George Kambosos Jr vs Devin Haney, rugby league, Gymea Gorillas, Cronulla Sharks, NRL

When George Kambosos Jr. was knocked down by Teofimo Lopez last November, former Roosters forward Steve Hardy had no doubts he’d get back up.

Why?

Because that’s exactly what ‘Georgey’ did on the footy field — and Hardy would know, because he coached him.

Before Kamosos Jr. set his sights on becoming a champion boxer, he was a front-rower for the Gymea Gorillas in the Sutherland Shire.

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Hardy coached Kambosos Jr. in Under 11s and Under 12s. The following year he was selected in the Sharks’ junior development squad — but chose to go down the boxing path instead.

“He was probably the same weight he was now,” Hardy joked to foxsports.com.au.

Kambosos Jr has told the story before. He was bullied at school because of his weight so turned to boxing to help shed the kilos… only to fall in love with the sport.

The 28-year-old will take on Devin Haney for the undisputed lightweight championship of the world at Marvel Stadium, Melbourne on Sunday.

Hardy will be there cheering on the “great kid” he once picked for the coach’s award.

“George was a great kid and the other players loved him,” Hardy recalled.

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“I think both years, if not both, then definitely one year he got the coach’s award because he was just such a dedicated and lovely kid.

“He just did his best in every game.

“He played front row, right in the middle, right where he loved to be.

“Every tackle and every run he was just so determined.”

Asked if Kambosos Jr. ever shied away from the tough stuff on the field Hardy said: “Oh God no. He’d get belted, he’d get back up and go again… that’s what we loved about him.

“Even though he was a fair size at that age there were kids still bigger than him but he didn’t worry about it,” he added.

George Kambosos Jr with his Gymea Gorillas teammates. Pictured sitting third from right in bottom row. Steve Hardy is on the left in the top row.Source: Supplied

Hardy and Kambosos Jr. soon went their separate ways.

Hardy, who played 124 first grade games for the Sharks and Roosters during the 80s and 90s, hung up the clipboard after losing back-to-back grand finals as a coach.

“I retired hurt,” he said.

Meanwhile, Kambosos Jr. put his time and energy into boxing.

But they both kept in touch through Kambosos Jr’s dad, Jim.

“I see George a couple of times a year…usually in Summer he’s running along the Esplanade in Cronulla,” Hardy said.

“I bump into Jimmy, his old man, more. He’s a Roosters fanatic.

“We exchanged texts this week. We’d love to catch up (after the fight) but given there’s going to be such a big crowd there I don’t know if we’ll be able to.”

Hardy has watched Kambosos Jr’s rise from the very beginning and that November night in the Hulu Theater, Madison Square Garden is still fresh in his mind.

“We’ve watched him from the beginning. It’s a hard road and you’ve got to have a bit of luck along the way,” he said.

Watch one of the biggest boxing fights ever in Australia: George Kambosos Jr. vs Devin Haney, Sun 5 June with Main Event on Kayo Sports. No Kayo subscription needed to order. ORDER NOW >

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“What he did in America with Lopez, Jesus… that was a good example of how tough he is. When he got knocked down, he then got back up and won the last two rounds.

“He’s come a long way… he’s finally got what he deserves. People got more publicity than him, but maybe weren’t as good fighters as him — but he’s getting it now which is great.”

Hardy even remembers the days when an unknown Kambosos Jr. was going above and beyond just to get eyeballs on his fights.

“I still remember him on a Sonny Bill (Williams) undercard. He was selling his own tickets for that fight, I remember going round to Jimmy’s place, we got them off Jimmy,” he said.

“All that stuff you see about him buying his own tickets and selling them — he did that.”

Which reminds him…

“We haven’t got our tickets for Sunday yet… knowing Jimmy he’s probably sold them twice,” Hardy joked.

Speaking of Jim, he’s as proud as they come.

“He’s just so devoted to Georgey,” Hardy said.

“What you see with Jimmy, is how he is. He’s big, he’s loud and a good guy always with a smile on his face.”

Hardy has already sent his good luck message to the Kambosos’. There’s no words of wisdom from this old coach though because… “Footy’s tough, but jeez boxing… that’s something else.”

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