REMATCHES in boxing tend to happen for all manner of reasons, with some more legitimate and worthy than others. There will, for starters, be the rematch that is triggered by the close nature of a first fight, or in some cases the controversial nature of a first fight. There will also be the rematch as reward for the action fans witnessed between two fighters in fight number one. Then there will be rematches contracted or, in other words, agreed before we have even had a chance to see what happens when the two boxers share a ring.
The last of those reasons usually comes into play when a champion has been dethroned. It is at that point they will have decided, regardless of the way in which they were dethroned, that dented pride is too painful a feeling to not at least try to regain all they have lost. It is at that point a rematch clause is activated and a rematch, whether it’s required or not, takes place.
This, on the face of it, would appear the inspiration for lightweights Devin Haney and George Kambosos renewing acquaintances this Sunday (October 16) in Melbourne, Australia, just four months after their first encounter. For it can be for no other reason. Their first fight, after all, was neither close nor particularly exciting and, moreover, nobody who watched the first fight will have been calling to see a repeat of it anytime soon.
It is merely because of a contractual obligation, therefore, that Kambosos, the former lightweight champion whose reign was brief, is granted a second go at beating Haney, 28-0 (15), this weekend in his home country. For him, and only him, the fight makes complete sense and is one he must take, if just to restore his pride. It is also a fight he will have by now convinced himself he can win, despite his inability to do much with Haney first time around, and one he has told himself he needs in order to right all the things he got wrong back in June.
That’s just the mindset of a fighter, of course, and Kambosos, 20-1 (10), is certainly one of those. He speaks like a fighter, he moves like a fighter, and he behaves a fighter. Indeed, many argued before his June fight with Haney that Kambosos’ inability to remain calm and detached in the heat of battle – that is, his inability to stop functioning and thinking like a fighter – would ultimately lead to his downfall against the more naturally gifted and composed American. It showed throughout, too, with Kambosos wound up and overly emotional heading into the fight and then, during the fight, crippled by the kind of anxiety and desperation felt only by those trying too hard in front of their own fans.
Haney, in contrast, couldn’t have cut a cooler figure. Not once overwhelmed, not by the Australian crowd nor Kambosos huffing and puffing, he remained settled and smooth at all times and, while perhaps not the most thrilling fight of 2022, the exhibition he put on behind the jab was one of the best any boxer has produced this calendar year. In fact, one could argue the fight was won on that punch alone, the need for others reduced both by its quality and the space it granted Haney to move. Furthermore, so amped up was his opponent, and so straightforward was his approach, all it took was a single, double or triple helping of this jab to deter him, not unlike the stabbing of a matador’s sword in the presence of a bull.
The question now, as we prepare for the rematch, is this: to what extent was Kambosos’ struggle due to his own limitations as a fighter and to what extent was it due to him merely adopting the wrong approach? If Haney’s jabbing clinic exposed his limitations, there is arguably no hope for Kambosos, irrespective of how loudly the home fans cheer and how capable he is of motivating himself. However, if Kambosos naively believed the approach he took to beating Teofimo Lopez in 2021 would be just as effective against a completely different fighter (both physically and psychologically), there is maybe room for optimism, and for change, and for a different Kambosos in fight two.
Only he will know the answer to that question. He will, as usual, talk a great fight in the days leading up to it and he will, on fight night, resemble the figure of a warrior out for justice; someone who this time knows all the answers. Yet in the end, when it comes down to it, when the talking stops and all we have to go on is factual evidence, it’s the left jab and composure of Devin Haney that will likely once again speak louder than anything his willing but limited Australian opponent can muster over the course of 12 rounds.
On the Melbourne undercard there are appearances for the Maloney twins, Jason and Andrew, both of whom tackle vastly experienced opponents.
For Jason, a bantamweight with a 24-2 (19) pro record, that means a fight against Thailand’s Nawaphon Sor Rungvisai, a pro since 2009 whose record stands at 56-1-1 (46). It’s important to note that those 58 bouts all took place in Thailand, of course, where the competition isn’t always the strongest, and also that Sor Rungvisai is now 31, so may have seen better days.
Maloney, too, is 31, though one imagines hasn’t got the same number of miles on the clock. He has won three in a row since being stopped by Naoya Inoue in 2020 and should be favoured to make that four this weekend.
His brother Andrew, meanwhile, a flyweight, fights Norbelto Jimenez, a 12-year pro from the Dominican Republic whose last loss came against Britain’s Khalid Yafai in 2019. Also on a run of three straight wins, Maloney, 24-2 (16), should have too much for Jimenez, 31-9-6 (16), and could even try to force a stoppage, which would, should he achieve it, be his third on the trot.