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The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part Two)

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  • The Hauser Report: The Strange Odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller (Part Two)

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    By Thomas Hauser

    Initially, Triller scheduled the lightweight title-unification bout between Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos for June 5, 2021. But on April 27, it was announced that Floyd Mayweather vs. Logan Paul would be contested on June 6. Wary of the competition for pay-per-view buys, Kavanaugh changed the date for Lopez-Kambosos to June 19. Performances by Meek Mill, Myke Towers, and Lunay were to be included in the show. A reliable source says that Triller's projected budget for the event was $18 million.

    Then, on June 15, 2021, it was announced that Lopez had tested positive for COVID-19 and the event would be rescheduled for August 14. On June 23, the fight was postponed yet again; this time to September 11.

    There were more changes to come. On July 9, it was reported that Triller planned to move Lopez-Kambosos to a fifth date (October 17) and that the fight would be held in Australia. In response, David McWater (Teofimo's manager) stated that Lopez didn't want to fight in Australia (Kambosos's homeland) for logistical reasons relating to the need for him to quarantine for fourteen days once he arrived there and that he also objected to the new date.

    "If they want to move it that far back," McWater said, "the IBF will rule. If we have to, we'll give up the title and [Kambosos] can fight Isaac Cruz somewhere [for the vacant title] for $70,000."

    An August 9 IBF ruling split the baby. Lopez-Kambosos, the sanctioning body decreed, could be held as late as October 17. But Lopez could not be required to travel abroad to a location that subjected him to a 14-day quarantine period.

    The projected date changed again - and again - thereafter.

    On August 23, Triller announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on October 5 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden. It then shifted the date to October 4. Lopez and Kambosos signed contracts for October 4. But on September 20, Kavanaugh told journalist Ariel Helwani that he planned to switch the fight to October 16 at Barclays Center because he didn't want to compete for viewers against the October 4 Monday Night Football game between the Las Vegas Raiders and Los Angeles Chargers. Team Lopez objected, citing their already-signed contract and the fact that changing the date a mere two weeks before the fight could wreak havoc with Teofimo's plans for making weight, sparring, and the like. Kambosos also demurred. Then, on September 23, Teofimo Lopez Sr. said that his son had agreed in writing to allow Triller to move the date to October 16, bypassing manager David McWater and attorney Pat English in the process.

    On September 27, Triller reached a six-figure settlement with Madison Square Garden, and the issuing of refunds to fans who had purchased tickets for October 4 at MSG began. But Kambosos still hadn't agreed to the October 16 date and was demanding that Triller place his share of the purse in escrow before he flew to the United States for the fight.

    There was a school of thought that Kambosos didn't want to come to New York because of the birth of his child and death of his grandfather (both of which occurred on September 24). More likely, he was worried about getting paid the full amount that he would be owed for the fight.

    On September 28, Greg Smith (an attorney representing Kambosos) sent a letter to the IBF asking that Triller be declared in default of its purse bid and "barred from future purse bids for its egregious behavior.” More specifically, Smith alleged that Triller had violated IBF Rule 10.F.2 ("Failure of Promoter to Comply with Obligation").

    Triller suggested in its response that the problems it had endured with regard to Lopez-Kambosos were the result of a cabal among the powers that be in boxing to crush a new entity that was threatening the status quo.

    On October 6, the IBF ruled that Triller was in default of its purse-bid obligations and that Matchrom Boxing was entitled to promotional rights to Lopez-Kambosos by virtue of its (second place) $3,506,000 purse bid. It further ruled that Triller, by its conduct, had forfeited its $1,203,600 deposit (20% of the winning purse bid), and that this amount would be added onto the purses that the fighters received from Matchroom.

    On October 20, 2021, Matchroom announced that Lopez-Kambosos would take place on November 27 at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden and be streamed on DAZN.

    During the buuld-up to the fight, Kambosos said the things that one often hears from a prohibitive underdog:

    * "No one has ever turned round to Teofimo and said, 'I'm coming straight at ya. I don't care what you've done.' They've all been scared of him. I don't know why. He's a young little kid. I'm not scared of any man. I'm bigger, stronger, faster and more explosive and more violent."

    * “I know this kid’s got a suspect chin. If I can crack him with one shot, the speed and power that I possess and the explosive shots that I pop off, don’t be surprised if he goes down in three."

