George Kambosos hoping to bounce back to title contention on the smaller stage against Maxi Hughes

Less than two years ago, George Kambosos shocked the boxing world with his upset of Teofimo Lopez Jr. to become unified lightweight champion. The win set him up to return to his native Australia and defend his titles in a stadium. But after a pair of resounding losses to Devin Haney, Kambosos is looking to rebound in a much smaller setting. 

The Aussie is headed to Shawnee, Oklahoma, on Saturday night to face Maxi Hughes. The town as a whole has a smaller population than the attendance he had for his first meeting with Haney in June 2022.

Kambosos’ is a very specific type of boxing story. At the time when he upset Lopez, lightweight was viewed as entering a boom period with a crop of exciting young fighters. Lopez was supposed to handle his business against his IBF mandatory challenger and move on to more significant business, such as a fight with Haney, who held the WBC title, the only championship not then in Lopez’s collection.

It was disruptive to business for Kambosos to batter Lopez mentally ahead of the fight and then dominate him — that one judge scored the fight for Lopez is indefensible. Fast forward two years and Kambosos is making a trip to Shawnee to fight for the IBO title, which is not a recognized world championship, and it shows how fast things change when you’re not one of the sport’s favored sons.

Kambosos’ fight with Hughes is a fair bit of matchmaking, with both men sitting around the bottom half of multiple sanctioning body top 10 rankings. But it was bounced from rumored locations in Australia and Las Vegas to Oklahoma as Kambosos signed a deal with Top Rank.

In reality, Kambosos maxed out his win against Lopez. He was set to defend his unified titles against Vasiliy Lomachenko when the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced an opponent switch to Haney. Kambosos was able to live out the dream of fighting in his home country in a packed stadium and his team also forced the rematch clause to include terms that the second fight would also be in Australia.

But Haney worked over Kambosos twice, taking the titles and leaving Kambosos in rebuild mode. Unlike other fighters who have reached the pinnacle of the sport, Kambosos isn’t rebuilding in the bright lights of Las Vegas or New York, or even in his home country as a result of reported broadcast rights issues in Australia.

Kambosos hasn’t been thrown in the bin but he’s again looking up the ladder at bigger names and fighters who have been treated as stars.

If Kambosos beats Hughes, as he is expected to, it doesn’t thrust him back into the title mix immediately. It does, however, keep him in a position to potentially go after a belt if Haney follows through on what seems to be a planned move up to junior welterweight. Should the four world titles be scattered to the wind, a former unified champion such as Kambosos could become an intriguing option to battle for a vacant belt.

To hear Kambosos speak, he doesn’t agree with that assessment of his title hopes, instead thinking somehow this fight will launch him back into a title fight before 2023 is wrapped.

“I’m looking to become world champion again by the end of this year,” Kambosos told BoxingScene. “This is not a comeback — it’s a second coming of Ferocious Kambosos. I’m going to show how you bounce back from a loss.”

It likely stings Kambosos’ considerable ego to be fighting in a small building after experiencing the highest of highs. But it certainly wouldn’t sting like a loss that would likely put ever becoming world champion again out of reach.

It’s not going to be an easy path from here on out, and it’s a path that may have more stops in the likes of Shawnee than Las Vegas. But Kambosos still has a chance to be the ultimate disrupter once again. He just has to keep winning until he gets his shot to throw the sport into chaos once again.

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