Jun 4, 2022
An undisputed lightweight champion will be crowned in Australia on Saturday night when these two titleholders meet
Throughout an already busy weekend on tap in the world of combat sports, there may not be a single fight this Saturday with more stakes attached than boxing's undisputed lightweight championship bout pairing unbeaten champions George Kambosos Jr. and Devin Haney.
With an expected crowd of 50,000 set for Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET), Kambosos (20-0, 10 KOs) returns to fight on home soil for the first time since 2017 as he looks to continue a meteoric rise that saw him upset Teofimo Lopez Jr. last November to claim the power position in one of the sport's hottest division as the WBA, IBF and WBO champion.
Like his victory over Lopez, however, the 28-year-old Kambosos will enter as the betting underdog -- albeit a very small one this time -- when he welcomes Haney (27-0, 15 KOs), the 23-year-old phenom and WBC champion who has long been considered a future star in the making.
One of the larger storylines associated with the fight that was expected to potentially affect the outcome was the fact that Haney's father and trainer, Bill, was banned from traveling to Australia due to a felony drug conviction dating back to 1992. But the elder Haney was able to secure late approval and is expected to arrive in Melbourne in time to be by his son's side.
"A win would be very satisfying because that means I did it against all odds, even when things weren't working in my favor," Haney said during Thursday's press conference. "They were trying to do anything they can to put me at a disadvantage. But when I come out on top, it's going to be that much sweeter. I look forward to bringing the belts back and showing my dad what we accomplished together."
Kambosos had originally sought a title defense against former unified champion Vasiliy Lomachenko, who had lost his trio of titles to Lopez by upset decision in 2020. The ongoing conflict in Lomachenko's native Ukraine ended those plans, however, and in slid Haney for a shot at crowning just the eighth undisputed male boxing champion of the four-belt era.
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Haney, a network and promotional free agent, joined Kambosos in signing with co-promoter Top Rank to bring the fight to ESPN for big money. This weekend's fight, which will air on Sunday in Australia, also comes with a rematch clause should Kambosos lose.
"It has been a long, hard journey. Everyone knows that, but I'm ready for Sunday," Kambosos said. "All the tough moments have gotten me ready for Sunday, and I will shock the world again. Underdog? Beautiful. We are ready. We are warriors. Whatever way we have to go, we are prepared.
"I love the underdog status. They've been against me my whole career. They've been saying that my whole career. I'm still the top dog, and after Sunday, I'll remain the top dog."
The trash talk between the two fighters has been heavy in recent weeks with Kambosos admitting he was "just having fun" and enjoying the moment. Haney has been explicit at every turn in stating that there is nothing Kambosos can do -- from his words to his fists -- to get him off of his game.
"I knew that he would try anything that he can to try to throw me off my game or get me unfocused," Haney said. "But he can say what he wants to say because, regardless, I'm going to do what I do when we step into the ring. I will come out victorious by any means.
"This is the biggest stage, but this is something that I have dreamed of. I feel like I'm the far better fighter. I have far more skills than him. The betting odds really don't matter because I will show you no matter what they say. I'm levels above him."
The undercard fills out with the Moloney brothers returning to the ring as well as a heavyweight contest. Jason Moloney gets the higher billing when he takes on Aston Palicte at bantamweight. Moloney, 31, is 3-1 since 2020 with the lone loss coming to unified champion Naoya Inoue. Palicte, a native of the Philippines, has won three in a row. He holds a 28-4-1 record with 23 of those wins coming by knockout. Plus, Andrew Moloney returns on the undercard to take on Alexander Espinoza at junior bantamweight.
"I have to thank, as always, Top Rank for getting me this opportunity alongside DiBella Entertainment and of course my long-term manager, The Man! Tony Tolj. Without them, I wouldn't have had the great opportunities at home and in the USA among other places, so I'm very grateful for these amazing opportunities," Andrew Moloney said.
"Espinoza can fight, he pushed Kash Farooq all the way in the UK last year, at a weight class above. So I have to be at my best for this one and I believe I will be. It's always special fighting at home on a massive card such as this. It doesn't get better for an Aussie fighter."
Below is the rest of the fight card along with the latest odds from Caesars Sportsbook before getting to a prediction and expert pick on the main event.
Fight card, odds
Devin Haney (c) -180 vs. George Kambosos (c) +155, undisputed lightweight titles
Jason Moloney -900 vs. Aston Palicte +600, bantamweights
Junior Fa -1400 vs. Lucas Browne +800, heavyweights
Andrew Moloney vs. Alexander Espinoza, junior bantamweights
Date: June 4 | Location: Marvel Stadium -- Melbourne, Australia
Start time: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN | Stream: fuboTV (Get access now)
Despite the close betting odds given the circumstances of the fight, no one is doubting who the more skilled fighter of the two is.
Haney, who will enter with a three-inch reach advantage, is as perfectly well-rounded as any top fighter in the game today. He's expected to hold both a speed and power edge over his opponent and has shown he is nothing short of a technical master as it pertains to his control of distance and the various ways he can win the fight.
The real question comes down to whether the big stage and the pressures that come with traveling halfway around the globe to be the hated visitor inside a massive stadium will have any negative affect on someone as young as Haney.
Although Haney's recent wins over Yuriorkis Gamboa, Jorge Linares and Joseph Diaz Jr. have been impressive, and far and away trump anything Kambosos has done beyond the Lopez win, critics haven't forgotten the final rounds of the Linares fight. Haney was wobbled by a power shot late and was forced to hold and circle away from danger until the final bell.
Kambosos, and his aggressive style of combination punching at close range, has the potential to be the perfect Kryptonite to break Haney in the same manner he did against Lopez by forcing the fight into a brawl and proving to be the more scrappy competitor. The bigger problem, however, is that Kambosos found a willing partner to stand and trade with him in Lopez, whose mental state appeared to be compromised in that fight amid a whirlwind of personal turmoil outside the ring.
Will Haney be as willing to take the fight to the lone areas in which Kambosos can have major success? The odds in this case are against that.
Let's not forget that Haney has the ability to remove the excitement from a fight in order to control the action from the outside and win conservatively, similar to how he handled Gamboa in 2020. And while no one expects Kambosos to go away quietly should that be the case, Haney is perfectly equipped with his length and the speed of his counter shots to make his aggressive opponent pay for stepping on the gas pedal.
As long as Haney can avoid getting clipped with something big, Kambosos has a fighting style that could be perfect for what Haney does best. Like the saying goes, there are levels to this.