Hot lightweight division takes a hit with Kambosos-Hughes scoring controversy
The lightweight division is the deepest in boxing and has been on fire in 2023.
However, the 135-pound weight class took a proverbial black-eye on Saturday at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma, when a returning George Kambosos Jr. appeared extremely fortunate to be on the receiving end of a 12-round majority decision in an IBF eliminator.
Kambosos (21-2, 10 knockouts), who entered the ring as a 4/1 favorite, struggled from the opening bell with southpaw Hughes (26-6-2, 5 KOs) and was repeatedly beaten to the punch and made to look very ordinary.
Kambosos, the 30-year-old former Ring/unified champ who entered as The Ring’s No. 7-rated lightweight, was fighting the first southpaw since his third fight, although he had many rounds of experience sparring Manny Pacquiao many years ago. He was never really able to build any momentum and while he was the aggressor, he followed Hughes around befuddled on how to cut off the corners or get inside.
At the conclusion of 12 rounds, it looked for all the world like the streaking Brit had done it again. When the scores were read out judge David Sutherland couldn’t split them and scored the contest 114-114 a piece, while Gerald Ritter had Kambosos ahead 115-113, and Josef Mason inexplicably sided with the Aussie by a much-criticized 117-111 tally. It should be noted that just last month Mason strangely scored Regis Prograis-Danielito Zorrilla fight 117-110 for the home fighter in what was generally perceived as a close fight.
It’s one thing when it’s Devin Haney, a supremely gifted technician and one of the premier fighters in the world, it’s rather worrying when you go life and death with Hughes. The 33-year-old British fighter is a very solid if not spectacular fighter who spent much of his career around domestic level but lost when he stepped up, notable in British junior lightweight title challenges to Martin J. Ward (UD 12) and Sam Bowen (TKO 8). To his immense credit, he has impressively outhustled Jono Carroll (UD 10), took Viktor Kotochigov’s unbeaten record (UD 12) and then got over the hump to claim the British lightweight title against Paul Hyland Jr. (TKO 8). The fairytale continued when he added three more wins to his resume including Kid Galahad (MD 12). All of which elevated Hughes to a No. 9 ranking by The Ring.
According to CompuBox, Kambosos only landed double digit shots in one round, while Hughes faired only marginally better, doing so on three occasions. Hughes (98) outlanded Kambosos (90) and was more economical landing 29 percent of his punches, Kambosos landed 19.1 percent. Hughes (45) jab was more efficient than Kambosos (25) working at 25 percent compared to 9.4 percent. Things were closer on power punches Kambosos (65) landed more than Hughes (53) but threw more and was slightly less affect in terms of percentages 31.9 percent, compared to 33.5 percent.
Kambosos, who is a charismatic sought, of course felt like he did enough and put his own spin on proceedings.
“We won the fight by many rounds. That’s no discredit to Maxi Hughes. He had a couple good rounds. But a couple good rounds don’t win you the fight,” Kambosos said afterwards. “We won a majority of the rounds. That’s the reason we chose him. He was a hard test. A lot of guys coming off losses wouldn’t want to take a test like him. This was a hard challenge. I need to get grittier.
“He was moving a lot and wasn’t engaging a lot, but that’s the way he fights. We knew he was going to be a tough challenge, but styles make fights. I’ve got to be more gritty with these guys.”
It’s clear that most watching at the venue and at home believed the tough luck Brit deserved the nod.
“I’m absolutely devastated,” said Hughes. “Nobody thought I was supposed to be in George’s league. Tonight, I came and I showed that I should have had my hand raised. I don’t want to take George’s moment.
“I used my footwork. I made him miss and pay. I landed the cleaner shots. I don’t want to sound like a sore loser, and I will watch it and assess it, but everyone here now knows who Maxi Hughes is.”
As Kambosos walked around the ring on his way back to the Lockeroom, he ran into two-division world champion and rising star Shakur Stevenson, who told the victor he felt he lost. The two shared words and were largely respectful, though the gifted American did say that he’d like to face Kambosos, and if he did, he would not only defeat him but knock him out. A blunt assessment but one that he’d be strongly favored to do.
Is Kambosos a one hit wonder, who caught his white whale, trapped lightening in a bottle, had his Jeff Horn moment against Manny Pacquiao, when he upset Teofimo Lopez in 2021?
On this showing Kambosos was rather average and average doesn’t cut it in a weight class that is brimming with talent.
Joe Tessitore suggested on the ESPN broadcast that undisputed champion Devin Haney is going to vacate his titles and move up to 140 pounds and face WBC titlist Regis Prograis in the fall.
If that happens Kambosos will be primed to face Gustavo Lemus from Argentina for the vacant IBF title. In a pre-fight interview, said he could return to Australia or his ancestorial home of Greece, either would be bigger than if it took place on American shores.
While Hughes, who proved he deserved this opportunity, saw a seven-fight win streak end, the hope is that he will be given another shot. Him versus Keyshawn Davis, who was dominant on the undercard dropping and picking a part tough as they come Francesco Patera, would be a decent opponent for the touted American.
To be clear, this isn’t a witch hunt against Kambosos, he’s a classy guy, an excellent interview and someone who puts his heart and sole into boxing, more an indictment of the spurious judging than anything else. I hope we’re not talking about something similar in the wake of Stephen Fulton-Naoya Inoue tomorrow and Errol Spence Jr.-Terence Crawford on the weekend.
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