After months of waiting and training even as personal issues took over his life, George Kambosos Jr. fulfilled a dream against Teofimo Lopez inside Madison Square Garden.
Kambosos Jr. beat Lopez via split decision to become the IBF, WBO, WBA, WBC, and The Ring Lightweight Champion. The Australian gave it his all inside the Hulu Theater in New York, and two judges (115-112, 115-111) gave him the edge, while one (113-114) scored it for Lopez. Kambosos, a huge underdog, made a major statement.
"They have the four kings, but I'm the emperor," Kambosos Jr. stated. "I come to your country and take your title."
There was plenty of animosity between both fighters even as they made their entrances. Lopez predicted a first-round knockout before the bout began, and he was looking for that right away. Thinking about the knockout may have been his downfall, as Kambosos Jr. was landing volume blows throughout the contest.
Kambosos Jr. would counter Lopez's shots in round one as Lopez was rushing towards him. He would land a left and a jab, while Lopez landed overhand shots of his own. Kambosos Jr. ate shots right away but proved to have a solid chin. He then shocked the boxing world by knocking down Lopez right away before the first ended.
Lopez's corner, led by his father, told him to slow down and be smart with his shots. The advice was taken with not much interest, as Lopez would try and end the fight early at several points. Kambosos Jr., however, would hit calculating body shots and rights to the face of Lopez throughout the contest. He landed overhand rights, and while Lopez looked crisp with his jab, Kambosos Jr. landed efficient combinations. Kambosos Jr. would be game for whatever Lopez had in store for him.
While Lopez lead early in significant strikes according to CompuBox, Kambosos Jr. continued his calculated attack. He landed counter hooks as well as jabs that pushed Lopez back. Overhands were key for Kambosos Jr. as Lopez would have his hands down throughout the night. By round five, Lopez would wildly swing again and Kambosos Jr. was able to take advantage.
Lopez set up big shots in the sixth but wouldn't be able to come up with anything of substance. Kambosos Jr. would find several opportunities to sneak past Lopez's defense and land combinations and an uppercut. The Australian countered volume blows by Lopez in the seventh with an overhand and another uppercut.
Appearing frustrated, Lopez would try and find ways to land big blows in the eighth, to no avail. Kambosos Jr. was loose and landed more overhands. Both gave it their all towards the end of the round. The next two rounds were all Lopez. He landed a right and multiple overhands in the ninth and was able to find some fire in his belly. Lopez then found his power and landed a chopping overhand right that put Kambosos Jr. down.
Like Lopez before, Kambosos Jr. tried to fight back, but Lopez managed to take advantage of the fall until the round ended.
The defining moment of the fight for him, Lopez could not maintain that momentum for the remainder of the bout. He landed overhand shots, but Kambosos Jr. came firing back. The latter landed a big right and jabs that left a huge cut above Lopez's eye. Kambosos Jr. then landed a counter left and a right to end round eleven.
Both swung as hard as they could in round twelve but Kambosos Jr. landed key combination shot and rights. The fight ended with a shocked New York crowd giving Kambosos Jr., who they booed before, a standing ovation.
In a strange twist of fate, the crowd would then boo Lopez after the fight, who stated he won ten rounds.
"You’re (Kambosos Jr.) a hell of a fighter, but I won tonight," Lopez stated. "Everybody knows that. The referee raised my hand, I won tonight. I don't care what anyone says... At the end of the day, I've been here, I've done that. I ain't no sore loser, I take my win like I take my losses."
It was a learning moment for the now-former champion, who looked like a completely different fighter compared to when he took down Vasiliy Lomachenko last year.
This was the first major championship win for Kambosos Jr., who is a former WBA Oceania Lightweight Champion. Following the fight, Devin Haney, Ryan Garcia, and several other lightweight stars called out Kambosos.
The 24-year-old Lopez lost the first fight of his young career. There is no rematch clause in place as of this moment due to a ruling by the IBF.