Teofimo Lopez Jr. says George Kambosos is blowing a career opportunity
Teofimo Lopez Jr. has a lot going on. His on-again, off-again, on-again, off-again IBF lightweight title defense against mandatory Australian challenger George Kambosos still hangs in limbo.
Lopez (16-0, 12 knockouts) is The Ring’s and BWAA 2020 Fighter of the Year. He has not fought since his star-turning performance last October with his decision victory Vasiliy Lomachenko to become a four-belt titlist and The Ring’s lightweight world champion.
Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs) is ranked No. 8 at lightweight by The Ring. He told The Ring back in June “that it doesn’t matter where or when the fight takes place, I’m going to beat (Lopez’s) ass.”
Their lightweight title fight was originally scheduled for June 19 in Miami, and then Lopez, tested positive for COVID-19 the week of the fight. Lopez, who has since been vaccinated, and Kambosos agreed to take the fight to New York’s Hulu Theater in Madison Square Garden on Tuesday, October 5. When that date wasn’t feasible, fearful that it would be competing against a New York Yankees playoff game, it was then switched to Monday, October 4.
When that date conflicted with Monday Night Football, it appeared the fight would take place on Saturday, October 16 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Team Lopez signed off on it—although, apparently Kambosos, as of Wednesday, September 29, has not.
In February, Ryan Kavanaugh’s Triller Fight Club, a streaming network, won the purse bid with $6.018 million, beating out Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport ($3.506 million) and Lopez’s promoter, Top Rank ($2.315 million). Lopez was set to make a career-high payday $5.4 million off the deal, counting incentives and projected pay-pay-per view sales, while it appeared Kambosos, 28, was set to make a career-high payday of $2.1 million.
As of Wednesday, September 29, the fight has gone nowhere. There are no tickets available, and as September turns into October later this week, the fight is highly in jeopardy of not happening at all.
Kambosos’ wife just gave birth to the couple’s third child. Lopez and his wife Cynthia are expecting their first child around Thanksgiving, Teofimo Liam Lopez IV.
This is aggravation Lopez, 24, does not need.
It’s going to be a year since his last fight. All of the momentum he gained from his amazing performance last October against Lomachenko, which won him The Ring’s 2020 and BWAA Fighter of the Year awards, has gone poof in the wind.
“This has everything to do with George,” Lopez said. “I do not like that kid. This guy is a fraud. This looks like Kambosos is trying to back out of this fight. Right now, we’re trying to deal with this. My problem with him is that he thinks he’s the undisputed lightweight world champion, while I’m the undisputed lightweight world champion.
“For all of his talk, he’s backing out. By him not signing, that’s what that says. Yeah, he’s screwing me, but he’s really screwing himself. Do you really think he’s going to get another $2-million fight again? No way in hell. This is his chance and when it started to become real, where is he?
“He doesn’t want to sign the contract. He’s being a diva about it. He heard I was going to break his f—g neck and now he’s backing out. I’ve said this before and I’m saying it again, the 135-pound class goes through me. I’m the world champion. When I got COVID, people thought I was backing out. I didn’t ask to have COVID, but why would I back out against a guy like Kambosos, who is nowhere near the talent of Lomachenko. Why would I fake it over someone who isn’t even close to Lomachenko? This is the highest payday for both of us and he’s screwing it up.”
Many sources close to the tug-of-war process going on fear the fight is in serious jeopardy of not happening at all. It would be a crushing blow to both fighters, considering Kambosos was coming off an impressive decision over Lee Selby last October in England to earn the IBF mandatory spot.
In a letter obtained by The Ring to the IBF, Kambosos’ attorney, Greg Smith, states that “Mr. Kambosos objected not only the grammatical and substantive failings of the Amendment, but also sought written confirmation from Triller that if he agreed to reschedule the Bout that Triller would: 1) show proof of funds by escrowing fighter purses prior to his departure from Australia to the USA for the Bout, and 2) honor prior marketing agreements that Triller had offered, but then reneged on. 3) Mr. Kavanaugh repeatedly stated that the error-filled Amendment was a take it or leave it proposition and that Triller would not be extending Mr. Kambosos any further consideration.
“Despite the passing of his grandfather and the birth of his child last week, Mr. Kambosos remains ready, willing, and able to box on October 4, 2021; he has never expressed to Triller or the IBF that he was unavailable or unable to perform everything required by the Contract. However, Mr. Kambosos recently learned that on or about September 24, 2021, Triller and MSG reached a settlement in which Triller released its hold on the venue for October 4, thus making it impossible for Triller to perform under the Contract. Moreover, Mr. Kambosos understands that at present, Triller and the Barclays Center do not have an agreement for the proposed October 16 event. Triller has breached the Contract, lied to the IBF about Mr. Kambosos’ agreement to move the Bout, and attempted to coerce Mr. Kambosos into executing an amendment that does not comply with IBF Rule 10.F.1 in that it does not specify a venue.
“In light of the foregoing, Mr. Kambosos has no choice but to ask the IBF to declare that Triller has failed to comply with the contract and with the IBF Rules Governing Championship Contests. Triller should be declared in default under Rule 10.F.2 and should be barred from future purse bids for its egregious behavior.”
“That to me shows he’s running, because he’s already getting a (career)-best $2 (million), so why walk away from that?” Lopez asked. “I’ll tell you why, he doesn’t want to fight me. He knows he won’t and can’t win. It’s really as simple as that. I’m ready. Let’s do this.”
What could happen is if the IBF finds Triller defaulted by the end of the week, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Sport would be awarded the purse bid and the fight could be rescheduled and take place on the DAZN.
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter who has been working for Ring Magazine/RingTV.com since October 1997 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on twitter @JSantoliquito.