the Australian light-weight boxing hero you’ve by no means heard of

On the night of November 27 final 12 months, George Kambosos jnr stood on the window of his room on the twentieth ground of the New Yorker Lodge in midtown Manhattan. He fastened his consideration on the big, round, neon-lit enviornment throughout the highway that New Yorkers name, with no trace of irony, “essentially the most well-known coliseum on the planet”.

Madison Sq. Backyard is the place John Lennon final carried out earlier than he was shot useless; the place Muhammad Ali misplaced and gained heavyweight world titles towards Joe Frazier; the place Marilyn Monroe sang Blissful Birthday to John F Kennedy; the place movie director Spike Lee spits invective from courtside seats every time his beloved New York Knicks basketball staff performs.

On this night time, it was the place the place Kambosos was ready to die.

In a matter of hours, the 28-year-old from southern Sydney’s Sylvania would stroll throughout West thirty fourth Road, down 8th Avenue and into the ring because the 13-to-one outsider towards American Teófimo López jnr, the light-weight champion of the world. A famend knockout specialist, López was thought-about one of many sport’s greatest pound-for-pound fighters.

Kambosos’s plan was to spoil the get together. To close up López and his mouthy father, Teófimo López snr, who had clashed with Kambosos’s father, Jim, at a sparring session days earlier than the struggle after bursting into the gymnasium screaming, “Kambosos! You’re gonna get your ass kicked! First spherical!”

Kambosos in the ring last November with then lightweight champ, American Teófimo López jnr.

Kambosos within the ring final November with then light-weight champ, American Teófimo López jnr.Credit score:Getty Photos

Principally, the plan was to vary his household’s life perpetually with a $US2 million payday … However what if he didn’t? He shifted his gaze from Madison Sq. Backyard in the direction of his spouse, Rebecca. “You recognize I’m ready to die tonight,” Kambosos instructed her. “To win this struggle, I’ll do no matter it takes.”

“You’ll be tremendous,” Rebecca replied. Then he shuffled by way of the contracts, the life insurance coverage insurance policies, the waivers he’d signed absolving the sanctioning our bodies of legal responsibility if Kambosos didn’t make it again to the lodge room. “You know the way a lot this implies to me,” he defined. “If something occurs, I need each cent that’s owed to me to go to you and the youngsters.”

Tears welled in Rebecca’s eyes. She knew of her husband’s resolve, however this was completely different. Within the dressing room earlier than the struggle, Kambosos FaceTimed their three younger kids in Sydney as his fingers had been wrapped to safe his bones and joints beneath his gloves. Weeks earlier, he’d hugged them earlier than boarding his flight to the US, realizing “that could possibly be the final time I see them”.

Earlier than Rebecca left the dressing room to search out her ringside seat, she had an announcement of her personal to make. “You’re successful,” she stated. “You aren’t dying.”

When the ring announcer declared Kambosos the winner by a split-points resolution, the one individual shocked by the consequence was López.

Because it turned out, Kambosos didn’t have to die. He landed an overhand proper within the first spherical that left López sprawling backwards. He gained the center rounds, firing off combos, then shifting out of bother, simply as he and his staff had deliberate. Within the tenth, López caught Kambosos on the again of the top and he crashed to the canvas, wobbling on his toes because the referee gave him a standing depend. As a substitute of letting the world championship slip away, Kambosos regained his composure, did the signal of the cross and tapped his foot on the underside rope, then gained the subsequent two rounds.

On the finish of the struggle, each fighters had been lined in blood, most of it belonging to López. When the ring announcer declared Kambosos the winner by a split-points resolution, the one individual shocked by the consequence was López. Earlier within the night time, the gang had chanted his title. Now they had been standing and applauding the unknown puncher from Sydney.

The New York State Athletic Fee insists boxers be taken to hospital after their struggle for CT scans and a routine check-up. After making his method by way of the crush of reporters and spectators, Kambosos climbed into the again of the ambulance alongside Jim and Rebecca. The chunky doorways closed and, all of the sudden, there was silence.

“That’s when it hit me – I’d gained,” Kambosos recollects. “You’ll be able to lose your life doing something, nevertheless it’s completely different within the ring. I do know it’s a sport. However in my head, I knew this struggle would change every part. My youngsters could be set for all times. I used to be prepared to do no matter it took to make it possible for occurred. Shedding my life was the sacrifice I used to be ready to make.”

