A still-spotless record, coupled with a title reign and continued acceptance by one of the sport’s dominant TV networks, would seem ideal scenarios for Yuriorkis Gamboa to remain visible in important bouts.
Gamboa, however, has virtually disappeared from the boxing radar since 2011.
The native of Cuba and Miami resident, and one of the sport’s most exciting fighters in the lighter-weight classes, he has fought only twice in the past two calendar years.
Promotional conflicts became the root cause of Gamboa’s lengthy periods of inactivity.
Thanks to his previous ring accomplishments, Gamboa managed to land an important bout in his return Saturday night. Gamboa will face World Boxing Organization lightweight champion Terence Crawford in Omaha, Nebraska.
The bout, which will be televised by HBO, is Gamboa’s first since a unanimous decision victory over Darleys Perez in June 2013.
”This is a great opportunity to demonstrate to the fans that [I am] still here and will continue to provide great performances,” Gamboa said before a recent workout at Mike Tyson’s Gym in Deerfield Beach.
The fight in Crawford’s hometown will match two fighters with identical 23-0 record. Gamboa, 32, is not fazed by the possibility of Crawford winning a decision.
“We have proven that we’ve become champions away from home, whether as an amateur or professional,” Gamboa said.
Despite his inactivity, Gamboa said he didn’t need a preparation bout before taking on Crawford, who will make the first defense of his 135-pound title.
“I do not see it as something that should worry me,” Gamboa said. “The purpose is not only to remain active with as many fights as possible. A big part of your career is training and remaining fit. I have never been inactive when it involves training.”
Gamboa’s separation from fight activity began weeks before the official announcement of his scheduled lightweight title fight against Brandon Rios in April 2012. A dispute with the bout’s promoter, Top Rank, prompted Gamboa to decline the bout.
Now promoted by rapper Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson, Gamboa has fought twice since rejecting the Rios bout, a bout that reportedly would have paid him a seven-figure purse. In addition to his HBO-televised victory over Perez last year,
Gamboa won a decision against Michael Farenas on the undercard of the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012.
“My goal is not only to win this belt,” Gamboa said. “We also want to give further recognition to SMS Promotions [Jackson’s promotional company], which I believe has been slighted.”
Crawford traveled to defending champion Ricky Burns’ native Scotland and wrested his title with a unanimous decision on March 1. Now, Gamboa will have the opportunity of disappointing the anticipated pro-Crawford crowd at the CenturyLink Center.
“This is what I always wanted to do — make my first world-title defense in Omaha, where I grew up,” Crawford said. “Gamboa is fast, and he hits with power. I fought and beat a lot of great fighters as an amateur.”
Blessed with solid boxing skills, Crawford will attempt to use his height and reach advantage to neutralize the pressing Gamboa. But Gamboa’s father and trainer, Carlos, believes his son is ready to embark on another successful title run first established in the 126-pound featherweight class five years ago.
“Yuri is accustomed to fighting outside his home territory; I don’t think this will affect him,” the elder Gamboa said. “Crawford has solid amateur skills and is fast. But Yuri will look to fight at short and medium range. Because of Yuri’s pressure, I don’t anticipate Crawford establishing the pace on his terms.”
Gamboa’s career terms and the path he has taken might have frustrated fight fans and former promoters, but the 2004 Olympic gold medalist still envisions more lucrative ring opportunities.
“I have had a good career,” Gamboa said. “Obviously, not everything is perfect. We are human and make mistakes like anyone would. But I don’t regret anything I have done as a fighter.”
AROUND THE RING
Late Saturday, former four-division world champion Robert Guerrero won a hard-fought unanimous decision over Yoshiro Kamegai in Carson, California.
On the same card, Vasyl Lovachenko won the vacant WBO featherweight title with a majority decision against former U.S. Olympian Gary Russell Jr., and former two-division titleholder Devon Alexander won a unanimous decision over Jesus Soto Karass.