By Jason Pribila at Ringside in Atlantic City: Four months ago Yuriorkis Gamboa left Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City with two featherweight titles over his shoulders. Alphabet insanity found a way to send one of the most exciting fighters in the world back to the ring without any trinkets. Belts be damned, the crowd in Atlantic City and the audience on HBO realized that Gamboa was on the verge of being one of the richest little men in the sport.
Daniel Ponce De Leon returned to the scene of a crime that saw him knocked off the HBO screen quicker than Harvey Keitel in the final scene of Reservoir Dogs. On that June evening De Leon, the puncher, stepped in with the untested Juan Manuel Lopez. The hunted become the hunted early, and DeLeon was knocked out in the opening round.
Since that defeat the heavy handed De Leon found a way to reinvent himself. He scored a chilling knockout against Antonio Escalante and fought very well against the slick Adrian Broner. On the strength of that “loss” De Leon was rewarded with a shot against Gamboa.
On this night, however, De Leon felt the difference between a guy that uses his speed to harm and not survive.
By round three the normally offensive minded De Leon resigned himself to the fact that his only chance would be to catch the Cuban missile as he seeked to destroy. Gamboa obliged by walking him to the ropes and trying to put him through them when he got there.
Gamboa showed flashes, but his defensive discipline or perhaps his respect for De Leon’s power caused him to be stingy at times with his punching output. However, the more desperate De Leon became, the wider his punches seemed to be delivered. Gamboa took advantage and remained content to make each counter punch count.
With the fight in hand Gamboa again charged forward to a stationary De Leon when their heads clashed leading to a stoppage in the action. The location of the cut led to the referee to stop the bout at 1:24 of round eight.
The official scores were read at that time, and to no surprise they were all in favor of Gamboa: 80-72, 80-72, and 79-73.
Gamboa has the look of a fighter that has outgrown the featherweight division. He needed to strip down to make the contracted weight of 127 lbs, (one lb. over the division limit) and without a belt to defend he seems likely to move up in weight.
He is the latest to call out pound for pound king Manny Pacquiao, but is more likely to first move to junior lightweight or lightweight.The only thing that will determine if Gamboa is a great or an all-time great will be if his speed and power follow him up the scale.
Even though the evening ended with an unsatisfactory result, the fact that this was the first contest that featured a fighter from Top Rank Inc. against a man from Golden Boy Promotions since Sugar Shane Mosley fought Antonio Margarito in January of 2009 should leave fight fans feeling optimistic.
Jason Pribila is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He could be reached for questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @pribsboxing.
September 10, 2011