An expectedly parochial crowd was on hand to welcome George Kambosos (20-0) to his open workout in Melbourne’s Federation Square ahead of his undisputed lightweight world title bout with Devin Haney (27-0) on Sunday.
Despite coming into the fight as a slight underdog, the Aussie will have virtually all the 40,000 plus fans in attendance at Marvel Stadium on his side.
Undefeated American Haney received a significantly less warm reception on Thursday, although he had no shortage of support in the form of his typically substantial entourage.
Kambosos, who became champion when he defeated local boy Teofimo Lopez in New York in November, is no stranger to going into his opponents’ backyards but Sunday will be a welcome change.
“It’s beautiful, it’s amazing, I’ve been very embraced by all of it,” Kambosos told a packed media throng.
“There’s already nearly 45,000, if not more, tickets already gone.
“We’ve still got a few more days, so this thing’s going to ramp right up.
“All in my corner. Every bit of it I will feel on Sunday and Devin Haney will feel it as well.”
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Kambosos finished his open workout by holding up both the Australian and Greek flags to his fans.
Melbourne’s large Greek community was a key factor in Kambosos bringing his first title defence south of the Murray.
The unbeaten 28-year-old Sydneysider has no doubt this is the biggest fight in Australian boxing history and he’s got a strong case – two fighters, in their prime, in the sport’s hottest division, in a blockbuster stadium bout.
“This is huge, this is the biggest in Australian boxing,” Kambosos said.
“To be able to give the blueprint for a young amateur or aspiring professional.
“Let’s be frank, I was never backed, never supported, didn’t have many behind me.
“It’s motivating and it’s inspiring. I’m humbled by it. This is just a small bit of what’s to come on Sunday.”
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Kambosos’ promoter, global boxing powerhouse Lou DiBella, said it was an “honour” to put on an event of his magnitude and calibre.
“I think this is going to be a great event – George at home, George in front of the Greek community in Melbourne,” DiBella told Sporting News.
“The best fighting the best. Forget about lightweights and the unification, this is two of the best young fighters in the world and the outcome of this fight is seriously in doubt.
“[Kambosos is] the most confident kid I’ve ever worked with.
“He’s completely comfortable that he’s winning this fight, but Devin Haney’s a great young fighter and this is a terrific matchup.
“We’re going to have over 40,000 people at Marvel Stadium. One of the biggest fights in Australian history.
“To be able to promote an event like this at this stage of my career is a tremendous joy and an honour.”
Despite the hype and attention, Kambosos believes his road to the title has him prepared for the situation.
“No pressure. I’m blessed to be here,” he said.
“Let’s be serious, I was never meant to get here.
“I was a 13-1 underdog in the Lopez fight, I was an underdog in the [Lee] Selby fight, I was an underdog in every fight that I’ve gone into and again I’m the underdog but this top dog will stay at the top after this fight.”
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For his part, Haney said he hasn’t been bothered by the reception he’s received from the Aussie fans so far.
“The way that they embraced me was actually quite surprising, I’m happy with the way that it turned out,” Haney said.
“The main thing is just going in there and fighting and remaining focused.”