On Saturday evening, in front of a packed house at Madison Square Garden in New York City, George Kambosos stunned the world to become the undisputed champion of the lightweight division.
Few had given the 28-year Australian much of a chance of overcoming the previously undefeated Teofimo Lopez, making the moment he had his hand raised by the referee all the more sweet.
Kambosos’ performance will go down in history as one of the great moments in Australian boxing. But where exactly does it rank on the all-time list? ESPN’s Jake Michaels picks his five best Australian fights.
5. Jeff Fenech vs. Azumah Nelson I (1991)
It’s the only performance to feature on this list which (amazingly) wasn’t rewarded with a win. To this day, Fenech and Nelson’s Las Vegas draw in 1991 is one of the most widely criticised decisions in boxing history. Fenech put on a clinic against the Ghanaian fighter, and looked a class above all night. But the judges didn’t agree and scored it a draw, much to the disappointment of every Australian boxing fan. Even heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, who fought Razo Ruddock in the main event that night, declared Fenech, the three division champion, had been robbed of a clear victory. Unfortunately for Fenech, his career started to decline after this fight and he was well beaten by Nelson when the pair battled again just eight months later in Melbourne.
4. Lionel Rose vs. Masahiko ‘Fighting’ Harada (1968)
One of the most iconic Indigenous athletes of all time simply has to make this list. In 1968, a 20-year-old Rose travelled to Tokyo, Japan to battle home hero Harada – the first time he had fought outside Australia and New Zealand. Up for grabs was a trio of bantamweight world titles, but there weren’t many who were giving the Australian a chance of taking them home, even with Harada having entered the latter part of his illustrious career. Rose would go on to dominate the 15 round fight, winning by unanimous decision to become the first Indigenous boxing world champion. Rose was an overnight sensation and hero in Australia and crowds gathered in Melbourne to honour his return home a few days later.
3. George Kambosos vs. Teofimo Lopez (2021)
Teofimo Lopez was so confident he would emerge victorious against Kambosos, he actually predicted a first round stoppage of the Sydneysider. But when Kambosos floored him in the opening frame in New York, there was a real feeling that this might not go to script for the American. Kambosos’ aggressiveness paid dividends throughout the night with Lopez unable to trouble him until a 10th round knockdown. But Kambosos picked himself up and delivered his two greatest rounds as a professional to stun Lopez, the crowd and the world, becoming boxing’s newest lightweight champion. In one night he proved he is a fighter to take seriously and one who can potentially become a multi-division title holder.
2. Jeff Horn vs. Manny Pacquiao (2017)
No matter how you scored the iconic fight at Suncorp Stadium, there’s no denying Jeff Horn’s heroic effort against one of boxing’s all-time greats. Little known Horn, a schoolteacher from Queenslander, took on the mighty Manny Pacquiao … and won! You couldn’t have scripted what transpired in Brisbane back in 2017. Under the blazing sun, Horn literally threw everything at the Filipino legend and even overcame a ninth round barrage where he looked for all money to be hitting the canvas. The 51,052 in attendance roared in delight when Michael Buffer announced their man as the new welterweight champion of the world, something nobody could honestly say they saw coming.
1. Kostya Tszyu vs. Zab Judah (2001)
There are at least half a dozen Kostya Tszyu fights which could have made this list but the one which really stands out from the others was his Las Vegas bout against Zab Judah in 2001. Tszyu became the first man in 30 years to unify the belts in the light welterweight division when he stopped Judah in the second round. But it wasn’t without controversy, with the American adamant it was a premature stoppage by referee Jay Nady, and a brawl broke out in the ring. Judah would record his first professional loss and you could genuinely make the case Tszyu was the world’s No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter.