Australian George Kambosos’ bid to become the undisputed lightweight champion of the world turned to ashes when he was defeated comprehensively by American Devin Haney at Marvel Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Las Vegas native Haney – nicknamed The Dream – added Kambosos’ three title belts to the one he held by a unanimous decision as all three judges gave him the verdict in a fight that went the full 12 rounds.
But the Sydneysider will get the chance to win back his belts later this year, with a rematch in the contract – unless Haney, one of the larger lightweights, goes up in weight.
The rematch would likely take place in Melbourne in October or November and public interest would certainly be there: this contest attracted a crowd of 41,129, surpassing Victoria’s biggest previous boxing attendance in 1992 when Jeff Fenech fought Azumah Nelson at Prince’s Park.
Two judges scored this fight 116-112 to the American while a third gave it to Haney 118-110, the former champion having won his previous 20 fights.
Ferocious Kambosos was gracious in defeat, paying tribute to his opponent for sticking to his game plan and producing a smart fight.
He moved, he boxed, he had a smart game plan, Kambosos said.
I will see you again real soon, he told Haney in the post-fight ring interviews.
I will change a few things, get him back at the end of this year. I gave him a [title] shot straight away, he told his supporters – reminding everyone in the boxing world that he opted to take on what was always going to be a formidable challenge in his first defence rather than easing in as champion with less dangerous defences.
True champions bounce back, that’s what makes their legacy. I will bounce back. It’s about the best fighting the best.
Promotors Lou Di Bella and the legendary Bob Arum in the post-fight press conference also canvassed the prospect of the division’s biggest name and former titleholder, Ukrainian Vasily Lomachenko, fighting Kambosos if the Haney rematch is not made.
Lomachenko was originally slated to be Kambosos’ opponent in this fight but withdrew to return to his home country to join the military to fight against the Russian invaders earlier this year.
Haney’s father Bill was finally granted permission to enter Australia and he arrived late, but in time to watch his son become the eighth fighter in the four-belt era to win the quadruple.
This is a dream come true, Haney jnr said.
This was a big aim for both of us since we started out. It would have hurt me to accomplish this without him. I am happy that me and him accomplished it together. We have talked about this since I was eight or nine years old.
I stuck to the game plan, to go in there and not get hit.
I was staying relaxed. I wanted to stay smart and fight my fight. I was fighting at my rhythm and take away his best attributes. ″
Asked whether Kambosos could give him more trouble in the rematch, Haney smiled.
There’s nothing he could do to have success (if he fights the same way as in this contest) . . . he has to go back to the drawing board and make adjustments. But anything he does I am going to be prepared for. He really didn’t land any clean solid shots.
It was a cagey start from both fighters as they circled warily, jabbing sporadically, moving edgily and trying to gauge each other in the opening three minutes.
to take the title he signalled his intent with a first-round knockdown. There was to be nothing of that ilk in Melbourne as Haney prowled around, keeping his opponent at arm’s length, and Kambosos exercised caution.
The fight began to open up in the second and third rounds as both boxers, although conscious that one moment’s lapse in concentration could prove fatal, looked to open up.
Haney’s jab was an effective tool as he found his rhythm and started to pick off Kambosos regularly amidst the clinches although Kambosos, too, managed to land a handful of blows that caused the crowd to cheer.
He opened up in the fourth and began to push forward with more aggression, catching Haney with a flurry towards the end of the three minutes. But the American looked comfortable, keeping his jab working and maintaining his distance when Kambosos tried to advance and it was Haney who was beginning to take control.
The big crowd of Greek supporters – the Hellas Fan Club – had roared their approval when Kambosos came into the ring. But they were muted by the mid-stages as they, like Kambosos and his corner, had all the confirmation they needed that this was never going to be an easy hometown title defence.
Haney landed a good blow in the first minute of the eighth and the American’s quality was evident as he moved and jabbed with fluency, Still, the crowd roared into life as Kambosos unleashed some heavy punches late in the eighth that forced Haney into retreat.
As the fight entered the last third Kambosos knew he had to lift the tempo and he went after Haney.
His opponent was wrestled to the floor; the incident was ruled no knockdown, but it brought the crowd to life. With his supporters shouting let’s go George, Kambosos caught Haney with a big right hand and forced him on to the back foot for the remainder of the round.
There was almost a repeat of the wrestle-down when Kambosos caught Haney with another solid blow that had Haney holding on, the referee separating the pair. But in truth Haney never really looked in trouble and his jab-and-move style had continued to accumulate points that had him in front.
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