IT IS now 20 long months since the night George Kambosos’ life changed forever. It was also the last time he won a fight. That was when he dropped Teofimo Lopez, the world lightweight champion, en route to a split decision which rocked the division to its core.
Things have not gone to plan for Kambosos since that November night in 2021 with just two fights and two defeats, both to Devin Haney, to his name. He had described himself as the Emperor who had arrived to break up the quartet of Lopez, Haney, Gervonta Davis and Ryan Garcia, who had been prematurely labelled the new Four Kings.
The last 20 months have not unfolded how he might have hoped when he first applied that label but, on Saturday night, the Emperor strikes back as he attempts to clamber towards the upper echelons of the division again.
In his way at the Firelake Arena in Shawnee, Oklahoma is Yorkshire’s Maxi Hughes. The 33-year-old arrives in America full of confidence and in good form. In fact, since COVID hit in March 2020, Hughes has been one of Britain’s most successful boxers.
He had lost to Liam Walsh in the November of 2019, the fifth defeat of his career, but it all turned around in 2020. He won three times that year, including 10-rounders against Jono Carroll and Viktor Kotochigov before four more big wins, all over 12 rounds, across 2021 and 2022.
His last outing was a majority division victory over Kid Galahad, probably the best win on his record, and he fancies the job against Kambosos. ‘Maximus’ is an awkward night’s work for anyone and Kambosos may get frustrated at times. Before the two defeats to Haney, the 30-year-old from Sydney was on a run of three split decision wins in a row.
That illustrates that at the top level he has not been one to dominate his opponents and underdog Hughes has the style to make this a very hard night for Kambosos. The Australian is a reasonably wide favourite with Hughes out at around 3/1 for the win. That price seems generous for a fight that is this evenly matched.
It looks almost certain to go the distance too and, if it does, do not rule out the underdog to produce the upset. In fact, a razor-thin decision for Hughes is the pick here.
On the undrcard, a week after Andy Cruz made his professional debut over on DAZN, the Cuban’s big amateur rival Keyshawn Davis – who he beat four times in the unpaid code – boxes for the eighth time and second over 10 rounds. After stopping Anthony Yigit in the ninth in April, Davis is straight back out and into another step up, this time against two-time European champion Francesco Patera. It feels like the Belgian has been around forever but he is still only 30. He’s won his last 10 on the spin, stretching back to a 2017 defeat to Edis Tatli. He has never been stopped and, although Davis has finished six of his eight pro bouts inside the distance, a points win here for the gifted American seems most viable.
Another person who looks likely to score a decision victory on this Top Rank card, which will be aired on ESPN in the US, is 30-0 southpaw Giovani Santillan. The San Diego man faces Ecuador’s Erick Bone over 10 threes. They have both managed just four fights in the last three years but Bone has not had anything more than an eight-round bout since 2018 and will lose on points here. Santillan will be too fresh and too slick and should run away with it down the stretch.
The rest of the card is then loaded with eight-round heavyweight fights of differing levels of intrigue but which could all be a lot of fun. There is an outing for the highly rated Stephan Shaw who is starting the rebuilding process following his January decision loss to Efe Ajagba in the Turning Stone Resort, Verona. The 18-1 (13) Saint Louis native, known as ‘Big Shot’, will face Brisbane’s 9-1-1 (8) puncher Joseph Goodall.
The 31-year-old’s only defeat came via a 10-round defeat to Justis Huni in June of last year and he will surely give it a go here. In the process, however, he is liable to get knocked out by a rejuvenated Shaw.
In another clash of the hemispheres, Auckland’s 20-1 (15) Hemi Ahio will meet Bahamas-born American Amron Sands over eight. Sands can punch too, but he suffered back-to-back stoppage defeats in 2021 and 2022 but returned in June last year with an eight-round points win. This will be a firefight for as long as it lasts.
Undefeated Jeremiah Milton, meanwhile, will have too much for the 4-2-2 Willie Harvey in their showdown and should close the show before the end to move to 10-0 with seven inside the distance. The touted Top Rank heavyweight Bakhodir Jalolov disposed of Harvey in just over four minutes in 2019 so Milton will be looking for a similar conclusion.
In the fourth and final heavyweight contest, Cleveland’s Roney Hines will be looking to get back to winning ways in his fight against fellow undefeated lump Michael Pirotton, who is part of the travelling Belgian contingent like Patera.
THE VERDICT: Hughes is very much the live ‘dog in Las Vegas.