Good, bad, worse: George Kambosos, king of the lightweights? It’s true

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A critical look at the past week in boxing

GOOD

Dreams can come true no matter where you live in the world.

George Kambosos, a former rugby player from Australia, imagined becoming a world boxing champion from an early. He had natural gifts and grit, he put in the work over many years and he developed an unwavering belief in himself.

All that paid off on Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York, where he upset Teofimo Lopez by a split decision to become undisputed lightweight champion.

And it was no fluke. Kambosos insisted repeatedly that he was better than Lopez and he proved it. He outboxed the conqueror of Vasiliy Lomchenko, he outworked him and he took everything Lopez threw at him.

Yes, he went down in Round 10, but that only gave him the opportunity to demonstrate his mettle under difficult circumstances, as he had strong rounds in 11 and 12.

Kambosos lost some rounds but the decision wasn’t controversial, no matter what Lopez said afterward. One judge had it 114-113 for Lopez but the other two scored it for Kambosos, 115-111 and 115-112. Each of the latter two gave the winner eight of the 12 rounds.

Dominating? No. Convincing? Yes.

And you should remember something about fighters from remote outposts: They must travel the world and fight in hostile territories to achieve their goals, as Kambosos did when he outpointed Mickey Bey at The Garden, Lee Selby in London and now Lopez.

That adds a layer of difficulty and makes his accomplishments all the more remarkable.

Kambosos is now the undisputed 135-pound champion, assuming you don’t buy into the WBC’s confusing “franchise champion” designation. I don’t know whether he’s the best Australian boxer of all time – Jeff Fenech might have something to say about that, for example – but he did make history.

Nothing will ever be the same for him.

BAD

Lopez is young, only 24. He’ll learn from this experience.

The Brooklynite became an instantaneous star when he upset pound-for-pounder Vasiliy Lomachenko by a unanimous decision to become the lightweight king in his most-recent fight, in October of last year.

Then, in his very next outing, it was all gone. What went wrong?

First and foremost, it was Kambosos, who was better than billed. All the fight postponements didn’t help. The same with a bout with COVID-19. And he obviously had some personal distractions, which can be particularly challenging for a young man.

If you add all that up, perhaps we shouldn’t be shocked that the laser-focused Aussie pulled off the upset.

Lopez seemed out of sorts in the opening round, when he came out winging wild punches in an effort to stop turn his prediction of a first-round knockout into reality. Instead, he was knocked down himself in the final seconds of the round.

And while he was competitive the rest of the way and rallied late in the fight, he never strayed far from his desire to stop Kambosos. Instead, he should’ve simply let his hands go more than he did. That includes the moments after he put Kambosos down, when he didn’t try hard enough to finish the job and salvage a victory.

Now, after Kambosos had his hand raised, it’s reasonable to ask: Is Lopez as good as we thought he was after he beat Lomachenko? Or did he catch the Ukrainian on an off night?

Again, Lopez is young. He can bounce back from this. We’ll see whether he does.

WORSE

I understand the frustration a fighter must feel when he believes he has been cheated by the judges.

Lopez and Brandon Figueroa, who lost a majority decision to Stephen Fulton in a 122-pound title-unification bout Saturday, both declared after their setbacks that “everyone knows who won.” And, yes, the fights were competitive. One could argue that the wrong men won.

However, Lopez and Figueroa probably didn’t express their feelings in an appropriate way, as both them interrupted interviews with the winners to convey their outrage. That wasn’t fair to the their opponents, who had no say in the scoring.

I’m a big proponent of allowing the victor to have his or her moment, particularly after such hard-earned triumphs. Lopez and Figueroa would’ve had the opportunity to speak in their own interviews a few minutes later.

Instead, they stole some of Kambosos and Fulton’s glory.

And, in my opinion, they weren’t robbed. Again, I thought Kambosos outworked Lopez, which is why I gave him seven of the 12 rounds. And while the indefatigable Figueroa threw more punches than Fulton, the latter landed the cleaner shots. I had Fulton winning eight of the 12 rounds.

As I said earlier, a more-focused Lopez can and probably will bounce back. And while Figueroa (22-1-1, 17 KOs) lost his 122-pound title to Fulton (20-0, 8 KOs), he won added respect for a splendid performance. He’s going to give the 126-pounder hell going forward.

Indeed, neither Lopez nor Figueroa needed to lose their cool after their setbacks. The future is bright.