Kambosos left the hospital 5 hours after arriving, with a number of stitches above his left eye. He had a burger and went to mattress. López didn’t go away hospital for one more 5 days.

 With coach Javiel Centeno.

With coach Javiel Centeno.Credit score:Tim Bauer

Who the hell is George Kambosos jnr? I’m glad you requested. He’s the Australian sporting hero you might not know and, in the event you do, you don’t know the half of it. His victory over López was one of many really nice moments in Australia’s storied boxing historical past; a win for the little man, struggling for recognition and sponsorship {dollars} towards the lippy American. Kambosos is the kind of unheralded fighter Sylvester Stallone had in thoughts when he wrote the screenplay for Rocky.

The alphabet soup of world boxing’s numerous sanctioning our bodies is complicated and convoluted however, in primary phrases, Kambosos’s win put in him because the IBF, WBA, WBO and Ring Journal light-weight boxing world champion. It’s an achievement that provides his title to a pantheon of Australian greats together with Jeff Fenech, Kostya Tszyu and Lionel Rose.

One one who has recognized of Kambosos’s potential for a while is Manny Pacquiao, the 12-time world champion, now a Philippines senator. He engaged Kambosos as a sparring companion for 3 of his world-title fights. In a uncommon interview, he tells Good Weekend: “It’s been an extended journey for George and he’s sacrificed loads to get to the highest. I don’t see him letting that go. What number of world titles can he win? He’s solely restricted by his creativeness and his ambition.”


As a substitute of taking the profitable path of simple fights and early knockouts, Kambosos will try to change into the primary undisputed light-weight champion in three many years to win all 4 belts of boxing’s sanctioning our bodies. On Sunday, June 5, he’ll face WBC champion Devin Haney at Marvel Stadium in Melbourne. Solely in boxing can there be dispute about what “undisputed” means, however victory towards the American will settle any argument about his place within the boxing cosmos – though he’s already the outsider with the bookmakers.

“I might’ve fought a no-name,” Kambosos says. “Made $3 million to $4 million. ‘Have a look at me, my first large defence in Australia lasts two rounds. Sorry, followers … ’ I can’t try this. I’m the highest canine within the division however the underdog on this struggle. It’s precisely the place I need to be.”

On the time of writing, the bout was near offered out at Marvel Stadium, with a crowd of greater than 50,000 anticipated. Ringside seats had been snapped up minutes after they went on sale. Many within the crowd will come from Melbourne’s sprawling Greek neighborhood, one of many greatest on the planet exterior of Greece. Kambosos has proudly wrapped the Greek and Australian flags round his shoulders after every of his 20 skilled victories, and 4 bays of the stadium have been allotted to Greek followers.

After successful the world title, Kambosos has all of the sudden change into “box-office” after struggling for years to realize traction.

The Hellas Fan Membership, which describes itself as an “ultra-fanatical supporters’ group for the Greek nationwide soccer staff and all Hellenic sporting occasions”, will march by way of the streets of Melbourne earlier than descending on the stadium. “His success means loads,” says the membership’s president, shopfitter Nick Zoukis. “Our mother and father left our homeland so way back, forsaking every part to offer second, third and fourth generations a greater life. When youngsters like George are nonetheless honouring that, it’s really big.”

Considerably, the struggle will probably be broadcast on Predominant Occasion, the pay-for-view channel owned by Information Company’s Foxtel, which has ignored all however three of Kambosos’s 20 skilled fights. After successful the world title, Kambosos has all of the sudden change into “box-office” after struggling for years to realize traction. Determined for publicity, he was recognized to textual content boxing reporters asking in the event that they’d write about him.

Why that is the case is determined by whom you speak to. Probably, the choice from Group Kambosos to base themselves within the US in 2017, past the main focus of Australian promoters and broadcasters, was one cause. The absence of a well-known surname additionally hasn’t helped. Whereas Tim Tszyu grumbles about fixed references to his well-known father, there’s little dispute being Kostya’s son has gifted him media protection.

