Kambosos Jr. targets world top five
Anthony Cocks catches up with Australian lightweight contender George ‘Ferocious’ Kambosos Jr and discovers that the ambitious 24-year-old has big plans for the future...
The name may not be familiar to you just yet but George ‘Ferocious’ Kambosos Jr 12-0 (6) is convinced that now is his time to shine and the outspoken 24-year-old is prepared to go 'all-in' to prove it.
“We’re chasing anyone in the top ten but we really want top five,” Kambosos told Boxing Monthly. “I’m sitting at number seven and I just came off sparring Manny Pacquiao, who I still believe won the fight against Jeff Horn. You know obviously Manny is 38 and he’s not the young lion anymore, but you know that camp pushed me to some really big levels and we’re ready for these top five guys.
“We’ll see, it’s all up to these promoters, who they can get up to the table. They’re working on a lot of different avenues for me to move up the ladder to get that world title shot and win that world title.”
Kambosos spent five weeks in Manny Pacquiao’s training camp in Manila and General Santos City in the Philippines ahead of the 38-year-old senator’s ill-fated fight against Horn at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane in July. The hungry Australian worked alongside the 11-time eight-division world champion every step of the way, joining him for roadwork in the mornings, eating breakfast with him, and sparring 45 rounds with him in the Philippines’ sweltering humidity.
“Justin [Fortune] is my head coach and he’s been a long time with Freddie [Roach] now, so they’re looking after me,” said Kambosos. “All my camps are in the US now. I was there for the [Brandon] Ogilviie fight sparring Sergey Lipinets and Andre Klimov. I was there for the Qamil Balla fight sparring Ray Beltran and Jose Ramirez, so all these guys were former sparring partners. Particularly the last camps, they were my little test. If I failed that test, I wouldn’t be sparring Pacquiao, they wouldn’t use me.”
His experiences at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood and with Pacquiao in the Philippines taught Kambosos how professional training camps are run and reinforced the importance of the 'one percenters' that all add up and can be the difference between victory and defeat when the final bell rings.
“Sparring an all-time great who will go down in history as the only man to ever win 11 world titles in eight divisions, no-one is ever going to do that again,” said Kambosos. “That’s a once in a lifetime achievement that we’ve seen and witnessed, he’s going to go down as one of the all-time greats. How can you beat that for a young 23, 24-year-old Aussie? It’s unheard of. Obviously Jeff [Horn] fought him, but I got to experience a whole month with him, and I obviously got paid to be there. Not only training with him, but watching him train.
“Manny said himself I’m a very, very focused fighter. Freddie and Justin know this already, how hungry I am and how dedicated I am. I was pushing Manny very hard in running and sparring. My side of sparring was awesome, it was the reason I was there. To work on a lot of speed, a lot of movement, a lot of high workrate, while the other guys were there to bully Manny around.
“Manny believes I’m going to be a world champion, Freddie believes it, Justin believes it. Now it’s just about going out and doing it.
“[I’ve learned] what it takes I think at these world title level training camps. I’ve taken little bits, obviously I work very, very hard, but I’ve taken little one percent things that have improved my game as well now.”
After winning back-to-back fights against domestic rivals Brandon Ogilvie and Qamil Balla, Kambosos believes he has emptied the 135-pound division locally of any legitimate threats. Next stop for the ambitious Sydneysider is 'New York, New York'.
“There’s nobody here for me,” said Kambosos. “My American team, Justin Fortune, Freddie Roach, Peter Kahn who is a very established agent, are all working on big, bigger fights over in the US. That’s where my next fight will be. We will obviously be announcing dates and card and stuff, there’s obviously a lot of really big promoters chasing me, including a frontrunner in New York and it’s all going to be announced in the coming weeks.
“My promoter’s over there and they want to make me a megastar in New York. New York has a very big Greek population, there’s no [world ranked] Greek fighters in the world at the moment except for myself. There’s also a huge European community over there, I know that there’s a lot of Australians over there too. The plan is for me to be packing out Madison Square Garden and [the] Barclays Center but I’ll leave that up to these promoters, they’ve been in the game for so long and they’re the top promoters in the world so they’ll know what they’re doing when I move over there. All the fights obviously will be TV fights and high exposure fights for me to help me build me career.
“I believe I’m past the prospect stage, I’m a real contender now in the lightweight division and I’ve got some big things happening.”
Kambosos had a typical Aussie upbringing. Brought up in the beachside suburb of Cronulla on Sydney’s southern shore, the young Kambosos burnt off youthful energy through the winter months playing rugby league, a sport that rewards size and strength. In the summer off-season he found that he was stacking on weight and at eleven years old he weighed as much as his current fighting weight.
His father, George Kambosos Sr, suggested his son join the popular local junior lifesaving club, colloquially known as ‘Nippers’, that teaches children about water safety and provides athletic competitions at the beach. But as a young Greek-Australian on the verge of puberty he couldn’t see his overweight self running up and down the beach wearing just a pair of Speedo's.
Instead, Kambosos Sr took his young son to the local PCYC in nearby Rockdale where George Jr quickly fell in love with boxing. The weight fell off too and within twelve months he had dropped close to 44lbs (20kg) and was competing in his first fight in a Golden Gloves contest in Queensland. He won his amateur debut and went on to rack up around 100 fights, competing all around the globe from Russia to Ukraine to Armenia and the United States.
