Exclusive: George Kambosos on How He Beat Teofimo Lopez Physically and Mentally

Lyle Fitzsimmons@@fitzbitzFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2021

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 27:  George Kambosos celebrates his split decision win against Teofimo Lopez after their championship bout for Lopez’s Undisputed Lightweight title at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2021 in New York, New York. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

It certainly wasn't an ideal moment.

Lightweight title challenger George Kambosos Jr. had just taken a hard right hand to the ear from Teofimo Lopez and found himself careening dizzily to the canvas in Round 10.

A partisan throng at Madison Square Garden's Hulu Theater was going wild, and, in an opposite corner, the defending champion and heavy favorite was anxious for a finish.

But somehow, amid all that adversity, Kambosos was calm.

"Any other lightweight in the world would not have lasted," he told Bleacher Report.

"I'm a warrior. I'm a spartan warrior. I'm cut from a different cloth. A lot of fighters say it, but they don't go in the ring with it, and when it gets tough, they quit.

"And there really is no quit, there is no retreat or surrender in my head. I was willing to die to win that fight. It's part of the story. It's part of my destiny."

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 27:  Teofimo Lopez knocks down George Kambosos in the tenth round during their championship bout for Lopez’s Undisputed Lightweight title at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2021 in New York, New York
Al Bello/Getty Images

He's not kidding. He's the real deal.

Kambosos was born in Australia in 1993, years after his paternal grandparents had moved there from the Greek town of Sparta. In fact, he has a famous Spartan war cry—Never Retreat, Never Surrender—tattooed on his back, and he carried the mindset through the remainder of the tumultuous 10th.

And in doing so, at least in his view, he sealed an unlikely mental victory.

"I got up. I showed the heart that I have. I came back in the last 30 seconds, too, and landed some really good shots," he said. "When he went back to his corner I've heard for a fact that he turned around and said 'This guy's not normal. This guy's made of steel. I can't get rid of him.'

"That's a soul-breaker right then and there.

"I knew it when I went back to my corner. I was laughing. I was smiling and my coach was asking 'Why are you laughing?' I said 'You know why? Because I made the mistake, now I'm going to punish him for two rounds. You watch what I'm going to do to him.'"

Kambosos fulfilled his between-rounds prophecy, outlanding Lopez by a 41-16 margin over the final six minutes to lock down a split decision in which two judges gave him eight of 12 rounds. 

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:   George Kambosos Jr and Teofimo Lopez hug after their championship bout for Lopezs Undisputed Lightweight title at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2021 in New York, New York (Photo by Rich Graessle/Ic
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

With it came the IBF, WBA and WBO title belts with which the previously unbeaten Lopez had arrived, not to mention additional championship recognition by The Ring. Not surprisingly, Lopez, who'd been ranked seventh on the magazine's pound-for-pound list, wasn't so happy to cede his top-shelf status.

He interrupted the new champ's post-fight interview with a claim that he'd won 10 of 12 rounds, a suggestion that prompted a torrent of boos from a previously supportive hometown crowd. Kambosos told him at the time he sounded delusional and subsequently likened the behavior to a whiny child.

"The excuses. There are always excuses. There will always be excuses when you lose," he said. "I'm undefeated, but if that ever does happen to me in the future you take it like a man.

"And we saw he did not take it like a man. He took it like a kid. Like a kid that just lost his bouncy ball and was upset and started creating issues. It's past. It is what it is. We both bled. We both sweated. Blood, sweat and tears. We gave the fans a great fight, but this was not even close."

Lopez and his team have suggested they'll eschew pursuit of a rematch in favor of a move to 140 pounds, a decision that opens up the landscape for Kambosos at 135.

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 27:   Teofimo Lopez sits on the ring ropes after losing Undisputed Lightweight title to George Kambosos Jr. at The Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden on November 27, 2021 in New York, New York (Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sports
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

He was on the receiving end of congratulatory tweets from several potential opponents by early Sunday morning, and he said he'll stay in the U.S. through this weekend to check out one of the senders—reigning WBC champ Devin Haney in a Saturday night title defense at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The following night in Los Angeles, he'll be ringside to see Floyd Mayweather Jr. protege and promotional client Gervonta Davis risk his second-tier WBA belt against Isaac Cruz.

But if you're expecting a dramatic in-ring confrontation in either or both cities, don't.

Devin Haney @Realdevinhaney

Congrats @georgekambosos well deserved victory you worked hard for it! Let’s make it happen for all the belts ! #RealUndisputed

"I don't believe so," Kambosos said. "I've had my battles. I'm just going there as a spectator. I'm just going to watch. I'm going to enjoy the fights. There's a lot of good mutual respect with Haney, so I just want to see how they handle their business.

"The whole lightweight division—now that they've seen how I handle my business and the fighter that I am, what I went through and the way I pride myself—these guys have really got to showcase. They've got to show something in the next couple weeks."

And from there, it will be a fun plane ride home to a country that's chock full of enthusiastic fight fans but isn't exactly a hotbed of elite-level boxers.

In fact, Australia had just four fighters among the 180 top-10 slots (17 weight classes, one pound-for-pound list) in The Ring's mid-November rankings—including Kambosos at lightweight, 154-pounder Tim Tszyu and brothers Jason and Andrew Moloney at bantamweight and junior bantamweight.

Tszyu is the son of Russia-born Australian Kostya Tszyu, who reigned at 140 pounds from 1995 to 1997 and then again from 1999 to 2005 and is widely considered the country's all-time best in the ring.

"There will be a lot of greets at the airport," Kambosos said. "They'll be coming to see me, and it will be a special moment for me, being the world champion, but a special moment for them because it's their world title as well, they deserve it. It's been many years since we had a world champion. There's never been an undisputed world champion, someone that's brought all these belts back home.

"It's a good feeling.

"I had a good chat with Johnny Lewis, who trained Kostya Tszyu and Jeff Fenech and all the other greats, and he said 'Mate, I'm so happy that one, that I'm alive to see this; and two, that you're such a young kid and you've just become the greatest fighter in Australian history and also the greatest mate that there is for Australia overseas.'

"I don't know if this will ever happen again. I truly believe this won't ever happen again, but I hope it does because I'm such an Aussie at heart and a Greek at heart. I want to see the next future champion. I want to see the young Goliaths."