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A Hard Detour: Yuriorkis Gamboa Challenges Terence Crawford for the Lightweight Title

BY Carlos Acevedo | PUBLISHED: Monday, June 16th, 2014
A Hard Detour: Yuriorkis Gamboa Challenges Terence Crawford for the Lightweight Title

Yuriorkis Gamboa tries to recharge a career that has dimmed like the headlights of a Chevy Fleetline abandoned on a side street in Havana when he faces rising Terence Crawford on June 28 for the WKRP lightweight title. To do that, Gamboa, inactive for over a year, will not only have to beat a hungry young pro on the road, but he will also have to show far more zeal in the ring than he has in years. You can find more action in a sleep clinic these days than in a Gamboa fight, and it is hard not to suspect that Gamboa has developed a blasé attitude to mirror his lackluster performances. Add to that any number of extracurricular foibles over the last two years—ranging from canceled fights to lawsuits to domestic violence charges—and you have a career flagging in the dust.

After signing a promotional contract with 50 Cent in 2012, Gamboa seemed to lose his juju altogether. With “Fitty” busy shilling for headphones, CDs, and Starz—as well as becoming a 24/7 GIF for his wayward attempt at a first pitch before a recent Mets game—Gamboa seemed like a mere afterthought to the multimedia tycoon from Queens. And when Gamboa priced himself out of a showdown with Mikey Garcia a few months ago, it looked like “El Ciclone” would fizzle out completely.

But fighters take control of their own destinies between the ropes, and Gamboa will try to kayo stasis at the same time he tries to wreck Crawford. Fighting Crawford, a nifty switch-hitter who has been on HBO several times, is his way of taking a hard detour back to the top. “I am glad to be back in the ring continuing my quest at being recognized as one of the best in the sport,” Gamboa said at a press conference last month. “I know that Crawford is a great talent and a good champion, and I welcome the chance at beating one of the best in the lightweight division. I know all about him. There is one major difference—my speed and my power. I am going right into his hometown because I know I will win. I want that title belt. Certainly by beating him, God willing, I know that bigger and better opportunities will come. It is time to remind fans all around the world that ‘El Ciclon de Guantanamo’ is here for the long run.”

Although Crawford, 26-0 with 16 knockouts, won a lightweight title on enemy turf by outpointing Ricky Burns in Scotland, he remains an unproven commodity. Talented, athletic, and nimble, yes, but in boxing, combat experience is a prerequisite when an edge in talent is slight or, as in this case, perhaps, non-existent. An amateur standout in Cuba before he defected, Gamboa was once a promising action star on the rise. Unfortunately, “promise” is one of the dirtiest words in boxing and Gamboa has squandered his momentum. No longer the reckless, powerpunching dynamo he was at featherweight a few years ago, Gamboa remains a tricky, if dull, operator on the outside. Gamboa will turn 33 in December, and his kind of style, which is predicated on speed, reflexes, and improvisation, is one with a short lifespan—especially when combined with inactivity.

Is Gamboa the fighter who flattened Rogers Mtagwa and Jorge Solis, or is he the fighter who looked like a cha-cha-cha expert in two outings against middling opposition since 2012? When the bell rings at the CenturyLink Center, Crawford will be the only person qualified to answer that question. Even so, Gamboa will get where he is going, wherever that is, one way or another, in a city nearly 2,000 miles away from where he first began to dream.

Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.



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