Turning pro was simply a natural progression for the accomplished amateur.
“I’ve only had 12 pro fights but I’ve had 100 amateur fights so I’m very, very seasoned to the game,” says WBA number seven Kambosos. “I could easily fake my record, I could easily sit there and fight some Thais in between and some Filipinos and build my record up until I’m 20 and 0 but I’m not about that.
"I know where I sit, I know where I stand, I’ve sparred the best fighters in the world, I stood my own in those sparring session, I know what I can do and Justin and Freddie know what I can do and my team know as well. If I get a title shot tomorrow I’m ready to go and I’m ready to make a big statement and win that title.
“In all seriousness, I believe in 12 to 16 months I will have my world title and that’s what these big time promoters obviously have in mind as well. Getting the right mainstream media in the US and getting that title. You look at the division, the division is old. The whole lightweight division, you look at them they’re 29, 30, 31 - I’m 24.
"Twenty-four [and] sitting at number seven in the world. These next fights will push me up across the board in all these organisations and whatever champion wants to defend their belt against me or we’ll just keep moving up the ratings. We’ll be ready because I’ve proved that in my sparring and I’m ready to bring that world title back to Australia.”
We discuss some of the names in the WBA top five - Anthony Crolla, Daud Cino Yordan, Evans Pierre. We talk about WBA lightweight champion Jorge Linares, the slick-boxing Venezuelan veteran who takes on Yorkshireman Luke Campbell in the United States next month. Kambosos rolls the words around in his mouth, savouring the sound of each syllable of each name like a hungry man reading a menu.
“It’s a really good fight, Linares versus Campbell,” says Kambosos. “Obviously Luke Campbell is coming up and he had that loss against the Frenchman [Yvan] Mendy. I know he has that loss on his record and I’ve seen that fight. Linares is going to be on another level to him. He’s a seasoned pro, I think he’s going to have a bit too much for him. I think Linares will hold onto his title.
“Another fight I’ve seen obviously is Linares and Crolla. That’s another fight we’re chasing, we really want that fight and we’re happy to go into Crolla’s back yard and take him on.”
The one name in the WBA top ten he doesn’t see himself fighting is Ray Beltran.
“Beltran, we work together, we spar together in Freddie’s gym,” he explains. “He’s probably going to get his last crack coming up now in an eliminator, or getting a title shot somewhere which is probably his last crack.
“But look, you’ve got Evans Pierre from Haiti who’s sitting at number three. He’s a guy that we really, really want. We have tried to get him before, out of Haiti, but we might have to get him in the US because it’s hard to get him in Australia.
“The same with Yordan. We were going to fight in December last year but a few things were in the way of that, so he’s another guy that we’re looking at as well. These guys are all really good options for us and again I’m only 24 and these guys are all in their 30s, 31, 32. We’re the shining star down in the lightweight division.”
It’s hard to argue with Kambosos’ assessment of the maturity of the division. At 31, Linares not only matches the average age for the division, but the three-division world champion has remarkably been fighting at the top level for a decade with his first world title win coming against rugged Mexican Oscar Larios at featherweight way back in July 2007 at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. There have been a lot of miles put on his boxing odometer since then.
“He’s getting old, he’s been in the game a long time and he’s been in some really big wars,” says Kambosos of Linares. “There’s a lot of different signs I’ve seen with my team if that fight gets picked, you know. He’s a speedy kind of counter-puncher and so am I, but I also think I can make the fight happen, I can sit there and go toe-to-toe with him. With these guys you’ve got to match speed with speed and I’ve got speed to burn, so they’ll find out.
“Like Manny Pacquiao, Manny is one of the fastest fighters in the world and he’s seen how fast I am, how accurate I am and how well I move. All these different guys say how fast I am, how well I move, so I’m ready for these guys, whoever steps up, Linares, [Terry] Flanagan, Robert Easter Jr.
“Mikey Garcia had a great win [against Adrien Broner on 29 July] but I found some holes in his game. I’m only getting bigger, I’m only getting stronger and in 12 months we’ll be ready to unify the division.
“I watched the fight with him and Broner and I really thought Broner was going to turn up, but he’s got too many problems outside the ring unfortunately. But Mikey fought a great fight, a basic fight, but that’s how he fights, very basic but very accurate.
"To beat him you’ve got to be fast, you’ve got to move well and you’ve got to match him with what he does. I’ve seen some good points and Broner did go to the body, he did slow him up a bit and I think body work is the key against Mikey, along with a really good double jab.”
A recent change to Kambosos’s home life has only added extra drive and focus to this already ambitious young man. Kambosos’ partner Rebecca found out she was pregnant just before the Ogilivie fight and last month their daughter Evaliah was born.
“Now that I’ve got another mouth to feed, someone that’s going to look up to me, and you’ve got to make them proud,” Kambosos says. “They’re going to be proud no matter what, but I want her to be extra proud and go ‘look what her father went and done, he went and won a world title’.
“I want to give her the life and it’s a huge inspiration and motivation for me. I was a very motivated fighter before her birth, very focused, I would train the house down, but now with her in my head and trying to give her a better life, there’s no stopping me.”
If he was hungry before, Kambosos is now starving.