Bob Arum’s master plan for Top Rank to get the (he)ck out of Vegas by 2021 could include one of his biggest stars.
Talks have progressed for a potential lightweight title fight between lineal champion Teofimo Lopez Jr, and unbeaten mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr. Several matters remain in play, though BoxingScene.com has learned that the intention is for the fight to take place in the springtime—possibly April—in either Melbourne or Sydney.
Such a fight would mark the first for Brooklyn’s Lopez (16-0, 12KOs) since becoming the true lightweight champion following a 12-round unanimous decision win over Ukraine’s Vasiliy Lomachenko this past October. The bout marked the first occasion for Top Rank since the ongoing coronavirus pandemic where fans were permitted in attendance, though the multi-belt title fight took place in front of a limited audience.
Australia has staged major boxing events with fans in attendance since the pandemic, permitted due to the positive downward trend in COVID-19 numbers. Most notable among the shows to have been staged down under during that time was an in-country superfight between unbeaten junior middleweight contender Tim Tszyu and former welterweight titlist Jeff Horn, with Tszyu winning by TKO after eight rounds in front of an estimated 16,000 in attendance at Bankwest Stadium in Townsville, Australia.
The belief is that a title fight between Lopez and Sydney’s Kambosos (19-0, 10KOs)—an Australian-Greek—could far surpass that amount, though dependent on the stadium secured and social distancing rules in place by that time. With that comes the push to have the fight in Melbourne, which boasts the largest Greek population of any city in the world outside of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus.
Kambosos wedged his way to the top of the contender queue following a 12-round win over former featherweight titlist in their IBF title eliminator on October 31 at Wembley’s SSE Arena in London. The bout had been in the works for all of 2020, having been attached to three separate and postponed dates before finally landing on Halloween.
The win came 10 months after Kambosos proved his worth on the lightweight stage following a hard-fought 10-round win over former lightweight titlist Mickey Bey last December in New York City. On that same show, Lopez—one year removed from universal recognition as 2018 Prospect of the Year—punched his way into the Fighter of the Year race following a 2nd round wipeout of Richard Commey to win the IBF lightweight title.
Ten months later, Lopez added the WBA and WBO straps to his collection, along with lineal and WBC “Franchise” championship status following his win over Lomachenko. The fight came with the understanding that the winner would have look at the rescheduled eliminator between Kambosos and Selby for their next mandatory title defense.
While the matchup has a way to go before crossing the finish line, financial compensation will not be among the list of concerns. However, there is the matter of mandatory two-way, 14-day quarantine for anyone traveling to and from Australia. Such restrictions could be lifted or at least relaxed by next spring, although trends in several other parts of the world—including the United States—suggest the coronavirus won’t magically disappear anytime soon.
Also being considered for the potential show is a discussed third fight between Joshua Franco and Kingscliff, Australia’s Andrew Moloney. The two fought twice in 2020, with San Antonio’s Franco (17-1-2, 8KOs) ruining the U.S. debut of Moloney (21-1, 14KOs) in taking a 12-round decision and his secondary junior bantamweight title on June 23 on ESPN from The Bubble at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Their November 14 rematch—which took place in the same venue—ended after just two rounds and remains mired in controversy. Franco was deemed unfit to continue due to a swollen shut right eye, which referee Russell Mora ruled was the result of a headbutt. Replays suggested a Moloney jab caused the initial damage, although an extensive review by the Nevada State Athletic Commission supported the ruling in the ring.
The outcome infuriated home viewers, Moloney and especially Arum who immediately after the fight and replay process suggested to FightHype.com’s Sean Zittel that Top Rank’s plan for 2021 and beyond is to “get the f--k out of Vegas!”
Such plans already appear in motion to some degree, though the extent of that threat remains to be seen. Similarly, efforts for this event to occur rely solely on the continued cooperative effort between Lopez and Kambosos, with everything else—including the possibility of an undercard featuring Franco-Moloney III (whose fight status is by no means set in stone) and Tszyu—possibly added to the equation, though not dependent on the show moving forward.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox