George Kambosos Jr believes Australian boxing has entered its “best ever” era.
The former undisputed lightweight champion on Saturday fights Maxi Hughes at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and is attempting to rebuild his career after Devin Haney inflicted on him successive defeats.
That Haney twice travelled to Australia to fight him – the first time at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne – is a demonstration of Kambosos Jr’s appeal after his victory over the highly regarded Teofimo Lopez. Victory over Hughes – at 33 three years older than Kambosos Jr – can in turn be expected to lead to potential fights with Shakur Stevenson and Vasyl Lomachenko, given Kambosos Jr’s new co-promoters Top Rank are guiding each.
At a time when Tim Tszyu is increasingly impressing at light middleweight and Jason Maloney is the WBO bantamweight champion, Kambosos Jr regardless also believes that his recent success and his expectation that younger fighters will follow them means that the Australian fight scene will continue to thrive.
By remaining at lightweight he is a significant figure in the world’s most competitive weight division; his status as the-then champion delivered to his country its most significant fight since Manny Pacquiao lost to Jeff Horn in 2019.
“It’s a really good era,” said Kambosos Jr, who is also co-promoted by Lou DiBella. “We have a really good crop of fighters coming out of Australian boxing and I’m very proud to be able to show that it can be done.
“This is the best it’s ever been. It’s always been an individual guy that would pop up. You had [Jeff] Fenech; obviously Kostya [Tszyu]; Vic Darchinyan; Anthony Mundine; Danny Green. But this is a good group of fighters, led by myself, then [Tim] Tszyu; Jason Maloney; his brother Andrew. Liam Paro – another good fighter.
“The amateur circuit is a very good circuit now. We have a good amateur team. That’s helped a lot. Boxing has become a lot more popular in Australia. Boxing’s a numbers game. That’s why I’ve come to the US – when you’ve got more numbers you’ve got more sparring options, and guys that are going to continue to improve. That’s where it’s at [in Australia]. You’ve got more people involved; you’ve got better foundations, and it’s in a great position. There’s some very good young talent, and I’m very confident in the next three, four, five, six years that a lot of them are going to emerge.”
Tszyu was most recently left frustrated by the fight he had been pursuing with Jermell Charlo being taken out of his reach when Charlo agreed terms to fight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, but if Kambosos Jr is right and if Charlo-Tszyu eventually happens, the progress he is making means that it is becoming a more competitive fight.
“He’s a very good fighter,” he said of the 28-year-old Tszyu. “He’s had some good victories in the last few months. Charlo’s a different kettle of fish. That’s a guy where the real fight is, as we say. You can have fights leading up to it, like I did with [Lee] Selby; Micky Bey, but Lopez was my big test.
“That’s where you make or break. I believe that Charlo’s his big test – that’s make or break. If you lose to a guy like that, you can bounce back and win a title, but you’ll never be able to reach that superstardom. Is Charlo a step too far? I would say ‘Yes’ a few months ago, but Tim’s been quite active, and that gap has got closer.
“We used to train altogether at the same gym – at the Tszyu Academy. At the start of my career Kostya was always around at the gym, and he was always floating from Australia to Russia – he lives in Russia now.
“His dad is a superstar. It’s amazing to think that if Tim can do it as well, so many belts have come out of that gym. [Kostya] was very militant – the way he trained. We all were, as amateurs – it gave us that focus. He wasn’t the most talkative kind of guy, but I wish him all the best – he’s a good man. What I did at that gym many years ago was good fun.”