“We’ve accomplished it powerful since day one, with restricted funds, with no well-known surname,” Jim Kambosos says. “Predominant Occasion stated, ‘George Kambosos jnr isn’t a sellable title,’ he’s not somebody they will market on TV like Tim Tszyu, who has the historical past along with his dad.” (A Predominant Occasion government tells Good Weekend the community meant to broadcast Kambosos’s world-title struggle towards López earlier than contractual wrangling within the US meant a unique promoter took cost and awarded the rights to a rival streaming service.)

Kambosos is philosophical about being shunned. It’s perspective that comes with successful a world title, and now defending it in entrance of a house crowd whereas taking a share of the pay-for-view income. “However a whole lot of them stuffed up large time,” he says. “Any person ought to have picked me up right here. We must always have had this world champion combating out of Australia sooner. I’d be a megastar. Sure media guys saved telling us, ‘Nope, George is combating abroad, we don’t have any curiosity, you don’t have a reputation.’ ”

You’ll be able to odor previous boxing gyms earlier than you see them. They reek of sweat and blood and physique odour; the intoxicating scent of onerous work within the pursuit of goals, large and small. George Kambosos jnr’s gymnasium smells like a brand new automotive. It’s one in all 9 slim warehouses in an industrial property in Mortdale in Sydney’s south. They make kitchen cupboards within the warehouse on the left. On the appropriate, safety screens for banks. A cellular espresso van arrives out the entrance, its horn mimicking the theme from The Godfather films.

The Art of War is Kambosos’s bible: “I’ll just get it out and randomly read passages. The passage about deception came in handy for the López fight.”

The Artwork of Warfare is Kambosos’s bible: “I’ll simply get it out and randomly learn passages. The passage about deception got here in useful for the López struggle.”Credit score:Tim Bauer

Kambosos began refurbishing his warehouse right into a boxing gymnasium weeks after successful his world title. The rubber ground, the partitions and the ring itself are jet black. “FEROCIOUS KAMBOSOS” is written in gold on the ground of the ring, alongside a emblem that includes the top of a Spartan warrior.

The brand additionally options on the three heavy luggage hanging from the ceiling. A row of images on one wall showcases Kambosos in motion, largely from his win over a bloodied López. On the opposite wall are previous struggle posters that includes the likes of Roy Jones jnr, Oscar De La Hoya, Mike Tyson and, after all, Pacquiao. A few years in the past, earlier than individuals paid to look at fights of their lounge room, native pubs and golf equipment had been crammed at odd hours with boxing fanatics. Kambosos and his father could be among the many first there to pilfer the struggle posters from the partitions.

Tucked away in a single nook, above a rack of kettle-bells and hand-weights, is a whiteboard with a sentence written in black marker: “The time that results in mastery depends on the integrity of our focus”. June 5 – the date of the Haney struggle – is written in pink marker.

I ask one of many younger boxers within the gymnasium on this Friday afternoon the place the sentence comes from. “George’s loopy thoughts,” he laughs. It’s from American writer Robert Greene’s ebook Mastery, though Kambosos’s most well-liked tome is Chinese language normal Solar Tzu’s The Artwork of Warfare, a replica of which is at all times in his gymnasium bag.

Sporting groups have referenced The Artwork of Warfare for many years. Former Australian cricket coach John Buchanan as soon as handed a replica to Shane Warne, who famously tossed it in a bin as he left the assembly. It’s Kambosos’s bible. “I’ll simply get it out and randomly learn passages,” he says. “The passage about deception got here in useful for the López struggle.”

Kambosos is thought for his consideration to element, his precision. He says he’s not OCD, though he shows traits of it, leaping round, his cellphone, trying into the mirror, then you. Earlier than a current media convention on the gymnasium, he frantically swept the ground earlier than anybody arrived.

He stands 176 centimetres and weighs about 65 kilograms. Whereas some boxers wrestle with weight, he says he has no issues getting right down to the 61.2-kilogram restrict to struggle within the light-weight division. Regardless of spending years within the ring, he doesn’t exhibit the struggle wounds that interrupt the face of most pugilists. He’s by no means misplaced a tooth nor had his nostril damaged. His most distinctive function: sparkly diamond earrings.


