George Kambosos Jr defeats Teofimo Lopez to win unified lightweight world championship and make Australian boxing history
George Kambosos Jr has made Australian boxing history in an instant classic, defeating Teofimo Lopez by split decision to become the unified lightweight world champion.
The bitter rivals finally went toe to toe at the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York on Saturday night local time (Sunday AEDT) after six delays due to COVID-19 and promotion conflicts.
And Kambosos, 28, made good on his vow to stun the American superstar as he became the first Australian boxer to win three world title belts in one fight.
Both fighters entered the ring holding unbeaten records but Lopez, backed by high-profile knockouts and big wins, was a heavy favourite over his mandatory challenger.
“I believed in myself, I backed myself, and I said it. Look at me now. I’ve got my jewels,” Kambosos said.
“All respect to him (Lopez). Thank you New York City. Thank you Madison Square Garden.
“I’m the greatest fighter in Australian history.”
In a move that Kambosos laughed off and branded “delusional”, Lopez crashed the Australian’s victory interview to claim he was the real victor and won 10-2.
Kambosos offered up a rematch on home soil in front of 80,000 fans but Lopez may now move out of the lightweight decision.
The Australian dedicated the victory to his children, his family and his grandfather who died in the same week Kambosos’s third child was born.
“I need to grieve my grandfather, I didn’t get a chance to grieve him,” Kambosos said.
Lopez had come out firing in round one, immediately throwing haymakers, and was quickly warned by the referee.
Kambosos continued to take damage until he stunned Lopez, dropping the 24-year-old with an overhand right late in the first round.
The pair exchanged words after the bell and again after tight second and third rounds.
Kambosos continued to dish out as much punishment as he was taking, proving by the fourth round – when a jab was quickly folloed by a hook that bruised Lopez’s left eye – his variety could not be ignored.
Smart boxing and a flurry of shots kept Kambosos ahead on the scorecards beyond the halfway point of the 12-round championship bout.
Lopez began searching for a knockout blow by the ninth round and landed a significant right-hand shot with a minute to go in the frame.
But still Kambosos remained on his feet until he was overwhelmed by a heavy right in the 10th round.
Kambosos fought back beautifully in the 11th, when the bout was briefly stopped as blood poured out of a cut above Lopez’s left eye, to set himself up for a decision.
Despite putting on an epic show, the Australian was booed by the New York crowd when he stood up on the ropes after the final bell.
“My trainers … we worked unbelievable in this camp. It was a long, hard camp. It was never my fault, I wanted to fight ASAP,” Kambosos said.
“But every day I got better and better and better. I never took my foot off the pedal.
“It was my night and it’s going to be my night for a very long time. I’m the emporer!”
Kambosos admitted he was caught in the 10th round when he was “trying to entertain the crowd a little bit too much”.