George Kambosos Jr: I’m here to earn my stripes

The vivid, intricate image of Jesus Christ on the cross marks the skin around the ribcage of Australian boxer, George Kambosos Jr. Every punch thrown with bad intentions, sinking into his torso and connecting directly with the crucifixion, reminds him of his purpose. He’s here for a reason. 

The tattoos that are plastered across his shoulder blades and that decorate his spine are very different.

The words, ‘Never retreat, never surrender’ are curved in a semi-circle under the image of a Spartan soldier, armed with sword and shield, ready for a battle most thought they couldn’t win. It’s a familiar story, in that sense.

Kambosos (18-0, 10 KOs), dubbed ‘Ferocious’, is of Spartan-Greek heritage. He is built for war.

“I was always a savage from earlier in my career,” the undefeated lightweight tells Boxing Social. “I come into a fight with bad intentions. And, even when I’m sparring, my sparring partners are worried because I’m coming in there with bad intentions as well. When I’m in that ring, I totally change. But when you add these two little kids of mine that look up to their father, and I’ve got to put food on their table and give them everything, I can’t be beat. I cannot be beat.” 

It’s been a long journey for the Sydney man. He’s come from being bullied as overweight child, to playing Aussie Rules Football, and eventually strapping up some boxing gloves, purely for additional fitness.  

Kambosos is a fascinating talker and, ahead of a final eliminator with Wales’ former IBF 126lbs champion Lee Selby (still awaiting a date after its May postponement), he is something of an unknown quantity despite fighting in and around the top of the division’s rankings for years. He looks every inch the fighter; covered in aggressive ink and never out of shape. His profile has soared in recent years after being selected multiple times as the main sparring partner for Filipino superstar, Manny Pacquiao.

This time, though, he could stake a claim at boxing’s top table in his own right. He told Boxing Social, “Look, this is the fight I wanted. Any way possible. Wherever it was; I signed up to fight him in his backyard. When everything went back to purse bids and we made a play to bring it here, I was happy that it landed that way again – in the UK. I want to make a name for myself fighting these fighters, these former world champions in their backyards and taking them out.  

“It’s on me now to make a statement like I did in my last fight. I took a former world champion out in his backyard, in New York, and now I’m going to do the same thing to another former world champion in Lee Selby, in his backyard. I retired Mickey Bey. I’m here to retire Lee Selby and then I’m here to fight the world champion; if it’s Lomachenko or it’s Lopez, I don’t care. Wherever it is. 

Kambosos (left) has gained note as a sparring partner to the legendary
Manny Pacquiao, but has grander plans. Photo: DiBella Entertainment

Kambosos continued, discussing his next opponent in detail, “He’s a boring fighter, to be honest. And I’m pretty sure the UK fans really don’t like him and aren’t even interested in watching him fight. So many UK fans have said to me, ‘Hey, this is great. We’re going to see you fight in the UK now. We can’t wait to see you fight. We’re not worried about watching Selby’. But look, he’s a former champion. I respect that. The man’s got two arms, doesn’t he?  

“I’m too young. I’m too fresh. I’m on a huge roll. I feel like I have too much for him and he’s going to find out the hard way. It depends how tough he wants to be. If he wants to sit there and give the fans a bit of a fight before he gets taken out [then fine], or he might just run and I’ll cut him down and eventually take him out anyway.” 

As he tore shreds out of Selby, it became apparent that Kambosos wasn’t travelling to fight for money. This wasn’t the talk of an overhyped international fighter, looking to establish himself for the benefit of future pay cheques. It was raw; it was magnetic. It was as though Kambosos was the overwhelming favourite and the man carrying the pedigree into the contest, biding his time before inevitably sweeping another challenger under the carpet. 

Selby himself had faced a former sparring partner of Kambosos, beating Australian Joel Brunker six years ago at London’s O2 Arena before winning his IBF world title. When asked about the Welshman’s performance against Brunker, Kambosos unsurprisingly didn’t mince his words, saying, “I was fighting Brunker as a young kid back then, I was beating him up. So, his win, maybe for himself and his fan base is impressive, but I was doing the same thing that he’d done as a young amateur while Brunker was fighting.  

“You could put 10 Brunkers in the room with me and I wouldn’t have an issue. No disrespect, but the facts are the facts. I need to become world champion. I don’t just want to be. I want to go down and leave a legacy where the fans know that ‘Ferocious’ Kambosos went out there and earned his stripes. This is not the typical Australian fighter that you think you’re coming up against. I haven’t fought in Australia for [three] years. This is a whole different beast. So, if he keeps thinking all of that, it’s going to be very bad, my friend.” 

This isn’t just “another Australian fighter”, he explains, and it’s hard to argue. This is a problem. Manager Peter Kahn and promoter Lou DiBella firmly believe their unbeaten warrior dominates an ageing Lee Selby, who is fighting up in weight and is now aged 33.  

For Kambosos, boxing is about earning stripes and winning world titles. It’s about commanding respect and doing things the hard way, because they still need to be done. Steely self-belief spurred on the vastly outnumbered, legendary Spartan army at the Battle of Thermopylae. But it wasn’t just misplaced overconfidence. Strategy was key, and it seems that George Kambosos has both in abundance as he strides towards his biggest career crossroads. He’ll certainly need them.

Main image and all photos: DiBella Entertainment.