When he fronts media conferences, he wears modern, flamboyant fits and opaque designer sun shades, however over the course of a number of interviews with Good Weekend he wears solely gymnasium shorts and T-shirts that cling loosely on a body that wouldn’t look misplaced within the jockeys’ room at Randwick or Flemington.

He removes his shirt to disclose a drum-tight physique lined in detailed tattoos, largely referencing Historic Greece. There are two pictures of King Leonidas, who dominated Sparta, and Achilles, the hero of the Trojan Warfare. Molon labe – the Spartan time period “come and take them”, an expression of defiance to the invading Persians – is writ giant on his proper forearm, whereas “ambition” and “blessed” are in smaller sort on his left hand. “Dream with out concern” is daubed throughout the collar and he carries the title of his mom, Adriana, on his coronary heart.

Now for the legs. On the left: FREEDOM. On the appropriate: DEATH. “Within the revolution of 1821, the Greeks had been ready to die for our freedom,” Kambosos explains. “In my profession, I’ve at all times been chasing my freedom. Within the ring and in life.”

“Within the revolution of 1821, the Greeks had been ready to die for our freedom. In my profession, I’ve at all times been chasing my freedom. Within the ring and in life.”

Kambosos’s attachment to the creed of the Spartan warrior might sound trite, however he has the bloodlines to again it up; his paternal grandmother has Spartan ancestry. Spartan blood or not, you possibly can’t blame a man for latching onto something when your opponent has the categorical intention – as they are saying in boxing-speak – to “f… you up”.

He picks up a neon-green skipping rope, stands in entrance of the mirror and stares into his personal eyes as he begins to effortlessly skip.

Kambosos jnr as a kid, with father Jim.

Kambosos jnr as a child, with father Jim.Credit score:Courtesy of George Kambosos jnr

Jim Kambosos stands close by, trying on. The 53-year-old is taller and heavier than his son. A pair of black Tom Ford sun shades sits on high of his thick mane of greying black hair. Like his son, he loves to speak, the phrases rolling off his tongue in a lyrical, rhythmic method.

Jim ruffles some individuals in boxing. They are saying he’s too onerous to work with. I’m not so certain. Most sons might solely want to have a father who cared for them as a lot as Jim Kambosos cares for his. Then once more, I’m not doing enterprise with him.

“George Kambosos jnr will at all times have a chip on his shoulder, regardless that he’s world champion,” Jim says. It doesn’t take lengthy to select up on his behavior of claiming his son’s full title virtually each time he refers to him. “I simply do it as a result of I’m proud to say George Kambosos jnr,” he continues. “I do know the wrestle, the journey. I put it in each e-mail. I simply really feel nice saying his title.”

George Kambosos does have a reputation and it belongs to his grandfather. George Kambosos snr immigrated to Australia in 1965, spending time within the Bonegilla refugee camp close to Wodonga on the NSW-Victoria border earlier than shifting to Sydney. Jim by no means noticed a lot of his father rising up as he labored three, generally 4 jobs to look after his household. He vowed to by no means be the identical absent father to George jnr and his youthful sister, Joanna. He labored onerous through the day as an electrician however knocked again Saturday work to ensure he was at all times current in his kids’s lives, particularly when it got here to sport.

Like many younger youngsters who take up boxing, Kambosos was an obese little one who was bullied at his faculty, Bexley Public. Jim took him to Rockdale Police Residents Youth Membership merely to lose some weight. Quickly sufficient, 12-year-old Kambosos had shred so many kilograms he was unrecognisable at coaching for his rugby league staff, the Gymea Gorillas. He went from ending final when working laps across the oval to coming in first.

As a child, Kambosos took up boxing to lose weight.

As a toddler, Kambosos took up boxing to drop some weight.Credit score:Courtesy of George Kambosos jnr

Boxing for health grew to become boxing for competitors. “He gained his first Golden Gloves event and didn’t take his gloves off for every week,” Jim recollects. Kambosos’s soccer improved, too, and he was picked in a growth squad for the Cronulla Sharks. Head coach Ricky Stuart handed him his new coaching gear and instructed him to entrance coaching on Monday. It was a defining second: soccer was going to conflict with boxing. Kambosos returned the coaching gear the next day and by no means performed rugby league once more.

