When one fighter exerts an emphatic dominance over another, the rematch is often more of the same.
When Salvador Sanchez overwhelmed Danny “Little Red” Lopez in February 1980, he carbon-copied the feat four months later. When Dwight (Braxton) Muhammad Qawi bludgeoned Matthew Saad Muhammad in December 1981, he repeated the thrashing in August 1982. And when Vernon Forrest blanked Shane Mosley in January 2002, he pretty much did it again that July.
Given the meager success George Kambosos managed in losing a decision to Devin Haney in June, the odds seem likely that the Australian slugger will mimic the losing efforts of Little Red, Saad, and “Sugar Shane” when he takes on the talented Bay Area native in a rematch that is expected to be more repeat than revenge (10:30 p.m. ET ringwalk, Saturday, ESPN/ESPN Deportes/ESPN Plus).
Like last time, this one will again be fought on Kambosos' home turf of Melbourne, Australia. But Haney was so flawless that location – even one with thousands of Kambosos backers – was irrelevant. Kambosos had no answer for Haney's snapping left jab, his speed, his fluid, effortless combinations. He was stuck in mud, swinging at the Australian air, unable to connect on anything resembling meaningful. It was rinse and repeat – as if someone recorded round one and replayed it 11 times. The disappointed crowd rivaled the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson throng in terms of stony silence.
But Kambosos exercised a rematch clause in the original contract, and so he'll give it another go. Most experts acknowledge that Sydney's 29-year-old Kambosos, 20-1 (10 knockouts), has to fight a completely different fight – perhaps a perfect fight – to even have a chance. And that is a direct result of the consistent improvement of the 23-year-old Haney, 28-0 (15 KO's), who turned pro at 17 and has blossomed into one of the sport's premier talents.
“The Dream's” combination of skill and smarts, and physical prowess has drawn comparisons to the best stylists of all-time – from Pernell Whitaker to Floyd Mayweather. Kambosos' task, therefore, is daunting – attempting to get inside Haney's long jab to create punching opportunities that didn't exist four months ago. From there, he'll have to pound away and do damage.
The blueprint for “Ferocious” Kambosos' success would be former champ Jorge Linares, who did indeed apply pressure, get inside and hurt Haney midway through their May 2021 fight. The Australian is certainly capable – you need look no further than his outbrawling fellow slugger Teofimo Lopez last November as evidence of his quality. But Haney, as he proved in June, is a completely different assignment than a willing slugger like Lopez. Styles-wise, his stick-and-move routine is a nightmare for the more predictable Kambosos. Just as Mayweather was for Manny Pacquiao and Whitaker was for Julio Cesar Chavez. Simply, he appeared to be a class above the gutsy Aussie.
But there are exceptions to everything, and history has shown that the tables can be turned. The dominated have become the dominant.
In 1990, Tony Lopez was officially 1-1 vs. John-John Molina, but most fans looked at the series as 2-0 for Molina. The Puerto Rican boxer-puncher appeared to get shafted in a hometown decision in 1988, then destroyed Lopez in the rematch. A third fight seemed almost unnecessary. But “The Tiger” – one of the bravest performers of the 1990s – willed his way to a late knockdown that propelled him to an upset decision win over Molina in the riveting rubber match.
And a couple of years later, Evander Holyfield – who'd been dropped and hammered by the bigger, stronger, younger Riddick Bowe in 1992 – figured to be easy prey for the new champ in the '93 rematch. But the “Real Deal” turned up a couple of pounds (of muscle) heavier and (with the help of “Fan Man”) scored a memorable upset win over Bowe.
It remains tough to imagine Haney-Kambosos 2 going the way of Lopez-Molina 3 or Holyfield-Bowe 2. Haney has established a physical and mental dominance that will be hard for Kambosos Jr. to overcome. Even with an entire country behind him. Haney is said to be punching harder in training, and his focus is reportedly squarely on the task at hand. No thinking of potential future opponents like Gervonta Davis, Ryan Garcia, or Teofimo Lopez. It's all about Kambosos.
Which makes the Australian's chances even more formidable.
Matthew Aguilar may be reached at [email protected].