    * "I've got a big motor. Every round, I keep getting better and better and keep throwing more punches. My speed and the way I move and explosive power and shots that I land and throw and the punches in bunches and the combination punches that I have in my artillery and my stamina and my fitness is just too much for this kid."

    Lopez predicted a first-round knockout and got into the holiday spirit of things with the declaration, "I feel like, if I break his f****** eye socket, I’m sorry but I'm not sorry. I feel like, if I snap his vertebrae, I'm not sorry. I really want to show everybody what my power is capable of and what my mind is capable of. If I really want to hurt someone to that extreme, I will."

    There was a stupid cursing and shoving confrontation between Teofimo Lopez Sr and George Kambosos Sr during a fight-week media workout, the verbal highlights of which were:

    Lopez Sr: “Kambosos, you’re gonna get your *** kicked. First round, baby. F*****’ chicken. F*** you, mother******."

    Kambosos Sr: “F*** off, mother****** Come on, you big mouth. Come over here. You wanna walk across this f*****’ line? I’m gonna f*** you up first.”

    The final pre-fight press conference on Wednesday featured more inane trashtalking with the fighters taking the lead.

    “After this fight, I don’t want to have no handshake, none of that,” Teofimo Jr told George Jr. “We’re gonna put your *** on a f****** stretcher."

    Beyond that, Lopez spoke for many when he said, “I’m ready to get this over with. It’s been nine months. Get this over with and focus on the bigger fights coming up.”

    The promotion didn't generate much interest beyond hardcore boxing fans. College football is entering crunch time. The NFL season is approaching its stretch run. DAZN has limited penetration of commercial markets in the United States. And the fight itself was perceived as being of limited merit.

    A dreary six-bout undercard augured ill for the main event. But Lopez-Kambosos turned out to be a scintillating fight.

    Lopez came out hard, almost contemptuously, at the opening bell, gunning for a quick knockout. Kambosos made him miss but wasn't making him pay. Then Teofimo got careless and George dumped him on the seat of his pants with a sharp right hand as Lopez was loading up for an overhand right of his own. Teofimo was sufficiently dominant for the rest of the stanza that two of the three judges (and this writer) scored round one 10-9 for Kambosos instead of the traditional 10-8 that normally accompanies a knockdown.

    Thereafter, Lopez was more controlled in his aggression. He kept pressing the action, stalking, throwing punches with bad intentions. But Kambosos is slick and quick with a good chin and sneaky right hand. He set traps again and again and wasn't afraid to trade with Teofimo when the situation called for it. Also, too often, Lopez stood directly in front of Kambosos without moving his head and paid a price when George got off first.

    By round eight, the area around both of Lopez's eyes was bruised and swelling. Kambosos was cut above his own left eye and appeared to be tiring. In round nine, Teofimo landed his best punches to that point in the fight. In round ten, he dropped Kambosos with a chopping right hand behind the ear.

    Now Kambosos was fighting to survive. And he did.

    In round eleven, with Lopez bleeding badly from a gash on his own left eyelid, referee Harvey Dock called a temporary halt to the action while a ringside physician examined the cut. The fighting resumed. Lopez couldn't close the show. It was high drama.

    This writer scored the bout 114-113 for Kambosos. The judges favored the challenger by a 115-111, 115-112, 113-114 margin.

    Lopez went into denial mode after the decision was announced, complaining in an in-the-ring interview, “I won tonight. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t believe it was a close fight at all. At the end of it all, I scored it 10-2.”

    The heavily pro-Lopez crowd (which knew what it had just seen) booed Teofimo for that proclamation.

    Lopez lost because he was certain that there was no way he could lose. And from the day the fight was signed, he conducted himself accordingly.

    So . . . Where does the odyssey of Lopez-Kambosos and Triller fit into the overall business of boxing? Let's start with some basics.

    Once upon a time, the money that flowed into boxing was generated directly by individual fights. In days of old, the primarily source of income was the live gate. Then revenue from television based on advertising sales and pay-per-view buys became the dominant factor. Smaller revenue streams such as income from sponsorships were also involved. But as of late, television networks and other entities have been putting up money that isn't being recouped from income generated directly by fights.

