George Kambosos vs Devin Haney: Australian boxing’s huge transformation

If you don’t know who George Kambosos is by now, you should. The Aussie boxer is on the verge of adding another chapter to his incredible story.

If you could say one thing about George Kambosos Jr. it’s that his path to the top hasn’t been easy.

The 28-year-old Aussie’s rise through the professional ranks has been all about the grind, toiling away in relative anonymity for nearly 10 years before achieving his destiny and transforming into a world champion.

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The world was shocked when Kambosos pulled off a split decision victory over Teofimo Lopez to claim the highly-touted American’s WBA (Super), IBF and WBO titles.

It was a result that was never meant to happen but, like many things around Kambosos, he willed it into existence.

In the fight game, most people understand KOs and Kambosos is not necessarily a knockout artist, having claimed 10 KOs in his 20-0 record.

He’s a fighter who earns every win on his record through blood and sweat and taking on the next big bout to test himself against the best.

It’s why Devin Haney is on our shores.

While Kambosos has earned the right to bring the fight to Australia, the 23-year-old American has also earned his shot at the title.

Kambosos’ international promoter Lou DiBella said at a press conference on Friday the Aussie deserves everything he’s achieved.

“He’s taken every challenge put in front of him. He’s fought, at times, in front of nobody,” DiBella said. “He’s travelled the world and fought in other people’s territory time after time to get the opportunity to be the undisputed champion.

“George fought Teofimo Lopez, there were a lot of people including myself who gave him the option, ‘Come back, take a victory lap, take it easy’. He said, ‘No, you have to listen to me, I only want to fight the big fights’.”

It led to a deal with former two-belt champion Vasyl Lomachenko, who ended up in a fight of a different kind, suiting up for Ukraine in the war against Russia and pulling out of the clash with Kambosos.

Next cab off the rank was Haney.

Kambosos’ decade-long road to ‘overnight’ success

In a sit-down interview with Fox Sports’ Jessica Yates earlier this week, Kambosos spoke about when he was 11 and overweight, getting bullied and overlooked for sports teams.

That was until his dad Jim gave him the idea to try boxing. The rest is history, and now Kambosos is set to be the main event in the biggest fight in Australian history.

It’s a heck of a story.

“Those character building moments have built me so strong to where I am now and throughout my career,” Kambosos said.

“Whatever adversity I’ve had to go through, I think about those moments as a young kid where I got through it. I feel that when I fell into boxing by fluke to help with the weight and the bullies, that was my calling.”

His love for the sport grew right through his amateur career and after he turned professional in 2013.

Some casual observers may only be starting to notice Kambosos’ profile growing now, but it took nearly a decade of grinding away in relative anonymity as he fought all comers in their own backyards to reach the heights he sits at today.

After turning pro, Kambosos racked up the wins, even claiming the Australian lightweight title in just his sixth fight when he defeated Robert Toomey, who is 11 years his senior.

Speaking to Fox Sports, Toomey, who won Australian titles at lightweight, middleweight and super middleweight, admitted he thought he would take care of Kambosos, believing the then 21-year-old was too cocky.

“I think he was a bit more developed than I thought,” Toomey told Fox Sports of the young Kambosos, who won via a unanimous decision.

“His boxing IQ I thought was on. He was fast, I didn’t feel he was really heavy hitting, but very fast and accurate.

“I’ve fought heaps of different boys, but it comes to you a bit different when they’re a bit sharper.”

Becoming the champ

But Kambosos wasn’t done there, racing to 11-0 over the next two years and then turning his focus overseas.

Kambosos never got ahead of himself and proved he was ready for every step he made.

The Aussie has raised his level each time he’s fought. In his last three fights against Mickey Bey, Lee Selby and Lopez, he has defeated three world champions, albeit by split decisions.

But from relative obscurity to the top of a lightweight division brimming with stars including Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, Lomachenko and Haney, Kambosos has never hidden from a fight.

Speaking to ESPN last week, Kambosos said taking the hard — and less glamorous — road had shaped him into the man he is today.

“No one ever gave me nothing, I was never silver-spoon fed like these other guys,” Kambosos said. “I wasn’t given a platform straight away, I didn’t come out of the amateurs or an Olympian as someone famous, I had to do it the hard way.

“But I wouldn’t want it any other way, because I look at myself in the mirror, I look at myself in this gym and I think, ‘You know what, you got here the hard way’. If I didn’t get through the (Teofimo) Lopez fight and he had beat me, then I still would have said, ‘You did it the hard way. I never cheated myself’.

“And that’s what so important, going through the grassroots, going through the way we did it, selling the tickets, hustling every bit that I could, building my fan base. A lot of people were turned off me at the start but I got their attention and I made them watch.

“Now a lot of them are supporting me, and if they’re still not supporting me they’re watching me. So every bit of my career has been the way it’s meant to me and I love it, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Why Australia should care about Kambosos

Kambosos has been outspoken, taking shots at Haney, including calling the 23-year-old “a rat” and “a snitch” for passing information to the Aussie before the Lopez fight.

For all the strong words, Kambosos has proved he can walk the walk, backing up boxing’s customary pre-fight trash talk with actions throughout his entire career.

Australia also loves an underdog and Kambosos is the ultimate underdog.

Having been underestimated his entire career, Kambosos holds three world championship belts.

But despite bringing a majority of the belts to this grudge match at a stadium which will be packed with vocal Australians, Haney is the betting favourite.

After all he’s been through in his career, Kambosos deserves Australia’s respect and support as he chases history on Sunday afternoon.

The winner will become just the first undisputed lightweight champion and eighth undisputed champion of any weight division in the four-belt era.

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