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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.”
George Kambosos Jr: “We Want The Big Fights In America”
By: Sean Crose
“I give them as much inspiration and motivation as I can.”
So says lightweight contender, George Kambosos Jr, who, at 13-0, will be making his American debut this Saturday evening at Connecticut’s Foxwoods Resort and Casino against the 13-6-1 Jose Forero. Kambosos is certainly a fighter to watch, one who employs lightning fast speed and an ability to work both the head and body simultaneously. The Sydney, Australia native also possesses an engaging, outgoing personality, which lends itself well to the contemporary American fight scene. As much as he longs for ring success, however – and the man certainly wishes to attain considerable heights – Kambosos also wants to help those in need, namely those who live through the type of experience he had growing up.
Photo Credit: George Kambosos Jr. Twitter Account
“I was always a heavy kid,” he says. “I was bullied at school.” Now a rising star in the fight game, the fighter helps bullied children as much as possible. ”We put out a real good motivational video on YouTube,” he says. The inspirational piece had over a million views. Unfortunately, YouTube took the video down, apparently for reasons connected to the audio. Kambosos, however, is still engaged. As he says, his experience has: “made me a better person.”
As a young man in Sydney, Kambosos’ eagerness to not only get in shape, but to stay there, led the young man to a local boxing gym – and things were never the same. “As soon as I started working at the gym,” Kambosos says, “I fell in love with the sport.” Kambosos may not be widely unknown in America at the moment, but his US debut comes with an impressive pedigree behind it. Aside from an amateur experience that took him around the world, the lightweight has also sparred quite a bit with a genuine legend. “Manny’s an all-time great,” he says of the one and only Manny Pacquiao, who Kambosos was a sparring partner for in the lead up to last year’s controversial welterweight title bout with Jeff Horn. “He’s a guy I look up to.”
Kambosos didn’t just trade a few punches with Pacquiao, his role was to legitimately help train the titlist for the Horn match. “Manny has extreme speed and so do I,” says Kambosos. “He’s still got it when he’s on.” Oh, and in case anyone’s wondering, Kambosos agrees with many people when it comes to the most controversial judges’ cards of last year. “I still believe he won the (Horn) fight,” Kambosos states. In fact, the up and comer isn’t of the opinion that the Filipino legend is washed up. “On his (best) day, I still believe he can be anybody,” Kambosos says of Pacquiao.
Kambosos is no mere sparring partner, though. Put simply, he’s a fighter on the rise. “We’ve got Lou DiBella behind me now,” he says. DiBella, one of the top promoters in boxing, knows how to move a fighter along, something Kambosos is grateful for. Provided Saturday goes as planned (“We take this guy out. We look great.”), Kambosos is ready to make his move towards the top of the division. “Another three or four fights, we’ll definitely be in line for a title fight,” he says. Already well known in his native land, Kambosos now wants his fame to grow. “Back in Australia,” he says, “it’s hard to walk down the street.”
That may not be the case for Kambosos in America – but he aims to change all that, starting this weekend in Connecticut. “We want the big fights in America,” he says, “and we want the stardom.” As Kambosos makes clear: “We want to take a risk…we want to chase the big boys here in America.” Kambosos is aware of the fact that a winning personality can help take a fighter far. “It’s very important in the American scene,” he says. If things go as planned, the lightweight’s formula of ring and personal appeal will be an irresistible combination for fight fans. “I think the Americans are going to love it,” he says. “It’s going to keep building, bigger and stronger.”
First, though, there’s the matter of Forero. “He’s a solid puncher,” Kambosos says of this weekend’s foe. Perhaps more importantly, “he’s coming in with nothing to lose.” Sure enough, a victory over a lauded rising star would be a huge career builder for any fighter. Kambosos, however, isn’t worried. “I love the pressure,” he says. “That’s why we’re here.” It helps to have a solid background behind him as he makes his stateside debut. “I started boxing at eleven years of age,” he says. “I got a good, solid base from that system.” Plus, training for Saturday has gone well.
“It’s been a good camp,” Kambosos states in regards to his preparation, adding he’s been working with “real quality guys.” One of those guys, of course, is his trainer. “I hooked up with the guys in America,” he recalls, “with Justin Fortune.” A former heavyweight of note, Fortune is, like Kambosos, an Australian who made his way to America to at least in part capitalize on the fight game. Now a respected trainer, Fortune has impressed his young contender. “Justin’s great,” Kambosos says. “We gel very, very well.” Although he was once with Kostya Tszyu’s gym in Australia and helped Pacquiao alongside Freddie Roach, Kambosos is happy with the man he has in his corner, just like he is with his career at the moment.
As the interview winds down, Kambosos tells of the time he was working with Pacquiao, how his partner was about to give birth to his daughter – now nine months old. “Your life’s going to change,” Pacquiao told him. It was a prediction that happily turned true. Kambosos’ life may change again after he makes his American debut this Saturday. And, if he has his way, the lightweight division will feel the effects.