George Kambosos wins a split decision against Teofimo Lopez to become the new unified lightweight champion.
Teofimo Lopez vowed a first-round knockout and worked hard to deliver it by unloading on George Kambosos, but in a stunning upset, the champion was knocked out in the first round of their bout on Saturday night.
The knockout turned out to be a foreshadowing of what was to come. At Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, Kambosos, the underdog from Australia, withstood a knockdown in the tenth round to win a split decision against Lopez in a big upset to take the WBO, WBA, IBF, and WBC franchise lightweight championships.
Lopez received 114-113 from one judge, while Kambosos received 115-112 and 115-111 from the other two judges.
Kambosos, 28, stated, “I believed in myself, I supported myself.” “‘I’m going to strike him hard and knock him out,’ I thought, and the battle shifted from there…. I’m a great fighter. I’m amazed at how well I boxed.”
Fans couldn’t believe the battle had finally taken place. The fight was supposed to take place on June 19 in Miami, but Lopez got COVID-19, which turned the fight into a legal quagmire in a soap opera that was outrageous even by boxing standards.
Triller won the fight with a $6.018 million commitment in February’s purse bid, but the IBF deemed the corporation in default and gave the fight to Matchroom Boxing‘s Eddie Hearn.
A battle that was considered as a mismatch — a straightforward title defence for a rising star — turned into an event of excitement after eight date changes and multiple pauses and starts to training camp.
And the battle surpassed everyone’s greatest expectations. Following the first round, which ended with Lopez on the deck, the two engaged in a gunfight that lasted the rest of the evening.
Lopez (16-1, 12 KOs) of Brooklyn, New York, landed a flurry of overhand rights, but Kambosos did as well. Kambosos, unexpectedly, was the cleaner puncher. He was also the younger combatant.
At the close of Round 4, Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs) caught Lopez and grabbed control of the fight. He landed a jab and followed it up with looping rights that drew Lopez’s attention. Lopez’s left eye and nose were both bleeding extensively by the time the decision was made. He had a cut beneath his right eye as well.
After the battle, both men were taken to a nearby hospital, Lopez for two different wounds above both eyes and Kambosos for dehydration.
“”I won tonight, regardless of what anybody thinks,” Lopez stated. I’ve been here and done it, at the end of the day. I’m not a bitter loser, don’t get me wrong. I take my victories as seriously as I do my defeats.
“I’m a genuine champion at the end of the day. I came out here, did what I needed to do, and then went out there and gave it my all. This is the beginning of the takeover. We’re not going to stop; we’re going to keep coming.”
It was a startling fall from favour for Lopez. Lopez defeated future Hall of Famer Vasiliy Lomachenko to win four lightweight belts in a career-defining victory only 13 months ago. Lopez was ranked No. 7 in ESPN’s pound-for-pound rankings after the historic victory, and he seemed to be on his way to superstardom.
Lopez seemed languid and fatigued throughout the final eight rounds Saturday night, after a career-long hiatus, a fight with COVID-19, and all the commotion that surrounded the rescheduled contest.
Lopez, 24, said of his struggle to stay under the 135-pound restriction, “They’ve been depleting me all the time.”
When Lopez felled Kambosos with a crushing right hand, he was leading on all three scorecards. Despite being wobbly on his feet, the first-time championship challenger shot back as he fought to recover his equilibrium.
By the time Round 11 arrived, Kambosos had regained his composure. Over the course of the championship rounds, Kambosos won four out of a potential six frames.
“It wasn’t a major knockdown,” Kambosos, who entered the fight as ESPN’s No. 9 ranked 135-pounder, said. “I wanted to be able to sense the strength. ‘I’m going to punish him for what he just did to me,’ I thought.”
Lopez made $3,178,000 and Kambosos $1,527,100 on Saturday night, both of which were career highs.
With the win, Kambosos has risen to the top of one of boxing’s most competitive categories. Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, and Joseph Diaz Jr. all call Lightweight home.
Lopez may not be able to call it home any longer. He said that he intends to step up to 140 pounds and that he intended to face undisputed champion Josh Taylor.
Lopez’s future is uncertain after Saturday’s setback, but Kambosos’ is considerably more assured.
“Right now, he’s the boss,” said Lou DiBella, his promoter. “Tonight, he deserved it. It was a [title defence] that was required. There is no provision for a rematch. From a commercial standpoint, we’ll do whatever is in [George’s] best interests.
“He’s going to relax, take a breather, and bask in the glory. Then we’ll find out how to have the largest conflict possible.”