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Nick Peet: Lopez vs Kambosos - The underdog has been barking all year, but does he have the bite?

Nick Peet: Lopez vs Kambosos - The underdog has been barking all year, but does he have the bite?

Boxing is about levels; expect a masterclass from The Takeover

THE youngest member of boxing’s elite pound-for-pound top 10 club finally returns to the ring inside Madison Square Garden this weekend and he’s got cruel intentions.

Teofimo Lopez became undisputed champion of the lightweight division after outboxing Vasyl Lomachenko for all the belts at 135lb thirteen months ago. But a string of political, personal and pandemic problems has kept him out of the ring since.

The 24-year-old was elevated to the sport’s ruling cross-weight top 10 following his breakout performance against record-breaking Loma, but all momentum has since been lost leaving Lopez, who is tempestuous at the best of times, incensed.

Challenger George Kambosos Jr is the ill-fated man in the firing line in the early hours of Sunday morning (GMT) and the IBF number one contender is destined to pay the price once the ring clears.

Lopez has got hasty hands, predatory power and legacy in mind at the best of times. But throw in a year of turmoil in his personal and professional life and you’re left with a young, motivated champion believing the world has turned against him.

A fractured relationship with promoter Top Rank led to this mandatory title defence going to purse bids. Shambolic outfit Triller won with an overpriced $6million dollar offer, but they reneged on a series of dates that forced delays.

Eventually, Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom – the second highest bidder – picked up the pieces and promote this weekend on DAZN. But Lopez has suffered from more than just boxing politics.

He also spent time in hospital following a career-threatening case of Covid-19 in the summer, another reason why this fight was bumped. Plus, he’s uprooted his family and team to Las Vegas too, just to throw fuel on the fire of a tumultuous 12 months.

“It’s been a year I’m happy to close the chapter on,” Lopez told the Fight Disciples podcast. “This business threw everything at me, but look I’m still here, still undisputed and still one of the very best fighters on the planet. The Takeover continues.”

Kambosos, 28, has also had to deal with the reshuffling of dates, of course. Which combined with the gruelling Covid-19 quarantine laws Down Under has meant he’s spent more weeks than he’d like to remember in hotel isolation this year.

He too will have suffered from the inactivity. Two weeks after Lopez defeated Loma, he claimed the biggest win of his 19-0 career decisioning former world featherweight champion Lee Selby at Wembley, a win that secured him this title opportunity.

The Aussie has fought at MSG already, when a 10th and final round knockdown of Mickey Bey scraped him a split decision victory. That was on a Lopez undercard; the night he won his first world title knocking out Richard Commey. 

Unbeaten in 16 with 12 KO’s, Lopez has mixed in far greater company than Kambosos. But after his own odds-defying performance against Lomachenko, he knows never to underestimate the ambition of the underdog.

Kambosos has been barking loudly all year. Now it’s time to fight he just doesn’t have the bite to scare Lopez who is simply too fast, too sharp, too aggressive and too good. Boxing is so often about levels, and this fight isn’t getting past round six.

TIP: Lopez by KO Rounds 4-6 - 13/4




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