Triller is making plans to stage the rescheduled Teofimo Lopez-George Kambosos undisputed lightweight championship fight Oct. 17 at Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Australia, hometown of the title challenger, Triller co-founder Ryan Kavanaugh told ESPN on Friday.
But Lopez's manager, David McWater, told ESPN that they aren't willing to fight in Australia, and aren't on board with the fight being pushed to October from the announced rescheduled date of Aug. 14.
Kavanaugh's plan is to hold the fight on that Sunday afternoon in Australia at the 38,000-capacity venue, allowing for a primetime Triller Fight Club pay-per-view on Saturday in the U.S.
"That's our major objection: to ask a guy to fly international and cut weight for 14 days while in quarantine. It's not right," McWater said, referring to Australia's 14-day quarantine mandate. "One guy is at a distinct disadvantage.
"I don't think we'll have to give up the title. I think if they want to move [the fight] that far back the IBF will rule. But fine, if we have to, we'll give up the title and he can fight [next-available contender] Isaac Cruz somewhere for $70,000 [for the vacant title]. One of these guys is the undisputed lightweight champion of the world. The other is a mandatory contender. I don't know when they became equals."
IBF president Daryl Peoples didn't return a phone call and text message seeking comment. If Lopez did relinquish the title, a vacant title fight between Kambosos and Mexico's Isaac Cruz would be ordered by the IBF.
Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) was set to defend his four 135-pound titles against Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs) on June 19 in Miami. Four days before the fight, it was revealed Lopez tested positive for COVID-19, postponing the bout. He tested negative in the final days of June, McWater said.
Triller announced a rescheduled date of Aug. 14, but Lopez, who has asthma, was experiencing symptoms for weeks. The organization won the rights to the fight at an IBF auction in February with a bid of $6.018 million.
The fight postponement cost Triller nearly $5 million, sources told ESPN, money that included travel expenses and other logistical and marketing costs that can't be recouped since event insurance isn't protected against COVID.
Hoping to recoup the money, Triller started eyeing Australia, a country where boxing events routinely draw sizable crowds. Kambosos is an attraction in Sydney, where he was born and still resides; his first 13 fights were staged in Australia.
But his last six fights all took place outside his homeland, bouts that saw him rise to the world-class level.
"George Kambosos and his wife couldn't have been more professional and understanding through what was obviously a very difficult time," Kavanaugh said. "They had seen Lopez's social media and expressed concern about his somewhat laissez-faire social activities. Unfortunately, they were right.
"No matter who is the 'known' fighter, fair is fair. Lopez needs to go to Australia and should be bending over backwards to make this right for Kambosos, for us and for all others who lost out due to their irresponsibility. We have set the fight for October in Australia, which will be an even bigger draw. We have the stadium set and the PPV will be Saturday primetime. We truly hope Lopez and his camp do the right thing."
When Lopez tested positive, Kambosos was irate. After all, he spent 15 weeks training in South Florida away from his pregnant wife and two children, aged 1 and 3. His wife traveled from Sydney to Miami ahead of the fight, only to have to fly back with her husband days later.
Per government guidelines, they quarantined for 14 days at a hotel before heading home.
"When there's a purse bid, the people who win the purse bid have the right to do the event basically wherever they choose," said Kambosos' promoter, Lou DiBella. "Triller spent a tremendous amount of money that they can't get back because Teofimo got COVID.
"On one hand I'm empathetic that Teofimo got COVID, but going to purse bid, this is what we bargained for. If he wants to vacate the IBF belt, that's Teofimo's and Dave's prerogative. Obviously it will cost a lot of people a lot of money. He can't be compelled to fight for the belt if he wants to give it up."
Lopez, 23, is promoted by Top Rank and fights exclusively on ESPN, but a disagreement with his promoter over money following his October victory over Vasiliy Lomachenko led to the Kambosos bout heading to a purse bid.
Triller won the auction, with Eddie Hearn's Matchroom Sport coming in second with $3.506 million and Top Rank third at $2.315 million. Lopez is set to earn a career-high $3.912 million; he made $1.35 million for the Lomachenko bout. Kambosos, 28, is due to make $2.106, also a career-best payday.
Lopez, who resides in Las Vegas, and Top Rank engaged in a public sparring session in the weeks that followed. However, the acrimony ended when the sides signed a restructured contract days before the scheduled bout with Kambosos that raised his title-defense minimums from the previous purse of $1.25 million. The amended deal also includes opportunities to fight on ESPN+ pay-per-view.
Top Rank hoped to stage a rematch between Lopez and Lomachenko later this year, two boxers featured on ESPN's pound-for-pound top-10 list. With Lopez's title defense vs. Kambosos in limbo, plans were scrapped.
If Lopez vacates the title, the encore encounter with Lomachenko could ostensibly be revisited for 2021.
"He is 100 percent ready to fight on Aug. 14 just like their announcement," McWater said. "They announced he was fighting Aug. 14 and we'll be ready for that."