Australian boxer George Kambosos, who stunned the boxing world on the weekend to become unified world lightweight champion, said on Monday any fighter who wants to come after his belts will have to make a trip Down Under.
With his split-decision victory over previously undefeated American Teofimo Lopez on Saturday at Madison Square Garden, Kambosos feels he has finally earned the right to call the shots when it comes to his future in the ring.
"I've had to go into the lion's den time and time again," Kambosos told Reuters. "I've beaten two former world champions and an undisputed champion back-to-back-to-back in their hometowns, against all odds in enemy territory."
"So it's deserving, it's only fitting that I take my defense of all my beautiful belts back home to Australia."
The 28-year-old Kambosos, all smiles despite showing some of the battle scares from his bout with Lopez, said he expects his next fight to be in March or April and in front of 80,000 people at a stadium in Sydney or Melbourne.
Kambosos, who is promoted by DiBella Entertainment, said the desire to return home for his next fight is also about helping to give up-and-coming Australian boxers opportunities that he never had as he made his way through the ranks.
"It's an exciting time, not only for myself but for the Australian public and the Australian people," said Kambosos.
"To bring a mega-fight there it creates opportunities for younger fighters ... and to be a part of these cards and to be on the undercard gives them exposure."
Kambosos, an aggressive but not overly powerful fighter, was originally scheduled to fight Lopez in June but had to endure a series of postponements, including one because his New York-born opponent contracted COVID-19.
Through it all, Kambosos said he never lost focus and even trained on that bittersweet September day when the birth of his child was followed by the death of his grandfather.
"I get that tunnel vision. I stay focused, I kept continuing perfecting my craft and nothing was going to break me," said Kambosos. "I trained that night. I was embedded in this fight and nothing was going to stop me."
Kambosos is excited to return to Australia with his IBF, WBA and WBO lightweight titles but had a message for anyone who may be interested in making the trek there to challenge him.
"I'm even hungrier now. Now I have the jewels, now I have everything," said Kambosos. "Trying to take them off me now when I worked so hard to get them, it ain't going to happen. I'm too focused."
(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto; Editing by Stephen Coates)