SOMETIMES we need a reminder of why we like boxing so much. When we arrive home from the arena after a big fight but we’re unable to sleep because of the drama we witnessed. It was one of those nights at Madison Square Garden’s Hulu Theater on Saturday when Aussie George Kambosos Jnr defied the odds and won the world lightweight title by defeating heavily-favoured Teofimo Lopez by split decision. Lopez, who relentlessly uses the party line of “The Takeover” in describing his career, not only lost his championship, he lost his position among the best fighters in the sport.
Teofimo bitterly complained about the decision saying that he won 10 of the 12 rounds, a claim so absurd that it does not deserve a response. The actions of Teofimo Lopez Snr, who serves his son as lead trainer, were questionable as well. Rather than be with Junior in the moments before the fight, Senior was in the ring urging the crowd on. Furthermore, an hour before that, he was seen outside the venue, meeting and greeting fans.
Lopez, from Las Vegas but fighting out of Brooklyn (where he formerly was from) came out firing in the opening round trying to make good on his prediction of a first round knockout. But as lethal as his punches looked, few got through. Kambosos wisely moved and rolled with the blows then started to fire back. With 15 seconds left in the round Kambosos sensationally delivered a shock right hand, dropping Lopez heavily. Lopez got up quickly, but had to have been rattled by the sequence of events.
The crowd support was with Lopez through the second and third rounds, but quieted somewhat in the fourth as Kambosos took control. He hooked effectively off the jab and stopped Lopez’s momentum by meeting him at centre ring. Not intimidated in the least, Kambosos picked his spots going toe-to-toe, trying for a knockout of his own.
Lopez’s left eye had been cut from a punch in the fourth round. As the contest moved on his facial damage became more pronounced. Adding insult to injury was Kambosos’ taunting him. There was a joy to the challenger’s fighting. And why not? He had forged a huge lead through seven rounds. Kambosos’ body language told that story, too. But Lopez surged in the eighth. His body attack was effective. Then in the ninth, Kambosos temporarily appeared to be in some difficulty, but fought his way out of trouble.
It looked like it had unravelled for Kambosos in the 10th, that his legacy would be that of a game challenger who fought above expectations before reality set in. Lopez, it seemed, was about to do what he and the oddsmakers predicted. A pair of rights hurt the Australian and he went down. Kambosos got up, walked across the ring trying to shake off the effect of the punches. There was plenty of time left in the round. Referee Harvey Dock looked like he was considering stopping it. But Kambosos showed no additional signs of distress. Lopez’s attacks slowed and his chance was gone.
Kambosos dominated the 11th. The medics checked on Lopez’s cuts and bruises which made him look far worse than his opponent who had blood streaming from his left eye. The 12th was close. Two of the judges’ scored it for Lopez but Kambosos was more effective in thwarting what came back.
Boxing News had it 114-112 for Kambosos which was the consensus score in the media section at ringside.
Judges’ Glen Feldman and Frank Lombardi had it 115-112 and 115-111 respectively for Kambosos. Don Trella dissented, scoring 114-113 Lopez. Both Feldman and Trella only scored the first round 10-9 Kambosos, apparently feeling that Lopez had a clear advantage until being dropped at the end.
Lopez, who is only 24, can come again if he learns from the plentiful lessons on offer here. But his place in the pecking order plummets. Why would Devin Haney still relentlessly challenge him after this loss? And wouldn’t Vasiliy Lomachenko now find it more attractive to go in with Kambosos, the world champion, than he would to rematch Lopez? Whether we see Teofimo at lightweight again is another point to consider.
Kambosos, 28, had a great night and fought a great fight. He says he’ll continue to mow straight through the talent-rich lightweight division. One hopes he gets the chance to do so. Rarely will you see a fighter with as strong a belief in himself as Kambosos. And it was that self-belief, more so than his ring acumen, which played the biggest role in his victory.
Japan’s Kenichi Ogawa enters the super-featherweight ratings after scoring unanimous 12 round decision over South African Azinga Fuzile. Judges John McKaie and Robin Taylor had it 115-110, Steve Weisfeld 114-111. BN had it 116-109 for Ogawa. Ron Lipton refereed this bout for the vacant IBF strap.
The turning point came in the fifth round when a right dropped Fuzile. Ogawa was emboldened after that and would aggressively try to come forward the rest of the way.
By the ninth Fuzile’s right eye and nose were bleeding and the fight was slipping away. He could no longer afford to lay back and counter. He paid the price midway through the 12th when a right forced him to touch down. Then, with seconds left, was dropped for the third time in the match, the bell saving him from an inside the distance defeat.
Greenwich’s Ramla Ali impressed, winning her fourth in as many starts against tough Californian, Isaiah Vera. Ali was a little over anxious at first, but then started to put her punches together while displaying nice footwork. Judges’ John Basile, Kevin Morgan, and Waleska Roldan all scored the four rounder 40-36 for Ali. Lipton refereed.
The Verdict Don’t listen to Lopez, Kambosos’ victory was richly deserved.