Mandatory title defenses in boxing are usually forgettable events, with the sport's biggest stars faced to step back from fights fans want to see to face a challenger who is only the No. 1 contender in the eyes of a sanctioning body. Instead of coming and going without much fanfare, unified lightweight champion Teofimo Lopez's mandatory title defense against George Kambosos Jr. has become one of boxing's most bizarre stories of 2021. Lopez and Kambosos are finally set to face off on Saturday from Hulu Theater in New York City (8 p.m. ET, DAZN -- subscribe now).
After scoring arguably boxing's biggest win of 2020 when he upset Vasiliy Lomachenko to add the WBA and WBO lightweight titles to his collection, Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) was ordered to defend against IBF mandatory contender Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs). After Lopez's camp and promoter Top Rank couldn't agree on a purse for the title defense, the fight went to purse bid in February with Triller shocking the sport when they won the right to promote the fight with a big of more than $6 million, far outpacing the $3.5 million second-place bid by Matchroom Boxing.
This kicked off a journey that saw the fight scheduled or rumored for (in order of announcement or rumor) June 5, June 19, Aug. 14, Sept. 11, Oct. 5, Oct. 4 and Oct. 16. After Triller pushed the event from Oct. 4 as a result of CEO Ryan Kavanaugh realizing a Monday date during football season meant going head-to-head with Monday Night Football, Kambosos refused to accept the Oct. 16 date change and Triller was found in default of their purse bid. As second-highest bidder, Matchroom was awarded the fight and the Nov. 27 date was set with little drama.
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Triller's reputation was left in shambles after taking multiple financial hits without the payoff of the fight and Kambosos and Lopez were left sitting on the sidelines for more than a year, an especially large issue for Lopez at a time the 24-year-old should be making a push as one of boxing's biggest young star.
Lopez will enter the fight as a clear, heavy favorite to take care of business. He's an explosive finisher with legitimate skills. Over the journey to Saturday night, things have gotten increasingly personal between the two sides and Lopez has now announced he will appear at the fight as "ITL" or "Insane Teofimo Lopez."
Getting Lopez flustered before the bell even rings may have been Kambosos' line of thinking the whole way. Lopez is an emotional being, someone who can be baited into furious verbal exchanges. Both Lopez and his father, Teofimo Lopez Sr., are now guaranteeing a first-round knockout.
"No one believed me when I said we'd beat Lomachenko, and I guess nobody wants to believe me now," Lopez said of the prediction at the pre-fight press conference. "He's a businessman? It's cool with me. Mike Tyson once said, 'I'm a killer, these guys are businessmen.' There's a difference. You gotta have that mentality. We out here to kill, we ain't here to be businessmen."
Kambosos fired back with his own verbal shots at the press conference, suggesting fame had gone to Lopez's head and would ultimately be the young champion's undoing.
"These belts are your curse," Kambosos said. "Victory by any means. I'm talking all them belts home to Australia. While he's been in the bright lights enjoying himself, smoking his little hookah, enjoying it with the drinks and partying, going to every fight event like a groupie, I've been in the trenches."
The undercard features some rising prospects and titleholders looking to get some shine in a spotlight opportunity. A pair of super featherweight contenders meet in the co-main event for the vacant IBF strap when Azinga Fuzile takes on Kenichi Ogawa. Both enter on five-fight win streaks and hope to add gold to their collection. Plus, rising featherweight prospect Raymond Ford is back when he takes on Felix Caraballo. Ford is undefeated at 9-0-1 with five knockouts on his resume. Caraballo has lost two straight to Robeisy Ramirez and Shakur Stevenson.
Here's how you can watch the fight on Saturday night.
Lopez vs. Kambosos viewing info
- Date: Nov. 27
- Location: Hulu Theater -- New York City, New York
- Start time: 8 p.m. ET (main card)
- How to watch: DAZN (subscribe now)
Lopez vs. Kambosos fight card, odds
- Teofimo Lopez (c) -1000 vs. George Kambosos Jr. +650, IBF, WBA, WBO lightweight championship
- Azinga Fuzile -220 vs. Kenichi Ogawa +180, vacant IBF super featherweight championship
- Raymond Ford -1500 vs. Felix Caraballo +850, featherweight
- Reshat Mati -2200 vs. Nicolas Pablo Demario +1100, super lightweight