He was pupil however, in his remaining years at Endeavour Sports activities Excessive, Kambosos’s thoughts was caught within the struggle recreation. He was commonly busted at school boxing movies on his cell phone. “Boxing will take you nowhere in life, George,” one instructor suggested.

“Ferocious” Kambosos shortly rose by way of the beginner ranks however, after narrowly lacking out on Australian staff choice for the 2012 Olympic Video games in London, he determined to show skilled on the age of 18. He gained the NSW state title in his third struggle and the Australian title in his sixth.

After 10 professional fights, Kambosos and his father made the choice that modified all their lives. Transferring to Los Angeles in 2017 would permit him to spar towards high quality opponents and get in entrance of promoters and coaches who might put him on the trail to a world title. He was receiving some monetary assist from Sydney businessman Nick Politis, the billionaire chairman of the Sydney Roosters, and entrepreneur Mark Bouris, however they had been powerful days. A look on the financial institution stability gave Kambosos a chilly sweat.

Rebecca had simply had their first little one, daughter Evaliah, and so they lived in a tiny shack in Hollywood that wasn’t so Hollywood in any respect. Jim, who had stop his job as an electrician to change into his son’s full-time supervisor, slept on the sofa.

“It was so onerous,” Rebecca recollects. “It obtained to a degree the place we might solely purchase day-to-day. If George obtained paid from sparring somebody, we might buy one thing. We had been staying on this little room which principally had a rest room and a lightweight bulb. It was like residing in a jail cell. We couldn’t cook dinner, so we ate out, searching for the most cost effective place to eat out. We didn’t have a automotive so we had to make use of Uber, which was costly.”

A 25-year-old with a Portuguese background, Rebecca talks as shortly as her husband throws a six-punch mixture. She met Kambosos earlier than he fought for his Australian title at Membership Punchbowl in 2014. Her future husband was so broke on their first date he needed to promote three tickets to an upcoming struggle and accumulate the money earlier than taking her to a sushi restaurant. She was learning to change into a main faculty instructor however stop college to assist her husband comply with his boxing goals. Life was powerful, however giving up wasn’t an choice. “It was very irritating however there needed to be a greater day,” she says. “His dad was at all times telling him, ‘There’s no plan B, George.’ That was at all times in everybody’s thoughts: no plan B.”

Kambosos with wife Rebecca 
and their three children. She quit university to help him follow his boxing dreams.

Kambosos with spouse Rebecca
and their three kids. She stop college to assist him comply with his boxing goals. Credit score:Getty Photos

One morning, Kambosos was sparring on the well-known Wild Card Boxing Membership in Los Angeles when Manny Pacquiao’s equally well-known coach, Freddie Roach, noticed him. He threw him into the ring towards Pacquiao and Kambosos not often left his facet for the remainder of the Filipino legend’s profession. “He needed to be the most effective and he handled his sparring periods with me as a part of his schooling,” says Pacquiao, who sparred greater than 250 rounds with Kambosos. “I by no means noticed the identical fighter twice.”

They’d run the streets of LA along with hordes of individuals working alongside them till Pacquiao nodded to Kambosos and so they sprinted away. If not LA, they’d be pounding the streets of Manila, or the mountains of Common Santos on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, getting dropped off at 5.30am and working for hours earlier than arriving at Pacquiao’s beachside resort for a thousand or so crunches earlier than breakfast, then extra coaching within the afternoon.

In 2017, Pacquiao was getting ready for his struggle in Brisbane towards Australian Jeff Horn when he began receiving dying threats from Islamic State, the phobia group that had claimed greater than 1000 lives throughout battle in close by Marawi. “We simply ran quicker,” Kambosos says.

Not quick sufficient to disregard the scene on the facet of the highway. “Individuals would come exterior of their huts that don’t have working water or electrical energy, cheering each morning. “Manny! Manny! Manny!” To see the world like that confirmed me that if I do the appropriate issues, I’ll get respect from individuals out and in of the ring.”

Pacquiao noticed a future world champion working alongside him. “George labored more durable than anybody within the camp,” he says. “That’s why we obtained alongside so properly. He could be proper there with me working the hills each morning, doing sit-ups subsequent to me after the run, full exercises within the gymnasium each afternoon. He was at all times doing the additional work. He by no means lower corners on himself, and it was that work ethic that confirmed me he had the drive to do what so few in boxing can – change into a world champion. He took the struggle to Teófimo López. I don’t assume anybody else might have accomplished what George did that night time. He confirmed that not solely can he give out punishment, however he may also take it, and that comes from working onerous daily in coaching and staying match between fights.”

