The year 2021 has been an absolute beauty for Australian boxing, there is no other way to describe it.
Over the past 11 months, the sport has taken itself to another level domestically and has seen the emergence of a number of new stars.
Tim Tszyu (20-0, 15 KOs) broke into the public consciousness with three pay-per-view headlining wins, while 22 year old Justis Huni (5-0, 4 KOs) imposed his will over the nation’s Heavyweight division, exciting fans along the way.
Then of course, there are those that have plied their trade on foreign shores. Fighters like Demsey McKean (20-0, 13 KOs) and Brock Jarvis (20-0, 18 KOs) kicked off new chapters of their career with knock out wins in the United States.
If this was not enough for boxing fans to feast upon, we were also treated to World title fights. Both Andrew Moloney (21-2, 14 KOs) and Ebanie Bridges (7-1, 3 KOs) poured their hearts out in the ring, both coming up short in their respective moments in the sun.
Thankfully for those of us who love to indulge on boxing content, the best is yet to come.
While the match up itself has not captured the imagination of the global boxing public, George Kambosos Jr.’s (19-0, 10 KOs) upcoming bout with American IBF, WBA and WBO World Lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) is the most important fight for Australia this year.
The lack of commercial appeal is owed in part to a plethora of bout postponements. From the COVID contraction of Lopez to scheduling conflicts, upstart-turned-fledgling promotion Triller seemingly showed every incapability in staging the fight after purchasing its rights in February through a purse bid.
In fact, Triller’s inability to make the fight mounted to the point that they were found in default on their bid of an exuberant $6 million sum.
As a result, the fight was picked up by the second highest bidder, British promoter Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing and will go down on Sunday 28 November (AEDT) at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theatre.
These four sentences do not do the saga justice. The near nine month ordeal has caused headache after headache for fighter and fan alike.
Now that the fight is upon us though, it is crucial not to lose sight of its significance.
Along with WBC champion Devin Haney (26-0, 15 KOs), Gervonta Davis (25-0, 24 KOs) and Ryan Garcia (21-0, 18 KOs), Lopez is touted by boxing pundits as a member of ‘The Four Princes’, a group of young Lightweight fighters predicted to sit atop the sport over the next decade.
Of the quartet, the man dubbed ‘The Takeover’ has had a proverbial storm of hype behind him since defeating former pound for pound king, Vasyl Lomachenko (15-2, 11 KOs) in October 2020.
With these factors accounted for, it should come as no surprise that the Aussie will enter the contest as a heavy underdog. As such, the wider boxing public, who dream of epic showdowns with the other ‘Princes’ consider him to be a stepping stone to greater achievements for Lopez.
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Battling the odds has been something that Kambosos Jr. has become accustomed to throughout his career, however. To this end, a fight with one of boxing’s brightest prospects has not dented his confidence and has instead fuelled an already strong work ethic.
Since 2017, he has been the quintessential road-warrior, fighting in Australia, Malaysia, Greece and the United States. The path less-travelled ultimately led the 28-year-old to Wembley for a showdown with former World Featherweight champion Lee Selby (28-3, 9 KOs).
With the status of mandatory challenger for the IBF World Lightweight title up for grabs, Kambosos Jr. paired an overwhelming display of heart with a crunching left hook to grind out a split decision victory, just two weeks after Lopez captured the title.
This was the second victory over a former World champion in as many fights for the man dubbed ‘Ferocious’, following a split decision over former Lightweight titlist Mickey Bey (23-3, 11 KOs) in December 2019. In a twist of irony, the bout made up part of the undercard on a Lopez headlined event.
Still, if the journeys of both pugilists and their styles are compared for the purpose of predicting their upcoming bout, then all signs point to a comfortable win for Teofimo Lopez. Anyone making such a call should not be called crazy for it.
At just 24 years of age, he has shown comfort in the heat of battle. Incredible hand speed, heavy punches and calculated footwork have stood out in each of his bouts.
What cannot be overlooked is what the clash means from an Australian perspective.
With the performance of a lifetime, Kambosos Jr. will not join the wave of momentum created amongst domestic boxing in 2021, he will instead supersede it. Defeating Lopez will inject an Australian presence into the upper echelon of the sport.
Moreover, he will take a monumental leap forward in our national sporting landscape to stand alongside the absolute elite athletes that the country has to offer.
Sure, other Australian fighters have commanded more broadcast revenue and fanfare. Some have also fought for World titles. All are missing one crucial element, though.
George Kambosos Jr. does not just have a chance to bring three belts back to Sydney, he could shake up the way in which World boxing’s present and future is viewed.
For that reason, Kambosos Jr. vs Lopez is Australia’s most important fight of 2021.
Teofimo Lopez vs George Kambosos Jr. goes down on Sunday 28 November (AEDT) and can be viewed on DAZN, here.
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