Power. Speed. Recklessness. Cuban featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa (19-0, 15 KOs) has all the combustible elements that make for an exciting fighter. His recognition in America has come gradually, gaining traction after he collected the WBA title. The next challenge standing in his way is an HBO feature bout on March 26 against experienced veteran and former titlist Orlando Solis (40-2-2, 29 KOs). But don’t expect the wild Gamboa you’ve seen in recent bouts. The Cuban titlist vows to showcase two things that have been lacking so far in his professional career: patience and defense.
Gamboa’s last two fights against Orlando Salido and Jonathan Victor Barros have gone to 12 round decisions. That’s a first for Gamboa, who had been used to blowing out opponents with vicious early knockouts. While part of that can be attributed to a step up in class, Gamboa admits it’s also due to early wildness sapping late round energy and focus. The bouts taught him that his physical talents won’t be enough to overwhelm everyone. Trainer Ismael Salas has particularly focused on improving Gamboa’s ring generalship for this fight.
“I’m ready to go the distance, the full 12 rounds. Everything depends on how Solis comes to me in this fight,” Gamboa explained. “We’ve been working a lot on defense. I’m going to be more patient. I’m studying my opponents more. I’m not going to just rush into fights like I used to do.”
The other big goal for Gamboa is to unify the featherweight division, which hasn’t had a consensus champion since Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez left the division in 2005. Gamboa got a taste of how difficult his goal will be earlier today when he was informed that he was being stripped of his newly won IBF title for failing to participate in a mandatory re weigh-in. Since Solis did (weighing in this morning 133.2), he is still eligible to win the vacant title later tonight.
“I would still like to unify. I’m the WBA and IBF champion,” Gamboa maintained. “It’s still a goal of mine even with the politics.”
The Other Young, Undefeated Featherweight
The big cloud that looms over Gamboa’s career is fellow Top Rank stable mate Juan Manuel Lopez. Lopez is also undefeated (30-0, 27 KOs) and a featherweight titlist, having made two defenses of the WBO belt. With both men in their late 20s, fans have been clamoring for well over a year for Top Rank to make the fight.
But Bob Arum has ignored fans and writers, stating the fight does not have enough demand to warrant pitting them against each other. Top Rank has been content to have the two swap opponents and give fans the chance to see how they match up against various styles. [Writer’s Note: Orlando Salido, who Gamboa beat in his last fight, will face Lopez on April 16]. While the hardcore fans are ready, Top Rank President Todd duBoef points to a recent “superfight” that fell flat due to the trigger being pulled too early.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s [Gamboa vs. Lopez] not on the radar. I would say that the business models around the two of them are separate and I think there is time to build the fight into a really big fight that both fighters will benefit from,” duBoef explained on a recent conference call. “We saw a recent fight between Alexander and Bradley that was a little early for it to happen…We have seen them both progress substantially over the past 12 months and their ratings have grown over both premium networks, and have seen interest grow from people in the community.”
For his part, Yuriorkis Gamboa has kept the standard line of letting his promoter decide when the time is right. But he is a competitor, and that fire has caused him to hint to this writer that he’d rather face Lopez sooner than later to finally settle who “the man” is at 126 pounds.
“It’s pretty much up to the promoters; my job is just to defend my title,” Gamboa said. “However, I would like to get this fight with Lopez done. It adds another belt to my repertoire and finally proves I’m the best in the division.”
There Is No Competition
It remains to be seen if Yuriorkis Gamboa is truly committed to improving his defensive and mental lapses in the ring. One area that has remained the same is his confidence. When asked who are the biggest threats and challenges in and around his weight-class, Gamboa snickered before delivering the below quote with a clear grin on his face.
“Nah, there’s no one I see that can give me any type of problems.”
Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Jorge Solis airs March 26 on HBO Boxing After Dark at 9:45 PM.