When lightweight contender George Kambosos got the phone call he was waiting for from manager Peter Kahn to tell him the results of the purse bid for his mandatory title shot against unified world champion Teofimo Lopez, he had a distinct reaction.
“When that did come through I was drinking a coffee and I nearly spat my coffee out. It was great,” Kambosos told BoxingScene.com.
Because of the time difference between Australia, where Kambosos lives, and Springfield, New Jersey, where the IBF was conducting the purse bid on Feb. 25 at 12 p.m. ET, he woke up at 3:45 a.m. to get the results. They turned out to be well worth losing some sleep over.
Triller, the music and social media company behind the blockbuster Mike Tyson-Roy Jones pay-per-view exhibition in November, shockingly blew away the competition. Triller executive Ryan Kavanaugh, participating via video conference, bid $6.018 million, a number so big that it beat the only other two bids combined – an offer of $3.506 million offered by Matchroom Boxing, which was bidding in conjunction with DAZN and Kambosos promoter Lou DiBella, and $2.315 million offered by Top Rank, Lopez’s promoter.
Kambosos, understandably, was thrilled with the outcome. Not only will he get a shot at titles but he will earn by far his biggest purse.
“I believe it's well deserved because I've taken the hard road same as Lopez, you know. He deserves the money. He beat the man to become the man,” Kambosos said of Lopez’s upset decision win over Vasiliy Lomachenko to unify titles on Oct. 17. “So, we put our lives on the line and exactly how (Matchroom Boxing promoter) Eddie Hearn came out and said he’s so happy for us both and he’s not even our promoter. He didn’t even win the bid, but he said, ‘The boys deserve it. They’re both young guys, they’re both working hard. Us promoters are already rich and without the fighters there are no fights. Two guys putting it on the line, they’re both undefeated.’ He’s 23, I’m 27. This is huge. This is great for the sport because it shows how much money is still in boxing. It’s great.”
Under the terms of Triller’s winning bid, Lopez, as champion, is entitled to 65 percent of the money, which is $3,911,700, although he must pay Top Rank 20 percent ($782,340) since Top Rank didn’t win the auction. Kambosos is entitled to 35 percent ($2,106,300) minus a roughly 25 percent (about $500,000) cut that goes to DiBella.
“I wasn’t sure who was gonna bid. I didn’t watch the Zoom call. I just got the phone call from my manager Peter Kahn, who I believe is the best manager in the world,” Kambosos said. “As soon as the call came through and he said what happened I said, ‘Beautiful.’”
And then, as long as he was awake, Kambosos said he went for a run.
The money Kambosos will make will dwarf his biggest purse, which was $167,000 for a decision victory over Lee Selby in the October 2020 title elimination fight that earned him the shot at Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), 23, of Brooklyn, New York.
Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs) feels like all the risks he has taken have paid off.
“When I was (fighting) in Australia I was making very good money when it comes to fighting in Australia. But I took that risk. I went to the U.S. for the opportunity,” he said. “I said, you know what, I’m gonna go to the U.S., I’m gonna learn my craft over there, I’m gonna take the risk, and whatever money came – and look, it was very small money when I came to America. The people in Australia said, ‘You’re crazy. You’re making big money here, you’re gonna be headlining big stadiums real soon. What are you doing?’ But my destiny was always to come to the U.S. and to take the road that I have and work the hard way. And look where we’re at today? We become the highest paid fighter in Australian combat sports.”
Kambosos fought his first 13 pro fights in Australia before taking his show on the road. He began training in South Florida, where Kahn is based, and his last six fights have been on the road -- three in the United States, the Selby fight in England, one fight in Greece (where his family is from), and one in Malaysia on the undercard of Manny Pacquiao-Lucas Matthysse. Kambosos has been one of Pacquiao’s main sparring partners for three of his last four fights, against Jeff Horn, Matthysse and Adrien Broner, and logged some 250 rounds with him.
As good as the money will be to fight Lopez, Kambosos said it is not the most important thing to him.
“The money is not my priority,” he said. “What my priority is is taking those belts. Excuse my French, but f--- the money. The money will come, the money was always gonna come. For me, I want the belts. Lopez, we all know that he wanted the money. He was adamant, (asking for) $5 million, $6 million, $10 million. I know his mind is on the money. He’s already achieved everything that there is in boxing. He’s the unified champion of the world and he has all those belts. My drive, my motivation is about winning them titles. Everyone thinks he’s an immortal. He can’t be beat. Well, they said the same thing about Lomachenko.”
Kambosos, like many, said he had never heard of Triller until they put on the well-received Tyson-Jones event. He said he is happy to work with them on the fight and appreciates its big bid.
“I’m excited. They can see how big this fight is. They can see the money that can be made on this fight and they know obviously how entertaining us guys are,” he said. “We both talk, we’re both exciting. The guys Lopez has fought in the past have not turned around and said, ‘I’m coming to get you! I’m beating you! I’m putting you on you on your ass, I’m taking you to deep water!’ Everyone’s been scared of this kid. Everyone’s been afraid of him. I’ll tell you right now -- I have no fear of this kid. I respect him as a fighter. He’s unified champion. But I’m coming head on to this kid.”
Triller has not yet announced a date or site for the fight, although it is headed for pay-per-view. Kambosos said he couldn’t care less where it takes place.
“They’ve paid big money, they’ll do what they want to do,” Kambosos said. “If they want to do it in Lopez’s backyard, if they want to do it in his house, if they want to do it on the moon, wherever they want to do it, it doesn’t really faze me.
“I’ve taken the hard road. I’ve been overseas the last (six) fights. I’ve fought all over the world. I’m still undefeated. I’m still with that zero. I’m still here. It doesn’t matter. I love being the outsider. I love being the guy that’s coming into somebody’s backyard. I’m a warrior. A warrior has to travel.”
Dan Rafael was ESPN.com's senior boxing writer for fifteen years, and covered the sport for five years at USA Today. He was the 2013 BWAA Nat Fleischer Award winner for excellence in boxing journalism.