Kambosos doesn’t know how you can lower corners. He admits to feeling responsible if he thinks about lacking a session, even on the weirdest day of his life.

George Kambosos snr was recognized in August final 12 months with stage-four abdomen most cancers. The 83-year-old was determined to journey to New York for the López struggle however, after contracting COVID-19, his situation shortly deteriorated. On September 24, at about 11.30am at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney’s Camperdown, he took his final breath. As he did so, Kambosos jnr’s third little one, Santiago, was taking his first as Rebecca gave beginning. “They swapped sides,” Kambosos smiles as he tells the story.

What would you do on a day of such feelings? George Kambosos jnr went for a 10-kilometre run. The subsequent day, he was again within the gymnasium. “If I didn’t put within the work that day, or the subsequent, if I didn’t prepare, then perhaps I wouldn’t have gotten up within the tenth spherical,” he says. “As a result of I wasn’t damaged on that day, López wasn’t going to interrupt me. Devin Haney’s not going to interrupt me. They should kill me.”

It’s a brisk Saturday morning in early Could and Kambosos’s gymnasium is filling up with younger fighters and onlookers. For somebody who has fought for many of his profession in relative obscurity, Kambosos is now mobbed by followers wherever he goes.

“No cameras!” Jim Kambosos bellows, fearing somebody will publish one thing on social media they don’t need the Haney camp to see. “We’ll be shutting it [the gym] down from subsequent week,” Kambosos guarantees as his coach, Javier Centeno, rubs Vaseline into his eyebrows earlier than slipping on black headgear that does, certainly, make him seem like an additional from the film 300.

Kambosos will get to work. He does eight three-minute rounds of sparring towards two boxers, adopted by eight rounds of pad work with Centeno, then an additional six rounds on the heavy bag, then 10 minutes with out stopping, bombing the bag with left and proper punches, screeching “Rrrrraaaark!”, like an offended seagull. Sweat drips off his nostril and steam rises from his shoulders.

“I don’t think it’s selfish,” Kambosos’s wife Rebecca says of his comment about being prepared to die. “He’s thinking about his legacy, what he’s done, what he’s sacrificed.”

“I don’t assume it’s egocentric,” Kambosos’s spouse Rebecca says of his remark about being ready to die. “He’s fascinated by his legacy, what he’s accomplished, what he’s sacrificed.” Credit score:Tim Bauer

The workplace above supplies a sanctuary from the torture and testosterone on the bottom ground and it’s right here that Rebecca reveals Kambosos desires his kids – Evaliah, 4, Leonidas, 2, and Santiago, 10 months – ringside for the Haney struggle. “I’m unsure about it,” she says, “however George desires them there.“
The dialog finally drifts in the direction of the López struggle at Madison Sq. Backyard and that dialog hours beforehand, when Kambosos instructed her he was ready to die. I ask her if such a transfer is egocentric. What use is a world championship if it prices the world champion his life?

“I don’t assume it’s egocentric,” she says firmly. “No method it’s. He’s fascinated by his legacy, what he’s accomplished, what he’s sacrificed. He’s not saying it for consideration, as a result of it’s the reality. It occurs. The chances towards him had been so large. No person thought George could be what he’s. If something, it’s extra selfless.”


The sparring session ends and lengthy after the opposite fighters and onlookers have moved on, Kambosos places on his sneakers and goes for one more 10-kilometre run. He pulls down his hoodie so he isn’t recognised by passing site visitors however at one level, glances up. A picture of himself on a large billboard punches him within the face.

“It was just like the billboard of López at Madison Sq. Backyard,” he says. “López confirmed me how shortly it might probably change in the event you don’t hold working. Figuring out how onerous this highway has been, realizing how a lot we had been denied from each angle, from each journo, each promoter, we saved knocking on the door, saved doing it our method, being of their face till they couldn’t deny us any extra. Now I’m right here, I’m not giving them a cause to disclaim me once more.”

To learn extra from Good Weekend journal, go to our web page at The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and Brisbane Instances.

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