Initially, it was difficult to narrow down who had the more compelling post-fight story between George Kambosos Jr. and Teofimo Lopez Jr.
Kambosos had just pulled off a huge majority decision upset against a pound-for-pound top-10 boxer to take the lineal lightweight championship. He had done so by withstanding Lopez’s incredible power and even swapping blows with him one-to-one at times, elsewhere simply outboxing him. Along the way he collected what is truly one of Australia’s great boxing victories, believe it or not.
That’s pretty compelling!
And yet, for all the wrong reasons, the Lopez story is awfully — in both sense of the word — compelling. The dethroned king is always interesting, for starters, especially coming after a myth-making win against a legendary opponent, as Vasiliy Lomachenko is. But then there was the tornado of sheer chaos that unfolded before, during and after the bout, some of which we didn’t learn about right away.
Lopez’s dad blathering utter contradictory nonsense in the corner after his son got dropped in the 1st round, that was something. The explanation that Lopez was struggling to make weight, that’s the kind of thing that might make for some intriguing post-fight discussions.
Then there’s… this.
Before the DAZN-broadcasted fight Saturday, Lopez let loose with a bizarre and unsettling series of remarks that we won’t even try to do justice to, as you just have to read it. Actual demons, a desire to kill or at least elbow a downed foe… it makes all the turmoil leading up to the fight — from a positive COVID-19 test to promotional drama to everything else — look like entropy child’s play.
It’s enough to steal from the story of the fight itself, which was great stuff.
Right from the opening bell, Lopez gunned for a knockout, only to find himself knocked down by a counter overhand right instead. Occasionally, the best plan against a first-rate power puncher is to take it to them. When it works, it’s incredible. When it doesn’t, well, it was a brave self-evisceration, buddy. And for Kambosos, it was working right off the bat.
Clearly, Lomachenko’s cautious approach wasn’t the one to take against Lopez. But it’s not as if Kambosos simply slugged with the KO artist. Nope, he strafed, engaging when he wanted and largely keeping Lopez where he wanted him — a mid-range where he maximized his maneuverability for both offense and defense.
Of course, a battle plan like this only works if you have an epic chin. And boy does Kambosos. Lopez was connecting on the kind of shots that he’s always employed to obliterate consciousnesses, and with the exception of the occasional wobble and a 10th round knockdown, Kambosos just absorbed it. The 10th round knockdown, by the way, was no piddly balance problem. It was the real deal, and Kambosos, through a brew of willpower, selective trading and tying up, survived it.
Truth be told, though, there were times where Lopez appeared a bit sluggish. In situations like this, it’s hard to vivisect then isolate whether a fighter’s problems are his own or the making of his opponent. It’s usually fair to assume both are to blame. The weight excuse could be dismissed if Lopez’s team hasn’t long been warning that he’s too big for lightweight, which happens to be additionally justified by the fact that he looks fucking enormous. There was an early moment where Kambosos delivered a left jab/left hook combination, and Lopez, at least in slow motion, sponged it in like someone who wasn’t equipped to defend himself. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible that Kambosos had already flummoxed Lopez enough to make such a combo viable.
So, yeah. Kambosos’s story takes second place, somehow, to Lopez’s. In the present. In the future, he’s the fighter with the wider set of options, and that’s plenty exciting. After seeing him do his Hulk-and-Houdini act with Lopez, why wouldn’t you want to see if he could do it again with another physically stellar young talent in Gervonta Davis? The Lopez rematch could be a thing but it feels like the Lopez team is moving on, wisely. There’s also Devin Haney and Lomachenko.
Lopez’s future should be far more placid than simply moving up to 140 pounds. All signs point to him needing to get mental health treatment. I — and here I switch from “we” to “I” — once resisted the idea of my own mental health treatment, fearing it somehow exemplified weakness. We don’t stigmatize physical health like this, though, do we? And it’s not like your brain and biochemistry or whatever you want to assign inadequate mental health to is somehow unimportant physically either.
The Lopez story has been compelling for the wrong reasons in recent days. Getting his head right, then returning to the ring, is a very, very good story. A better one.
(George Kambosos downs Teofimo Lopez; credit: Ed Mulholland for Matchroom)