Australia’s George Kambosos Jr won the IBF, WBA and WBO lightweight titles from Teófimo López in a seismic upset on Saturday night at the Theater at Madison Square Garden.
The unheralded Sydney native, who went off as a 6-1 underdog, dropped López in the opening round, then came off the floor himself in the 10th to score a split decision. Two of the ringside judges handed down scores 115-112 and 115-111 for Kambosos while the third scored it 114-113 for López. (The Guardian had it 114-112 to Kambosos.)
It was the upset of the year and, quite possibly, the fight of the year.
“I believed in myself, I backed myself,” Kambosos said in the immediate aftermath. “I said it time after time: You might not believe it, but I believe in myself. And look at me now. I’ve got all the jewels. I’m not the king, I’m the emperor because I come to every other country and I take them out one by one.”
López was back in action for the first time since delivering on his enormous promise more than 13 months ago with a comprehensive unanimous-decision win over Vasiliy Lomachenko, the three-weight champion from Ukraine who for years had been widely regarded as boxing’s pound-for-pound best.
That more than four hundred days passed between López’s star turn in the MGM Grand bubble and Saturday night’s thrice-postponed date with the IBF’s mandatory challenger, staged in the Garden’s smaller theater instead of the big room next door, offers an instructive case study in boxing’s tragicomic institutional dysfunction.
But Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs) made the most of the delayed opportunity, weathering López’s smothering onslaught in the early rounds, scoring a knockdown against the run of play and delivering the finishing kick of a champion in his opponent’s hometown.
Afterward, Kambosos said he was open to a rematch. But López, who’s drained himself to make the lightweight limit for years, appears likely to campaign at 140lbs moving forward. That opens the door to a number of lucrative opportunities for the newly minted champion, not least delicious matchups with social-media sensation Ryan Garcia, three-weight titleholder Gervonta Davis or Devin Haney, who holds the WBC’s version of the title.
“There’s no rematch clause, there’s no network attachments,” said Lou DiBella, who signed a then-unknown Kambosos to a promotional deal in 2018. “Right now George Kombosos is the king of the lightweight division. He’s going to take a little time off and enjoy the victory and we’re going to make the biggest fight we can make.”
DiBella continued: “It’s great to recognize the talent when no one else recognizes it. No one wanted George Kambosos. Peter Khan identified him. We talked about it, this Greek kid who lived in Australia that we thought had all this persona, all this confidence. We saw something. No one wanted him. And look where he is: the undisputed lightweight champion of the world.
“And he won tonight, man. Fair and square, he won tonight. In a brilliant performance, one for the ages. And he has something he can be proud of for the rest of his life.”
More to follow.