Last Saturday should have been the biggest night of George Kambosos Jr.’s career, an IBF lightweight title elimination bout with Lee Selby at Motorpoint Arena in Cardiff, Wales.
Then COVID-19 showed up, postponing the fight, and putting a halt to practically all boxing action worldwide.
That didn’t stop Kambosos, though, as the Sydney product made sure he got in 12 rounds of sparring on the day when he was supposed to be fighting Selby.
“I'm fired up,” he said a couple days before the sparring session. “I'm thinking that these guys are Selby in front of me. May 9th was supposed to be the day that Selby was getting slaughtered and I gotta get that fire out of me and then get set for the next date that we have.”
That date is expected to be July 11, which gives the 26-year-old contender less than two months to reset and then charge up again. But even though the situation facing all boxers these days isn’t ideal, he’s not tapering down too much or getting fat on home cooked meals as he waits for the true green light that the fight is happening this summer.
“I'm the ultimate professional and I'm always training two, three times a day, even throughout this period,” he said. “I've got a beautiful gym at home and we're still able to head outside and do our roadwork and get in the hard work, so I'm very close to weight all year round.”
It’s a time in the world of boxing where you feel bad for every boxer who needs to make a living but can’t ply his trade. But you may feel especially bad for those like Kambosos, up and comers fresh off big wins that were about to take a leap to the next level, only to have circumstances out of their control keep them grounded. But Kambosos isn’t feeling sorry for himself. Instead, he’s making this time work for him.
“The whole world is in the same situation and it's very unfortunate,” he said. “From my side, I've got the biggest fight of my career, a world title eliminator, my biggest payday to become mandatory and number one to (Vasiliy) Lomachenko or (Teofimo) Lopez. Obviously, that's on hold, but I've taken this time to better myself and do the things that I don't usually get to do because I'm always in camp. I'm getting stronger, I'm getting faster, I'm getting more explosive. On Selby's side, I don't know what he's doing, and I don't really care what he's doing. On our side, we're working extremely hard and when we do kick off back into full gear of fight camps back in the U.S., you're gonna see an even better version of myself.”
What we’ve seen so far has been impressive, but in Kambosos’ big step-up fight on the international stage last December at Madison Square Garden, he delivered with a decision win over former world champion Mickey Bey in a fight that silenced many critics who said the Aussie was unproven. Well, when he got his shot, he was unproven no more.
“A lot of guys said it was gonna be a tough task, and even though Mickey Bey was a touch older, the man was sharp and he came fully prepared,” he said. “But we went in there very confident and we knew what we were looking at. It was a good win and I applaud Mickey Bey because he didn't have to take that fight. That shows the kind of fighter that he is. I did learn a lot in that fight, and to pull off that nice knockdown in round ten and still be so explosive and so fit, it's a credit to the way I'm preparing. So I feel that I did shut down a few critics.”
Beating Selby, a former world featherweight champion, will serve an equal purpose, along with earning him a title shot. And once Kambosos gets that shot, he promises that he won’t be letting go of it without a win that will show everyone just what this Aussie fighter brings to the ring.
“I want to prove to the world that we are the real deal,” he said. “I'm a proud Australian, but I've had my camps in the U.S. now for the last five years. I've been in America preparing, I've had 250 rounds with (Manny) Pacquiao. So I'm a proud Australian but I don't want to be categorized as just an Australian fighter that comes over and gives his best but doesn't get away with a win. We've proven that we deserve to be up there with the best of the best. And when the time comes, I'm ready. I'm staying patient but I am chomping at the bit to get my title fight. And this fight against Selby is gonna happen. It's signed, it's mandatory from the IBF and he has to see me. And if he doesn't want to see me, then pull out of the fight because we're getting that eliminator no matter what.”
Kambosos got to see Selby briefly during an ePress conference last month, and needless to say, he did enjoy the process.
“I loved it,” he laughs. “If you watch the way Selby fights, he's boring, and having an interview with him, he was just the same. Boring, very hard to get words out of him. I tried to pick at him a little bit to get him to fire back, but it was pretty much a Kambosos / Eddie Hearn show. He was sitting there and watching. It was exciting, it was fun, and I could see the nerves. Even from a computer screen I could see that he was very jittery, very nervous, and he knows this young bull, this young lion is on the world scene. This is not a fight that he wanted. This is a fight that we wanted. We actually chased this fight before the eliminator. Unfortunately, he got put in this position and he had no choice but to take this fight.”
But now all Kambosos and Selby can do is wait. If he had no patience before, he’s had to learn it over these last couple months. But he’s fine with it, because he knows that eventually, this too shall pass.
“Patience is very important in the fight game,” said Kambosos. “And the good thing is, I'm only 26 years of age and I have so many good years in front of me. I feel like I'm not even in my prime yet. I feel every fight I'm getting better and better and I'm becoming a more complete fighter. So patience is a good thing, but I'm ready.”