Most boxing fans had hoped that when the new year kicked off, we’d be in a refreshed mode, tat COVID would be receding, and efforts to quell the pandemic would be paying off.
In America, the optimism that welled up say six months ago has been replaced by the realization that it’s not going to get better this week, or in the next month. Some optimism comes for people who believe a transition in leadership to a new regime atop the federal government will bring with it an improved response to the public health crisis, and that will be reflected in a sunnier spring, and perhaps a summer that could feature some degree of a return to “normalcy.”
That is all to say, yes, cans keep getting kicked down the road, in terms of fights being fashioned. Because uncertainty, stemming from bleak news of the virus’ spread, continues to be that black cloud which makes planning for the future even more of a fool’s errand than it already was in this sporting realm.
Whether or not Teofimo Lopez will meet ordered IBF mandatory challenger George Kambosos Jr for his first fight since upsetting Vasiliy Lomachenko last October is up in the air.
Peter Kahn, who manages the 27-year-old Kambosos, went on the Randy Gordon/Gerry Cooney SiriusXM show, and he made clear that he’d like to see his kid get a crack at Lopez.
“We’re getting close,” Kahn said. “We have a formal proposal to Top Rank, that will basically express our offer to bring Teofimo Lopez to Australia, and defend all of his titles against George.”
If the Lopez gang accepts, then we’ll see if Kambosos (19-0, 10 KO) can derail the heavy momentum of Lopez. And if Lopez doesn’t take this fight, he would have to give up his IBF belt, and Kambosos would vie for the vacated strap.
I reached out to Lopez manager David McWater to get a sense of where things stand from his point of view.
“I haven’t seen an offer. I’m told one is in the works,” McWater said on Monday evening.
OK, so it is looking like we get Lopez-Kambosos in Australia, maybe in May? Is that anything close to certain?
“No,” McWater said. “I think there are a lot of ifs there. Most of which aren’t controllable by anyone right now.”
Lopez is coming off a thoroughly massive win, his bargaining power exploded, and he’s made no secret how he feels: he took the risk, stepped up, and got rewarded with a win over Vasiliy Lomachenko. And now, he’s seeking more spoils. Yes, his asking price popped hard northward. Top Rank promotes Lopez, and Bob Arum has publicly said he gets it, Lopez is a young gun and wants to be paid to reflect that.
But because revenue streams have been choked off by COVID, that means the pots aren’t sized like they were pre-2020. Lopez-Kambosos in front of 40,000 in Melbourne is something that isn’t unappealing — but the virus has to recede, and not just in Australia.
Speaking generically, people running shows in other countries need to be comfortable with foreigners flying in to their sector. You probably know the deal, America’s COVID numbers are horrific. Australia’s are not, but they’d like to keep it that way — and if leaders there don’t see America smartening up, then it won’t be an easy sell for promoters their to ask for a loosening of regulations, so foreigners can jet in and play their part in a massive fight promotion.
Right now, COVID cases from people coming in to Australia for the Feb. 8 Australian Open tennis event are popping up, and making organizers sweat. That nation did a helluva job flattening their curve last summer, and officials boasted of days in the last month with not a single reported case of the virus. Their stringency has been working for them.
So decision-makers in Australia have enough drama about the tennis tourney in three weeks, let alone making a determination on what their play for early summer travel and tourism might be. So, yeah, no decision on what’s next for Lopez has been made, and McWater stresses that there is a long way to go.
“Nothing at all has been decided,” McWater said. “(Peter Kahn) has been working very hard on it and I’m appreciative of that, but it’d be premature to say it’s anywhere near done.”