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Aussie contender’s rage over ‘savage’ sacrifice

George Kambosos Jr hasn’t seen his family in a month. It will be nearly two months by the time he has fought to earn a world title shot and returned home.

‘Ferocious’ Kambosos (18-0, 10 knockouts) is in Miami training for a lightweight eliminator fight against former featherweight world champion Lee Selby (28-2, 9 knockouts), in a closed UK venue on November 1 (AEDT).

Three sessions a day are fuelled by the rage of sacrifice. He left his fiancee, Bec Pereira, and his children, Evaliah (3) and Leonidas (1), in Australia due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kambosos, 27, had already fled the US with his family in March, back when he started training for the on-again, off-again Selby fight. He didn’t want his kids trapped in a coronavirus hotspot and returning alone felt necessary, however painful.

George Kambosos Jr at his home gym in Sydney. (Sydney Morning Herald)

“It was too risky. Even though I love having them here with me, as a father, the most important thing was making sure that they were safe, keeping them healthy. Leaving them back home in Australia was the best decision,” Kambosos told Wide World of Sports.

“Look, it’s just made me more of a savage. Not having my kids and my fiancee here, it’s really got me in a warrior mentality even more than before.

“I’m a savage and I just can’t wait to get in there with Lee Selby. All that sacrifice and all that hardship away from my family … he’s going to pay.

“Eight weeks away from your two young kids, one’s three and the other is one, they’re changing every day, they’re growing every day. They’re the sacrifices that fighters have to make.

“Some fighters won’t make that big sacrifice. I could have easily stayed in Sydney and done what i had to do but this fight is too important.

“That’s the kind of fighter I am. That’s why I’m a level above any other Australian fighter. I make the sacrifice and I take the big risk to make sure there’s no stone unturned.”

Mainstream Australia is just getting wise to what dedicated boxing fans have long known: they have a world-class contender in Kambosos.

With lightning hands and stinging power, he tore through the ranks in Oz before heading overseas, becoming a sparring partner for Manny Pacquiao then pushing his own career to the brink of a world title shot.

Apparently, that shot won’t happen as Kambosos had foreseen.

The winner of Kambosos-Selby will become the IBF’s mandatory challenger to the victor from Sunday’s unification lightweight world title fight between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Teofimo Lopez – which was young American star Lopez (16-0, 12 knockouts), rather than the legendary ‘Loma’ (14-2, 10 knockouts).

Teofimo Lopez (R) lands a right uppercut on Vasiliy Lomachenko during their world title fight. (Getty)

Teofimo Lopez poses with his world title belts after unifying the lightweight division. (Getty)

Kambosos had predicted a Lomachenko victory, yet the Ukrainian icon delivered a strangely subdued performance against the powerful hands of Lopez. It was a clear victory for the younger man, despite some strange scorecards.

‘Loma’ was the dream fight; a dual Olympic gold medallist with a 396-1 amateur record before becoming a pro world champion, who looked willing to face Kambosos in a stadium fight in Australia. Kambosos claims that such a match-up would have been “the biggest fight in Australian history”.

Lopez, 23, may still be a chance to come Down Under; like Lomachenko, he’s promoted by Bob Arum, who delivered the Jeff Horn vs Manny Pacquiao fight in Brisbane.

Or, Lopez may ultimately vacate the IBF belt, having indicated that he wants to chase bigger names; Devin Haney and Ryan Garcia have been mentioned. Perhaps he’ll move up a weight division, seeking out the likes of Josh Taylor and Jose Ramirez. There could be a second Lomachenko fight, despite the first bout not carrying a rematch clause.

There are many moving parts. Such is boxing.

George Kambosos Jr trains at his home gym in Sydney. (Sydney Morning Herald)

At any rate, Welsh veteran Selby, 33, still stands between the Aussie and a presumed world title shot. His camp, under head coach Javiel Centeno, is going as smoothly as possible given the state of the world.

“I’m pretty sure it’s going to be behind closed doors, the way the UK is at the moment, but that doesn’t affect me,” Kambosos said.

“I’m fighting the home-town guy without a crowd; it’s more an advantage on my side, to be honest.

“We flew out from Australia to Miami, we had all the documentation and within two hours, we had the exemption ready to go. I have a P1 visa (for athletes), so that helped as well.

