Pacquiao Understudy and Sparring Partner George Kambosos Jr. Puts In The Rounds, Eyes His Own World Title Campaign
By Vishare Mooney
He’s been busy. In the last 14 months, undefeated Greek Australian fighter George ‘Ferocious’ Kambosos Jr. (14-0, 8 KOs), left Australia to train in the U.S., made his American debut with a stunning first round knockout of Jose Forero and trained in two world title camps (Pacquiao vs. Horn, Pacquiao vs. Matthysse). With his eyes clearly set on the prize, a world title, Kambosos Jr. has also found a friend and mentor in Pacquiao (59-7-2, 38 KOs), boxing’s most heralded 8-division world champion, having now sparred over 110 rounds with the legendary fighter.
The 25-year-old Kambosos Jr., who shares a coach with Pacquiao in former world title contender Justin Fortune and who is managed by Lou DiBella, will fight Filipino fighter JR “Star Boy” Magboo (17-1-2, 8 KOs) in the featured undercard of the Pacquiao-Matthysse WBA welterweight title fight in Kuala Lampur, this Saturday, July 14th on ESPN+. It was Pacquiao who insisted on adding his constant sparring partner, Kambosos Jr. on the already packed undercard roster. I caught up with Kambosos Jr. via videoconference, just days ahead of his fight and talked about his friendship with Manny, training regimen and goals for his own world title campaign.
Kambosos Jr. discussed why Pacquiao called on him again as a sparring partner. “I think he sees a younger version in myself, except for that I’m an orthodox fighter. We both train extremely hard, we both need to be pulled back by Justin Fortune, our coach at times to slow down. We both have the same mentality. He sees a young Manny Pacquiao in myself, so that’s how I got the opportunity. He wants to help my career as well. What better guy than the guy that’s done the most in boxing history” Kambosos Jr. added, “I think Manny will play a vital role in my future and my career, along side my promoter and my team.”
The camp was his second in 14 months. Kambosos Jr. was part of the Pacquiao vs. Horn team last summer. He said he is “still sore from the disappointment of the Horn fight” and adjustments have been made this time around. “We trained a lot smarter, pulled back on certain things, take a day off for rest, do some different kind of recovery, take a lighter session in the gym. I feel fresher during this camp. I feel great and I know Manny does as well. He will be ready for the fight on Sunday. There will be no excuses. Everything is ready to go.”
When Kambosos Jr. fights this weekend, it will have only been ten weeks since his last fight in May. He said it is the fastest turn around of his career and he likes it that way. He had trained hard for his American debut against Jose Forero, amassing over 150 sparring rounds prior to the swift win by TKO. By June, he was once again on a plane to the Philippines to reunite with Pacquiao. And after their first sparring session, got put on the undercard.
I asked Kambosos Jr. if he was at all nervous about his upcoming fight. “No, I have been sparring an all time great, the god of fighting. He’s Manny Pacquiao. I have been going toe to toe with Pacquiao not only on this camp but the last camp, that’s like over hundred something rounds together. I am more than ready for this fight. I’m excited for the challenge. And I know that I can’t afford any slip-ups. I need to make another good statement.”
What does he know of his opponent, JR Magboo? “He’s a tough Filipino. He’s 17-1. Knows his way around the ring. I research every fighter that I come across. I even research guys that I’m not fighting and could be fighting in the future so I look at everything. I’ve trained so hard I feel like I’m fighting Matthysse alongside Pacquiao.”
“As soon as I get in some shots, he (Magboo) is going to feel everything that I have done in camp and I’m coming for the knock out – that’s what I’m chasing. “
Kambosos Jr. seems to be keenly aware of the significance of this moment, his time with Pacquiao and his boxing career trajectory. On his quest to a world title, he has come a long way from being the chubby, bullied kid in Australia. “I was an obese kid, bullied, picked on, always picked last. If there was a joke it was going to be on me, So I just wanted to change my life. As soon as I started doing boxing the weight came off, my confidence got much better. I had a few school fights. Hurt them, beat up a few people, they realized, ok this guy can fight, we’re going to leave him alone. And now the rest if history.”
“Now look where I am, world ranked fighter, huge fan base, Manny Pacquiao’s chief sparring partner. I get to fight on a huge show like this…it’s incredible the journey I’ve had. But you know, I already envision the future I will have, not only as a world champion, but multiple champion, unified champion.”
Kambosos Jr. trains for each fight as if he were in a world title fight. “Before I had my pro debut, a good friend of mine said, look, now you’re a pro, treat every fight like a world title fight because it is. Every step is getting close to the world title. That’s the ambition, that’s the end goal. “
“I have been fortunate to be a part of proper world title camps. And so I have taken what Manny does in his training and added it to my game. I know what it takes at that level. I have trained alongside a legend in the sport, and I’m ready to have my own world title camp in the very near future.”