Gamboa faces Rojas tonight
Everything about Yuriorkis Gamboa is quick. Quick hands. Quick feet. Quick knockouts. Quick rise to contender status.
Gamboa, the 2004 Olympic gold medalist from Cuba, has fought only 14 times but is ranked No. 3 by the WBA and will face No. 2 Jose Rojas tonight for the interim featherweight title on Showtime from Primm, Nevada.
The defector isn’t ranked in the Top 15 by any of the other sanctioning bodies, which means the Panama-based WBA has decided on its own to move him along quickly. Still, he has made quite an impression since turning pro only two years ago.
He has dazzled the boxing world with his explosiveness, power and charisma in the ring. He’s 14-0, with 12 knockouts – including six in the first round.
“He’s a great fighter,” said Luis De Cubas, Gamboa’s manager. “He had over 400 amateur bouts. All he needed as a pro was to get rounds in to get in condition. He’s ready to fight anybody.”
The knock on Gamboa at the moment is his defense. He’s been down three times, which leaves the jury out on how far he can go in boxing. Some experts think more highly of another Cuban prospect, Erislandi Lara.
He got up from each knockout to win, which is a good sign. The fact he’s not difficult to hit – in part because he tends to keep his hands low – is a bad sign. He admits it.
“My defense is something I know I have to correct as I advance in my career,” Gamboa said. “Little by little I’m trying to perfect my craft and that’s why I train hard in the gym. It is something I’m going to get corrected.”
De Cubas doesn’t believe the perception of Gamboa is fair.
“Felix Trinidad went down,” he said. “A lot of good fighters have gone down. The thing is getting up. In the (Marcos) Ramirez fight (last year) he went down in the first round and then knocked out Ramirez in the second round.
“He’s at the point right now where everything is coming together.
Rojas (25-6-1, 17 KOs) comes in with some credentials but appears to be declining, which raises the question of whether he deserves this fight.
The good news is that the Venezuelan has lost only once since 2002 and that was to WBA titleholder Chris John, one of the best boxers in the world. He also once drew with John in Indonesia, John’s home country.
The bad news is that he’s 37 and has fought only once in two years, a knockout of unknown Rafael Castillo in March of last year. John dominated him in their rematch in 2007.
In another televised bout, Selcuk Aydin (17-0, 14 KOs) of Turkey makes his “ShoBox” and U.S. debuts against southpaw Said Ouali (25-2, 17 KOs), a native of Morocco who now lives in Las Vegas, in a 12-round welterweight fight.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]