“Then we were on a plane, I think there was maybe 30 people on a massive international flight. It was crazy.

“To leave no stone unturned, I had to come out here and train with my team in Miami. We’re going to fly out eight-to-nine days out to the UK and from there, we’ll go straight into the bubble, where you can’t get out. Everything will be delivered, we’ll be doing interviews, tests, everything wherever they place us.

“It’s a different experience but I’ve been in some crazy experiences before throughout my career and I’m the kind of fighter that adapts, whatever happens.

“October 31st, it’s me an Lee Selby. That’s all I’m focused on, the rest … I’ve got a great team and they’ll make sure things are done right outside of that.”

Lee Selby (R) tags Omar Douglas last year. (Getty)

Kambosos and Selby actually have some history, having sparred previously. The Aussie’s recollections of his opponent aren’t flattering.

“We sparred at the famous Wildcard Gym, the home of Manny Pacquiao and Freddie Roach,” Kambosos recalled.

“We sparred four rounds and to be honest, back then I had him running for his life. Every time I touched him, it felt like he didn’t want to be there.

“And that was three years ago. Now, I’m a totally different beast. Since then, I’ve gone and sparred Manny Pacquiao, been part of his camps. I’ve gone and sparred so many other world champions and former world champions.

“I’ve come into my prime. I’m 27 years of age now, hitting harder than ever and I’m faster than ever. I’ve had some big fights and big wins since we sparred and everything’s on my side.

George Kambosos Jr during a fight at the MGM Grand against Ray Perez. (Getty)

“I’m feeling great. I’m very, very confident, my team’s very confident and we can’t wait. We’re excited for a fight, it’s a huge fight.

“There’s so much more to my game now. The weapons that he would have seen back then are very limited to what I am now. I’m a total beast, total savage, there is so much more to my game.

“He’ll find out real fast, if he hasn’t already in his head. This is a big test, you’ve got the young, hungry fighter coming up who’s making a lot of noise, who’s an absolute savage, who has gone away to Miami from his family to continue preparation.

“He’s going to find out real early in that fight and he’s got two options. Either he’s going to run and I’m going to cut him down, break him down and make him quit. Or, I’ll catch him real early and put him away.

“Either way, I know that I’m taking him out. I’m here to make a massive statement.”

It is Kambosos’ second straight crack at a former world champion, having beaten American Mickey Bey by split decision at Madison Square Garden last December.

“With the Mickey Bey fight, I was very smart, calculated, then made a good statement right at the end and put him down,” Kambosos said.

“This is a 12-round fight. If the Mickey Bey fight was a 12-round fight, he was not lasting 12 rounds, he was done.

“I’m putting the pace on this guy (Selby), I really don’t like this guy and I’m just so hungry, so focused on this victory. I know this win changes my life, changes my family’s life.

“He’s already been a world champion, he’s already defended the belt four, five times and now it’s my time. It’s a new generation. I’m here now and he’s on his way out.

“We’re on track for a massive win, not just for myself but for everyone in Australia. It’s a huge fight and finally we’re here. There’s been a lot of stops and starts but we’re finally here to get the business done.

“A lot of the Australian fighters don’t have the guts to do what I’m doing, to come to the US and test themselves against the best. A lot of these Australian fighters, they sit in Australia thinking they’re making a difference, that they’re making a dent in the world of boxing but there really isn’t a dent at all, until you come overseas and come into the American fight game and on to the world scene and start making some noise.

“We’re there. We’re right there now.”

Kambosos, who rates himself undoubtedly Australia’s best athlete, is unashamedly brash – something that hasn’t been lost on Selby.

“He’s very confident in himself,” Selby told Sky Sports. “If you listened to him talk you’d think he’s the next Muhammad Ali, which he’s not.

“Looking at his record, it’s difficult to gauge how good he really is. His best win came against Mickey Bey when he was past his best at 36 and inactive. The rest of his record is padded.

“This fight has been a long time coming and I’m glad we’re just over a week away now. I’m one step away from a shot at the IBF lightweight world title and my dream of becoming Wales’ first ever two-weight world champion.”

It’s been announced that Kambosos vs Selby, the main support bout to Oleksandr Usyk vs Derek Chisora, will be shown live on Fox Sports 507 on Sunday, November 1 from 6am AEDT.

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