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George Kambosos Jnr was sat with shades on covering the scars of battle and the spoils of his war with Teofimo Lopez were lined up beside him as he declared himself ‘The Emperor’ on a Zoom call.
It was the day after the Australian had brilliantly outfought Lopez in a classic clash for lightweight supremacy.
And he did it on the pre-fight favourite’s home turf, or Madison Square Garden to be precise.
“I’ve been going into the backyards of these champions," said Kambosos as he sat alongside the WBO, IBF and WBA belts he had won less than 24 hours earlier.
“A king would sit in his own country and rule but an emperor takes over bit by bit, that’s what I’ve been doing.
“They can have their four kings, three kings, whatever is left over now – I’ll be the emperor. I’ve got all the jewels now.”
Kambosos, the 28-year-old Sydney native with a 20-0 record, was talking about taking down the leader of the prematurely anointed ‘four kings’ at lightweight.
He had taken the WBA, IBF and WBO titles from the previously unbeaten Lopez, who himself had turned the division on its head last year with a surprise win over Vasiliy Lomachenko.
Nobody expected this, Kambosos was supposed to be a routine defence before Lopez pressed for fights with the other so-called kings in Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia.
But there is only one ruler now in the division. He is a promotional and broadcaster free agent which means he can name his price for anyone to put his belts on the line against.
“I was labelled the dark horse in early 2020,” said Kambosos, who is trained by his father.
“That’s how I took it. I’m the dark horse, I don’t need the bright lights.
“I’ll do my job bit by bit, take these guys out and the bright lights will come. Now I’ll be back in the trenches working harder than ever.
“On my shorts it said ‘molon labe’, which means if you want it, come and get it.
“I know they’re going to come, I’m now the one that is being hunted. But they will have to come and get it, and they should prepare for the same fate as Lopez got.”
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Kambosos was a relative unknown until he beat Mickey Bey at the end of 2019. He was still on the fringes of the lightweight elite, though.
That was until a points victory over Welshman Lee Selby in a behind-closed-doors show in 2020 shunted him into position for a mandatory shot at Lopez’s IBF title.
The Brooklynite gave him no respect. The first round showed his hand as he raced forward looking to land a big right hand to end it early.
But it was a right hand from Kambosos which set the tone for the rest of the bout in the Hulu Theatre at the famous fight venue.
Lopez hit the deck, the packed venue gasped. They were then witness to the Australian visitor controlling the bout through the middle rounds.
But there was some adversity to overcome. Lopez found something in the 10th that almost got him out of jail. Kambosos touched the canvas but he didn’t stay there.
This was his big night and the man whose family ties go back to the area in Greece where the Spartan warriors emerged from wasn’t going to let it be taken away from him.
“We have strong ties in the Mani Peninsula in Sparta and that lineage is there and that’s why I fight like a warrior, I’m prepared to die in battle,” he said.
“To get my glory.
“We were prepared, we put in so much work.
“A Spartan warrior prepares day in, day out. They put everything on the line to defend their land. That’s what I’m doing here, I was defending my land.
“I was doing it for Australian and Greek boxing.”
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Kambosos’ relationship with Australian boxing fans was lukewarm before this. Now he’s red hot back home.
Some had been irked by the fact he chose to ply his trade mainly in America from 2018.
But it was part of the plan, a journey which started out when he quit rugby to focus on boxing.
Those early days of his pro career saw him boxing in tiny venues where nights like Saturday must have seemed a world away.
“This is the biggest thing in Australian boxing history – nobody has ever done this,” he said. “I’ve come up from the amateurs, fought on local club shows as a pro, sold the tickets, sold the tables, taken the hard road and the fans see that.
“They really back me and support me and that’s a good feeling because for a long time I was shunned.
“They didn’t want to talk about Kambosos, especially the media, because I went to the US, they thought I’d turned my back on Australia but I knew what I was doing.
“I knew that coming over the US, getting the best sparring and fighting over here would lead to moments like this.
“I knew I’d clean up everything. It’s great now, I have the whole country behind me.
“Now the big money is here but I don’t forget that hard road.
“If you don’t go through that, you can’t expect to get to the top and really be satisfied with what you’ve got now.
“I’ve had to go through the hard times, ringing as many friends as you can and telling them to tell their friends to buy a ticket so I can get a few bucks off the ticket.
“I’d go to the local business sponsors, sometimes see 10 in a day and give them some signed stuff to get their $250 or $500.
“That there is the hustle and that’s the sort of thing people don’t see.
“People say ‘he’s an overnight success’ but you’ve got to go down deep, you’ve got to see the road that I’ve gone through, the hard road to get to here.
“Remember I don’t have a famous name, it’s famous now but it wasn’t before.
“I wasn’t coming out of the Olympics, I wasn’t an amateur superstar. I had to do it the hard way by myself but we’re here now.”
Kambosos has eyes for a huge homecoming next year. He will be in Vegas this week to witness Haney defence his WBC title against Jo Jo Diaz and he fancies a fight with the American next.
But while he now has the world at his feet and is eyeing a night in front of 80,000 fans next year back in his homeland, he was brought back down to earth when he went to a local hospital in New York after the fight to get some stitches on a cut over his eye.
“We waited for hours,” he said.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re undisputed champion or not, you’ve got to wait your turn.
“I really didn’t want to go, I was fine and there were no problems but it was precautionary and I needed four stitches.
“It’s part of the game, we put our lives on the line and we take shots.
“But there was no VIP line, we didn’t go straight in.
“‘Sorry sir, you’ve got to wait, there are people in front of you with more severe injuries, we don’t care about your belts or what you’ve just done, just wait’.
Yet it gave him another moment to saviour when he found out his rival was also in the same hospital.
“Lopez was there as well, I didn’t see him but my wife did and spoke to him,” he added.
“I was hoping we’d bump into each other for that little Rocky moment, that Mickey Ward-Arturo Gatti moment.
“It’s all part of the game, they said that they’d put me in hospital – they just didn’t think they would go too.
“I went for some stitches, he got stuck in there. This is the fight game, this is no joke and we put it all on the line.”
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