IBF mandates Teofimo Lopez, George Kambosos be vaccinated against COVID-19 ahead of title fight

The IBF has mandated that Teofimo Lopez and George Kambosos must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Sept. 7 to proceed with their Oct. 5 fight in New York for the undisputed lightweight championship, Triller's Ryan Kavanaugh told ESPN on Thursday.

Both Lopez (16-0, 12 KOs) and Kambosos (19-0, 10 KOs) have agreed to the stipulation and will push forward with the Triller Fight Club pay-per-view at Hulu Theater at MSG, a rare Tuesday night of championship boxing.

The IBF ruling is the latest in a long, drawn-out saga to reschedule the 135-pound title fight. Lopez, ESPN's No. 6 pound-for-pound boxer, tested positive for COVID-19 days before his planned June 19 fight with Kambosos in Miami.

The 28-year-old Kambosos was irate and accused Lopez of being irresponsible. Neither fighter was vaccinated at the time. Lopez, 24, was symptomatic before finally testing negative on June 26.

"We signed a contract saying he'll be vaccinated," Lopez's manager, David McWater, told ESPN. "The IBF ruled he has to have a shot by the 7th. He's the IBF champ, he's going to comply."

Triller submitted contracts for the fight on Monday, ahead of Tuesday's IBF deadline for the organization to maintain its rights to the bout. It won the rights at a February purse bid with $6.018 million. Triller sought to stage the fight in Kambosos' hometown of Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 17, but a legal battle led to an IBF ruling that the bout can't be held in a location that requires quarantine.

Kavanaugh then explored the possibility of staging the fight in the Middle East before finally settling on a more natural location, New York, where Lopez used to reside and at a venue he's competed in many times.

"[Lopez] ended up harming at least 15 other performers, artists and fighters and the ripple effect of his irresponsible decisions are still being felt today," Kavanaugh said. "It's the perfect example of how not getting vaccinated can have a domino effect far and wide."

Lopez is far from the only unvaccinated boxer to contract COVID-19 ahead of his fight. Heavyweight champion Tyson Fury was half-vaccinated when he tested positive weeks before his scheduled trilogy fight with Deontay Wilder. That third encounter is now set for Oct. 9, just five days after Lopez and Kambosos battle.

And last week, former super middleweight champion David Benavidez tested positive for COVID-19, postponing his Aug. 28 fight vs. Jose Uzcategui to Nov. 13.

It's unclear if the IBF's vaccine ruling will lead to other such mandates from sanctioning bodies and commissions.

Kambosos, ESPN's No. 9 lightweight, is set to earn a career-high $2.106 million. Lopez will rake in $3.912 million, also a career best.