Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Kambosos To Challenge Hughes Meet For IBO World Championship

The recent history of Boxing's 135lb. Lightweight division has been dominated by current undisputed world champion Devin Haney. Haney as most know emerged as the Undisputed Lightweight champion of the world by scoring a lopsided twelve round unanimous decision over previously undefeated undisputed champion George Kambosos in June 2022 and then repeated the victory in his first title defense against Kambosos in a rematch in October of last year. While Haney has remained undisputed champion, most recently scoring a decision win over Vasyl Lomachenko in May, Haney's future appears to be heading above and beyond the Lightweight division.  Although as of this writing Haney remains regarded as the undisputed champion of the division, if he should choose to move up in weight to possibly challenge WBC Jr. Welterweight world champion Regis Prograis, it will open up an opportunity for contenders and former world champions in the Lightweight division to maneuver towards fighting for a world championship.

One such fighter is George Kambosos, who will meet top Lightweight world champion Maxi Hughes on Saturday, July 22nd at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, OK. The fight, which can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+, will be for a  world championship in the Lightweight division. It just so happens that the world championship that will be on the line will be the one world championship that has not been part of Devin Haney's undisputed crown. The world championship of the International Boxing Organization (IBO)

Although some in the sport do not recognize the IBO as a legitimate sanctioning organization, the world championship is a legitimate one. It just happens to be the case where the organization is on the outside, looking in with regard to the current undisputed championship in the Lightweight division. While it is certainly not the first time that an organization has been on the outside of a unified world championship or even an undisputed world championship due to among other things, the politics that be in the sport, it does not make a world championship any less legitimate nor does it minimize the opportunity for the fighters involved in a world championship bout. The subject of legitimacy of world titles will be a subject that will for better or worse, always be one to discuss and debate throughout the entire sport. It is a subject that with regard to the Lightweight division may indeed prove to be moot as if Haney does move up in weight, the four world championships that currently comprise the undisputed championship at 135lbs. the championships of the WBC, WBA, IBF, and WBO will all become vacant.

Nevertheless, the politics that be in Boxing aside, it does not diminish what will likely be an interesting fight between two of the best the Lightweight division currently has to offer. In what will be his first fight since his losses to Haney, the story going into this fight for Kambosos is obvious. Was Kambosos winning the Undisputed Lightweight world championship over then champion Teofimo Lopez a case of a fighter simply being in the right place at the right time to be able to take advantage and win the championship, or was his two losses to Kambosos a case of him simply being bested by a superiorly skilled fighter and not an accurate assessment of Kambosos' own skill level or standing in the sport?

Obviously that is a question that this observer cannot answer outright because by its very structure it is one that the answer will depend on one's perspective as opposed to a clear cut definitive yes or no. What should be said is prior to winning the championship by defeating Lopez, Kambosos was unbeaten and worked his way to a mandatory challenger position to challenge Lopez. What can be said for Kambosos is he has handled those setbacks to Haney with the utmost grace and he was not disgraced in either of those two fights. 

While it remains to be seen what effect, if any, those losses to Haney have had on Kambosos in terms of his approach to a fight, as a Boxing lifer who has spent most of his life covering the sport in addition to other combat sports, I tend to feel that no matter how great a fighter might be, there are times that for whatever reason they will come across someone that is a bad match up in terms of style and that can at times lead to defeat. While I can personally spend all day and night going through various examples of such scenarios, I will simply say that from a style standpoint, Devin Haney might just have the perfect mix of both style and skillset that will always give George Kambosos, a world-class boxer in his own right, with his own impressive skillset, difficulty no matter how many times they might compete against each other. 

The task ahead going into this fight against Maxi Hughes for the former world champion is to remove the setbacks against Haney from his mind, but at the same time, use the experience he gained in those two encounters to improve. There is indeed a mental aspect to the sport of Boxing that means as much, if not more than the physical aspects of it and in order to bounce back, Kambosos will have to put those losses behind him to the best of his ability. 

In Maxi Hughes, Kambosos will face a veteran of thirty-three professional fights, who has won his last seven fights and will be making the third defense of the IBO crown he won in September 2021 with a twelve round unanimous decision over Jovanni Straffon. While recent history has put Kambosos in the position of having the bigger name recognition of the two fighters, particularly here in the United States, the champion Hughes does have all of the momentum in his favor going into this fight. There are however, similarities between the two that make this a difficult fight for both men. Both Hughes and Kambosos are boxer/punchers with each having a good mix of hand speed, deceptive power, and counter punching ability.

What this fight may come down to could depend on which fighter is able to establish the tempo of combat and whether or not they can maintain control of the ebb and flow for however long it lasts. Although the possibility of a knockout can never be dismissed, both Hughes and Kambosos are distance fighters in that they are used to going deep into fights and neither of them had many knockouts in their career with Hughes registering five knockout wins in his twenty-six career wins and Kambosos having ten knockout wins in his twenty career victories.

Perhaps what might be more important than the world championship that Maxi Hughes holds in terms of the overall picture might be which of these two fighters might be able to make a statement as the Lightweight division appears to be heading towards a period of transition with many of the fighters who have served as focal points in the division for the last several years now moving up the weight scale. While this fight will likely not determine the next number one Lightweight in the world, it will certainly at the very least indicate which fighter is likely to be included in the discussion as the subject of who the top Lightweight in the world might be in the post-Devin Haney era will be debated if those debates have not already begun.

"And That's The Boxing Truth." 

Hughes vs. Kambosos takes place on Saturday, July 22nd at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, OK. The fight as well as its full undercard can be seen here in the United States on digital subscription sports streaming network ESPN+ beginning at 5:40PM ET/2:40PM PT.  For more information about ESPN+ including schedules, list of compatible streaming devices, platforms, Smart TVs, and to subscribe please visit: www.ESPNPlus.com

*Card and Start time subject to change.*

*Check your local listings internationally.*

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