World Championship Boxing returns to Omaha for the first time in 42 years this weekend when undefeated world champions TERENCE CRAWFORD, the Pride of Omaha, and Cuban sensation YURIORKIS GAMBOA battle for Crawford’s WBO lightweight title at the the CenturyLink Center in Omaha.
This will be the first world championship fight Omaha has hosted since Joe Frazier successfully defended his heavyweight title against Nebraska’s-own Ron Stander on May 25, 1972. It will also be a professional homecoming for Crawford, who has not fought in his home state since 2011.
The boxers and their respective teams took part in a conference call Thursday to talk about Saturday’s fight. below is a transcript of what was said.
CARL MORETTI: First I would like to say there is no truth to the rumor that we banned Bob Arum from the conference call. Bob is home resting comfortably from his knee replacement surgery and I know he’ll be watching the show on Saturday night. We pass along our well wishes. We have four undefeated fighters fighting Saturday night live on HBO [10 p.m. ET/PT] Their combined records are a perfect 91-0 with nearly 70% of those victories coming by way of knockout. Matt Korobov and Jose Uzcategui, world-rated No. 1 and No. 4 by the WBO, respectively, open the HBO telecast up and to the victor should go on to become the mandatory challenger to Peter Quillin. And in the main event, Terence Crawford, the local hometown kid, makes the first defense of his title he won over is Scotland against Ricky Burns, battling one of the greatest amateurs ever and undefeated as a pro and a worthy contender for this title.
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: I am very anxious to get to the fight. I met all the objectives that I needed to in training camp to get our game plan together for this fight on Saturday night.
CAMERON DUNKIN: I am just very excited for Terrence and Brian both. They were out in Omaha and we had a plan and it worked out – we knew we would get here and a lot of people thought we were crazy. We’re here and I’m really excited for them. We look for a great fight – Gamboa is a great fighter and it’s going to be a terrific fight.
BRIAN McINTYRE: I first would like to say thank you to Yuriorkis Gamboa for accepting the fight. I am excited for Terence that he will be able to showcase his skills at this level and he being in his hometown. I am expecting a great fight.
TERENCE CRAWFORD: I’m feeling good and I’m ready. This is what I have been asking for all along and I am just ready for the moment.
When you won the title in Glasgow, was it a plan to defend it in your hometown?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: Yes, that was my goal, to make my first defense in Omaha and I was real pleased with Bob [Arum] keeping his word. Now that we are here I am just happy for everything. I am in my hometown where my fans have never really got to see me perform as a professional and I am ready for the moment
There are always stories of distractions, tickets etc., when a fighter fights in his hometown. Have you experienced that?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: I don’t handle any of that – no tickets or t-shirts, so they can’t call me for nothing. So I am not worried about the distractions.
BRIAN McINTYRE: Well, we already have a game plan planned out – what everybody’s job is going to be as far as the tickets go and the t-shirts. We are keeping Terence secluded so he has no distractions. We talked about that months in advance and now we are just executing the plan.
Do you have knowledge of the last world championship fight that took place in Omaha? [Joe Frazier vs. Ron Stander World Heavyweight Championship, May 25, 1972]
TERENCE CRAWFORD: It was news to me. I never knew about it until a few years back. I know about it now and that’s all that matters.
You looked much bigger than Gamboa at the initial press conference. Do you feel you have a big size advantage? Do you think you will use it?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: Like I tell everybody – you never know. Gamboa is a real skillful fighter and he can make adjustments in the ring as the fight goes on. We just have to wait to see what happens.
Gamboa, you are shorter than most of your opponents, but this seems more so…
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: I answer that question by going back to all of the fights in my professional career. I have been pretty much the smaller fighter in all of my fights, so I don’t think it will have much of an affect. I know how to adjust and I know how to come in with a game plan. It’s just something I have dealt with since I was an amateur – I have always been the smaller guy.
Will the layoff affect you – you fought once in 2012 and once in 2013?
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: Basically no, not as long as I am focused. I have stayed active – maybe not in the ring but I have done what I need to do outside of the ring to be prepared for Saturday night. I have remained active in the gym.
Gamboa has been tweeting some odd things towards you – how do you feel about that?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: I just look at it as being part of boxing. That’s something he feels he wants to do and I don’t take it personally. I am going to go in there, come Saturday, and look at him eye-to-eye and see what he has to say then.
