6m purse bid from online entertainment platform, Triller. While Kambosos Jnr has certainly benefited himself from this deal he’s insistent that the money means little to him in comparison to the real gold he plans to bring home.
“I’m about the legacy. He’s different. He’s all about the money. He wanted 10-million, five-million, six-million. He’s gonna do this, he’s gonna do that. OK, you focus on the numbers. He got the number, he got a very good number. I’m doing it for my kids and my family, to give them a legacy and show my family that this is a real fighter and this is what it is to be a champion. He just doesn’t understand. But it’s a whole different journey. You’re a whole different animal once you’ve had kids.”
Indeed, toiling away in his training camp in Miami, away from his pregnant wife and two small children, has only highlighted to Kambosos Jnr what he stands to gain for them all. His Florida setup has become very familiar to him now, so much so that he now regards Miami as his second home, sparring with the likes of Jose Ramirez, Ray Beltran, Sergei Lipinets and Xander Zayas. One previous sparring partner, however, stands out above them all, and it’s this experience and education that Kambosos Jnr feels will make the difference come fight night.
“I’ve sparred over 20 world champions. A lot of good guys. But Pacquiao, he outshines all of them. He’s a legend of the sport. He’s one of the all-time greats. So to do two hundred and fifty rounds with a guy like that, who’s faster than Lopez, more explosive than Lopez, hits way harder than Lopez, moves better than him. He’s a proper welterweight. What’s there to fear in Lopez? There’s nothing there to show me that I haven’t already seen.”
For a moment the line goes quiet, a low buzz humming with agitation as Kambosos Jnr gathers his thoughts for a prediction of how the fight will finish.
“I’m gonna beat this boy, and don’t be surprised if I catch him and put him to sleep,” he warned. “They’ve been saying a few things, that I’ll be over in three rounds. Well, they better hope it’s three rounds. Cos if it goes past three, I’m telling you, the kid’s going to get badly beaten.”