    HBO invested heavily in boxing to build its subscriber base and got good value in return. Boxing fans saw the fights they wanted to see. During the glory years of HBO Sports, being an A-side fighter on HBO didn't just pay well. It gave a fighter credibility. Boxing fans trusted HBO to deliver good fighters in entertaining fights with honest well-informed commentary. The network flourished, in part because of its boxing program.

    PBC was built in large measure on a financial model that relied on a huge influx of cash from investors (who were hoping for a profit but appear to have lost hundreds of millions of dollars).

    Then a group of businessmen from the United Kingdom backed by a Ukrainian-born billionaire announced their intention to take over and revitalize boxing in the United States as part of a plan to generate subscription buys for a streaming network called DAZN. To date, DAZN has further marginalized boxing in America and lightened Len Blavatnik's wallet.

    In sum, money alone doesn't lead to success. The people charged with spending that money have to spend it wisely.

    One year has passed since Triller's November 28, 2020, Tyson-Jones offering. As of this writing, Ryan Kavanaugh hasn't come close to duplicating the success that he enjoyed with his initial foray into the sweet science. In early-2021, everyone's eyes were focused on Triller. What would Triller do next? Now Triller is almost an afterthought in conversations about the business of boxing.

    On April 17, Jake Paul knocked out former MMA fighter Ben Askren in one round on Triller. That event also featured live music and a more traditional boxing match between Regis Prograis and Ivan Redkach. Like other Triller spectacles, it was a showpiece for potential investors and aimed at building Triller's user base. But like its successors, it appears to have been mired in red ink. And Paul left Triller soon afterward in favor of a multi-bout deal with Showtime.

    An August 3 Triller fight card combined with a hip-hop "rap battle" sold out the Hulu Theater and was labeled the first of "twelve monthly shows" that Triller would present at Madison Square Garden. The second show has yet to occur. An August 4 Triller press release stated, "At its peak, the venue had just shy of 8,000 people inside with an additional 4,000 congregating outside." Asked about these numbers, Madison Square Garden director of public relations Larry Torres responded, "It was a sold out show with a capacity of 4,961 and I’d say another 200 credentials. Not sure where the 8K number is from or the 4K outside number."

    The September 11 Triller event headlined by Evander Holyfield vs. Vitor Belfort was an ugly farce. On October 16, in lieu of Lopez-Kambosos, Triller (through DiBella Entertainment) promoted a club-fight card with four bouts on it at Barclays Center. Most recently, on November 27 (the same night as Lopez-Kambosos) Triller unveiled what it labeled a "revolutionary new combat team sport" called Triad Boxing. Next up, on December 2, DiBella Entertainment will promote an all-heavyweight club-fight card on Triller's behalf at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York.

    Most people in boxing no longer consider Triller to be a serious long-term player in the sport. It's good when people put money into boxing. But their business plan has to be sustainable.

    This is Part Two of a two-part series. Part One can be found here.

    Thomas Hauser's email address is thomashauserwriter@gmail.com. His most recent book – Broken Dreams: Another Year Inside Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism. In 2019, he was selected for boxing's highest honor - induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

    Check out more boxing news on video at the Boxing Channel

  • #2
    If someone puts aside all the junk that occurred before the fight actually happened it was a good night for boxing. An underdog won, that is always good for boxing, there was no controversy over the judging except by the man who lost the fight which would be Lopez Jr. The ref stayed out of the fight that is always nice not to see. It shakes things up in the boxing game as far as who fights who and when and under what promoter also good. I enjoyed the fight it is a fight that can be talked about for a while after it is over. Example::: What was going on the Lopez Jr"s corner I am not a great boxing mind but come one man, really ? Like great instructions, good advice way to turn things around. Jezz And who fights who and when ? If words and talk won fights well a lot of us would be looking good. I have thru time begun to stay away from the noise of the fight game, it just distorts things and does nothing for me. I enjoy someone breaking down a fight before and after it is over that is nice. Not to take the enthusiasum out of boxing the fire that comes with picking a fighter ignoring the noise and leaning in on his fight(s) It would not be boxing to me if I didnt do that. The fight highlighted stratedgy, heart, desire, blood caused by getting caught n cut with punches a lot of punches thrown and landed. Oh and two knock downs. Worth the price of admission for me. Worth taking the time to see a fight.......

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