Does Gamboa pose a big challenge to you?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: He is going to be a big challenge. He is a great fighter, like myself. I never got hit by him so I don’t know about his power.
How is he different than Burns?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: Gamboa has a lot more amateur experience, but at the same time they are two different fights. One is tall and one is short and they fight two different styles.
How do you feel about fighting in your hometown?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: My managers, Cameron Dunkin and Brian McIntyre – they came in and got the job done. I am just blessed to be able to fight in Omaha.
Do you feel this is a career-defining fight for you?
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: Like in any career, obviously it is a defining moment and I plan to take full advantage.
Where does Yuri feel that Terence falls talent-wise?
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: Until I fight him on Saturday I really can’t answer that question.
How have you dealt with the demands on your time while fighting in your hometown?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: We’ve been keeping a low profile. When we got back into town from training camp [in Colorado Springs] there wasn’t a big entourage. I actually didn’t let anyone know when I was coming back into town. It’s been kind of cool – just chillin’ and waiting on the fight.
CAMERON DUNKIN: I leave that up to Brian. These guys have lived there their whole lives. Brian and I were concerned about it and we had a long talk about it. He told me he would set everything up and keep all the distractions away. Brian has done a great job, giving everyone jobs so Terence is just focused on the fight and ready to go. He hasn’t had any distractions and Brian has assured me he is ready to go.
Do you get a feeling, by walking around town, the magnitude of the event?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: Yes, I can tell it is big. Big not just for me but for the city of Omaha, Nebraska. It’s not just the boxing community; it is all the people in Omaha. I can also tell that I give the people hope – that they can be what they want to be, if you believe and work hard at it.
How do you characterize yourself? Some say you are a southpaw and some say you are a switch-hitter?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: I don’t look at myself as one-dimensional. I can fight a lot of different ways – I’m very flexible.
What type of challenge does Terence pose to you?
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: It’s part of the sport. Obviously you are going to fight guys that can switch up on you. Some can master either the southpaw or orthodox stance, but it’s something you have to deal with. You have to prepare to face that challenge.
When was the last time you went to fight in someone’s back yard – or as the B-side of the promotion?
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: In Kazakhstan is the last time I can remember, in 2006.
Do you plan to attack Gamboa, since he has been off for a while and he may have a suspect chin?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: I never go into the ring thinking that’s the way he is going to be – I just go in to fight my fight. I don’t go in there looking for the knockout. If it comes it comes and if it doesn’t it doesn’t.
Who made the decision to take this fight against Crawford?
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: I think it is well known that the dialogue and conversation between my team and Top Rank was a fight with Mikey Garcia, but that was not going to happen – there are some legalities between them that wouldn’t let the fight take place, and that’s when Top Rank suggested we make this fight happen and we decided that was a good option as well.
Terence, what do you think you will bring to the table that will give Gamboa problems? He mentioned that he has been fighting guys like you since his young amateur days in Cuba…
TERENCE CRAWFORD: We are going to have to wait until Saturday. The guys he has fought, I am pretty sure don’t have the same style as me. He may have fought guys with similar styles but no one has the same exact style as me. So we will have to see on Saturday.
What one thing that you will bring to the table will get you the victory?
TERENCE CRAWFORD: Just me being myself. Me going in there and fighting my fight.
YURIORKIS GAMBOA: I would say that my boxing IQ I think is very high – that is one thing that a lot of people underestimate in me. My boxing abilities give me an advantage in a lot of fights that I go into. My speed and my reflexes – a combination of a lot of those things I think will lead me to a victory on Saturday.
TERENCE CRAWFORD: I say good luck to Gamboa. I know we are going to be ready and he’ll be ready and to all of the fans out there support Gamboa and me and buy tickets to the fight, support the fight and thanks for having me.
CARL MORETTI: Obviously this is a hot event here in Omaha and we have opened up the remaining seats in the upper level to accommodate the demand. Fans are welcome to watch the live-stream of Thursday’s final press conference at www.toprank.tv [3 p.m. ET / Noon PT] and attend Friday’s Official Weigh-In, which will take place at the CenturyLink Center Omaha, beginning at 3:00 p.m. local time. We are looking forward to it.
June 26, 2014