Unified lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez could be headed to mandatory challenger George Kambosos’ home country of Australia to defend against him in the spring.
Talks to make the fight for April or May are underway, as previously reported by BoxingScene.com.
“I’m 100 percent in favor of it. It’s a great opportunity for Teofimo,” said Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, Lopez’s promoter, to BoxingScene.com. “That’s what I’m hoping for. When the government in Australia gets rid of the 14-day quarantine for foreigners then I’m ready to move because already you can do these fights with full capacity stadiums in Australia.”
Arum’s concern is over a 14-day quarantine required by visitors is because he said Lopez would not be able to fully train during those two weeks. But David McWater, Lopez’s manager, said he is also in favor of making the fight and that the quarantine would not be an issue.
“There is definitely interest on our part. We’re extremely open-minded to it,” McWater said. “Everybody is trying to make it work if possible. We are totally willing to go to Australia. With the quarantine, we can just go there for 10 weeks. Quarantine the first two weeks and then the full eight-week camp could be there, but obviously it would be better if some of the restrictions are dropped. Teofimo will fight anyone in the world and is fine with fighting Kambosos. We’re very interested.”
Arum is interested in bringing Lopez overseas mainly because he feels hamstrung in the United States because of how difficult it is to do fights during the coronavirus pandemic, even though he has been doing ESPN shows regularly since June without crowds. There are a few states, such as Florida and Texas, where limited crowds are allowed, but Arum is not interested in doing that because of how bad the pandemic is in the U.S.
“Right now I’m in a stall pattern to do as few fights as we can get away with hoping to get into some sunshine where can do spectators,” said Arum, who said Top Rank will do limited cards in early 2021 before hoping to ramp up and have spectators in the spring. “I don’t want to do Teofimo Lopez in the United States in a bubble. First of all, I can’t afford to do it and even if I could afford to do it it’s a waste of money.”
The 23-year-old Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs), of Brooklyn, New York, is coming off an enormous win on Oct. 17 inside the bubble of the conference center at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he claimed a unanimous decision to unify 135-pound world titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko, at the time the universally recognized No. 1 lightweight in the world and to many the pound-for-pound king.
On the same day Lopez defeated Lomachenko, Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs), 27, of Sydney, Australia, outpointed former featherweight world titlist Lee Selby in London in a title eliminator to earn the mandatory shot against Lopez. He has not fought in Australia since 2017.
Arum said the Kambosos team has been in talks with a group of Australian Greek businessmen – Kambosos has Greek heritage – who have “a lot of money who want to put up the money for the fight to be in Australia, in Melbourne.”
Said McWater, “I’m confident (the Kambosos team) is going everything he can to make it come together.”
Lou DiBella, Kambosos’ promoter, said he hopes to get a deal done.
“There’s a lot of interest in the fight in Australia,” DiBella said. “They love a big event when it involves an Australian against a big star. Kambosos knows how hard a fight it is but he is dying to fight Lopez. He wants to test himself against the best. Lopez is white hot right now and he wants to be in there with him. He’s obsessed with it so we’re actively working on it. The Australian-Greek businessmen are interested in backing the event. It would be a really big event there.”
Arum said Australia works well for the fight because besides ticket revenue they can also generate pay-per-view and closed circuit money there and time the bout to be televised on ESPN in prime time in the U.S. despite the time difference.
“Even though the pay-per-view isn’t that robust the closed circuit in the bars and so forth is enormous. For the Moloney dates we did good money in the bars,” Arum said, making reference to the cards Australian twins Andrew and Jason Moloney headlined in the MGM Grand bubble.”
As for the timing of the fight, Arum said it would take place in the late Sunday morning or early afternoon Australian time to accommodate a Saturday night telecast in the U.S., similarly to how Top Rank did things when Manny Pacquiao fought Jeff Horn in Brisbane in 2017 as the Top Rank and ESPN kicked off their partnership.
“That is part of the deal,” Arum said of the fight being on a Sunday morning or afternoon in Australia. “The Aussies are used to watching fights at that hour because the big fights from the United States come on a Sunday at that hour.”
If they work out an agreement, Arum said Lopez-Kambosos would be in April or May and that he would look to put rising Australian junior middleweight contender Tim Tszyu (16-0, 12 KOs), 26, the son of Hall of Famer Kostya Tszyu, on the cards.
In whichever month Lopez-Kambosos takes place, Arum said he would put on another card in the other month featuring Andrew and Jason Maloney.
Andrew Moloney (21-1, 14 KOs), 29, would face secondary junior bantamweight world titlist Joshua Franco (17-1-2, 8 KOs), 25, of San Antonio, for the third time. Franco outpointed him in the MGM Grand bubble on June 23 to take his secondary junior bantamweight world title and they fought to a highly controversial second-round no decision on Nov. 14. Jason Moloney (21-2, 18 KOs) would return from his first defeat, a seventh-round knockout loss challenging unified bantamweight world champion Naoya Inoue on Oct. 31 in the MGM Grand bubble.
“We’re exercising an option,” Arum said of doing the third Franco-Moloney fight. “We’re talking about Lopez and (Kambosos) in April or May and for the Moloneys to headline a card in Brisbane in the other month.”
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.