BEFORE Saturday night I had heard a lot of talk about ‘four kings’. A king would sit in his own country and rule but an emperor takes over bit by bit. That’s what I’ve been doing, I’ve been going into the backyards of these champions. They can have their four kings, three kings, whatever is left over now – I’ll be the emperor. I’ve got all the jewels now.
I said I’d be better than him at everything – my speed, power, explosive movements, footwork, stamina, conditioning, precision punching – everything. The gameplay was to weather the storm, I knew he would come out hard in the first round. But I knew that would be his downfall. It’s like what Cus D’Amato said to Muhammad Ali before he fought Joe Frazier – land the best right hand you can, make them respect you. That was the plan – I set him up.
We put in so much work and had so many gameplans for whatever way the fight went. The way I boxed showed everything. Teófimo López was the 2020 fighter of the year, in the top six or seven pound-for-pound, so where does this win put me?
I had it nine rounds to three, a total boxing lesson, I picked him apart. Only because I lost my composure in round 10, the crowd was going off, I thought I could pick the pace up and finish this kid. But I went away from my jab and got caught. It was a good lesson and it’s testament to the mettle I have to get up. I got up, finished the round strong, sat down and said to my team: ‘My mistake, I’ll punish him now.’ That’s what I did – round 11 was beautiful; busted him up, blood everywhere. That’s the sign of a true champion. Going through adversity and winning by any means.
On my shorts it said ‘molōn labé’, which means ‘if you want it, come and get it’. I know they’re going to come, I’m now the one that is being hunted. But they will have to come and get it, and they should prepare for the same fate as López got.
We both ended up in hospital. We had to wait for hours. It doesn’t matter if you’re undisputed champion or not, you’ve got to wait your turn. I really didn’t want to go, I was fine and there were no problems, but it was precautionary and I needed four stitches.
It’s part of the game, we put our lives on the line and we take shots. But there was no VIP line, we didn’t go straight in. ‘Sorry sir, you’ve got to wait, there are people in front of you with more severe injuries, we don’t care about your belts or what you’ve just done, just wait.’
I didn’t see López in there but my wife did and spoke to him. I was hoping we’d bump into each other for that little Rocky moment, that Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti moment. It’s all part of the game, they said that they’d put me in hospital – they just didn’t think they would go too. I went for some stitches, he got stuck in there. This is the fight game, this is no joke and we put it all on the line.
What makes this sweeter is that it’s all in my control now – no rematch clause, no nothing. That’s always been the plan. I feel like as much as we were pushing in our own direction we were never fully in control, but we always said that when we get the belts we will be in control. I can do whatever I want to do, take the fights where I want to take them. It’s a good feeling.
People say ‘he’s an overnight success’ but you’ve got to go down deep, you’ve got to see the hard road that I’ve gone through to get here. Remember I don’t have a famous name, it’s famous now but it wasn’t before. I wasn’t coming out of the Olympics, I wasn’t an amateur superstar. I had to do it the hard way by myself, but I’m here now.
This is the biggest thing in Australian boxing history – nobody has ever done this. I’ve come up from the amateurs, fought on local club shows as a pro, sold the tickets, sold the tables, taken the hard road and the fans see that. They really back me and support me and that’s a good feeling, because for a long time I was shunned.
They didn’t want to talk about Kambosos, especially the media, because I went to the US, they thought I’d turned my back on Australia but I knew that coming over to the US, getting the best sparring and fighting over here would lead to moments like this. I knew I’d clean up everything. It’s great now, I have the whole country behind me.
I used to box for small money. Maybe $1,200 a time. Selling tickets and tables. I was told I had to sell so many tickets or I couldn’t be on the card, I’d have to pay for my opponents. That builds character and got me where I am today. Now the big money is here but I don’t forget that hard road.
There are so many good fights in the division and because I’ve been going overseas to other people’s back yards, my ultimate goal is to come back to Australia and box in front of 80,000 people. Defend all these beautiful belts in front of my own people, I’ve earned the rights to do that – I’ve paid my dues.
That excites me so much, it makes me want to go and run right now. Even though my face is marked up, I’m prepared to go and put in the work. We could do Sydney or Melbourne. In Sydney we’ve got the big Olympic Stadium there or in Melbourne we’ve got the Marble Stadium which has held massive UFC cards. There will be some very exciting talks with the governments and we’ll see who wants it.
We know the stocks have risen now there is a new emperor.”