By Chris Spyrou and Takis Triadafillou
It’s 4.37 pm and the last crew for the day are packing their cameras and lights whilst the World Lightweight Boxing Champion unclips the tiny microphone pinned to the centre of his collar.
In one movement, he hands back their microphone packs, takes ours in his grip and clips it to the right-hand side of his shirt. Seated ringside in his brand new Sydney gym and ready for his final interview of the day is George Kambosos Jr – a son, dreamer, spartan and father.
The calm and emptiness that surrounds us as George begins answering our first question is broken only for a moment by The Greek Herald’s favourite dadager- Jim Kambosos.
Although Jim is on the other side of the gym, he can be heard clear as day reciting his tales of growing up in Marrickville in the 1980s.
“Jimbo, I can’t be doing an interview and your blah blah blabbing,” George says. With a grin and shoulders shrugged, Jim delivers the most exemplary excuse: “I’m sorry, I’m Greek!” as he escorts himself outside.
Laughing, George assumes his well-suited role of director, pointing to our camera and saying “sorry, let’s do that again.”
In four days’ time, the undefeated boxer will be stepping into Marvel Stadium in Melbourne to 50,000 live spectators as he fights in the biggest sporting event in Australian history.
June 5 presents an unprecedented opportunity for George to be crowned the first-ever undisputed champion of the lightweight division.
“It’s an incredible story,” the Sydney-sider says.
“To come from being overweight, being bullied, being told your nothing and you’ll never do anything in life to proving everyone wrong. To get to the top, to becoming a world champion – it’s an amazing feeling.”
When we ask George what school life looked like for him, he says: “It got to a point where you don’t even want to go to school anymore because you’ve been bullied. You’re not going there for fun, you’re not there to learn because you know people are going to pick on you.”
The turning point was when his father walked him into his first boxing gym.
“My life changed when I fell into boxing, the weight fell off, my confidence grew and I found a dream,” the Greek Australian says.
“I found something that I was inspired by and had a passion for and I knew whatever it took – I’d get to the top”.
After five years spent on the road and causing international upsets, most notably his 2021 defeat of Teófimo López at Maddison Square Garden, George says defending his titles on home soil is a humbling experience.
“It’s a beautiful thing to have the support of Australia and the support of the Victorian Government in Australia’s biggest fight ever,” he says.
“It means the world to me … I’m very thankful and I’m going to embrace it all on June 5th.”
The Spartan Warrior
It would be irresponsible if we, The Greek Herald, sat down with George and didn’t ask him about the Spartan helmet which has become synonymous with his branding.
“It started with me from my pro debut and it’s just come along for the ride,” he says.
However, his Spartan roots filter through to his war mentality every time he steps into the ring.
“That’s my Spartan heritage of believing in something no matter what. You’ll give everything you have, you’ll put it all on the line, all or nothing,” he says.
“The Spartans will say ‘either with your shield or on it’. That’s how I go to battle, I’m with my shield or on it … if that means ultimately paying the price, that’s the kind of fighter I am.”
Though proud of his connections to the ancient warriors, he places greater emphasis on his Greek heritage more generally.
“Having a Greek background means the world. Having the heart of a Greek, the passion of a Greek – you can’t explain it unless you are Greek,” George explains.
“We are just people that love to do well and support our own. No matter what, we always get behind each other.”
It’s an unexplainable heart and passion he says originates from the example set by his grandparents.
“They came here with nothing for a better life. But they were always so proud of their heritage, they kept their values and their love of Greece,” he says.
“Raising both flags on the world stage is a true honour and it’s very humbling to be in this position.”
As we come to the end of our interview, the husband and father-of-three makes himself known.
“I have three young kids of my own, so I have to be the right role model for them to show them that no matter what when you work hard at something you can achieve it,” he says.
It’s a responsibility that he carries with him outside of being a father, a responsibility he describes as “extremely important”.
“Being able to inspire the youth, being able to inspire young kids that might be bullied, young Greek kids, young Australian kids, it’s incredible. To be a role model, I take that with everything I have,” George concludes.