Traveling Hands: Yuriorkis Gamboa Fails to Dethrone Terence Crawford

BY Carlos Acevedo | PUBLISHED: Monday, June 30th, 2014
Traveling Hands: Yuriorkis Gamboa Fails to Dethrone Terence Crawford

Yuriorkis Gamboa, “El Ciclon de Guantánamo,” trekked all the way to Nebraska in an attempt to resuscitate his ebbing career on Saturday night, but he may have wound up burying his untapped potential instead when defending UNESCO lightweight champion Terence Crawford tore through him like a twister to score an explosive TKO before a crowd of 10, 943 at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha. Gamboa, who fought valiantly in taking his first loss as a professional, hit the canvas four times before referee Gino Rodriguez halted the fight with only a few seconds remaining in the ninth round.

After two fallow years under the promotional guidance of 50 Cent, a slumping Gamboa tried to recoup the momentum he had lost since 2012 with a risky gambit: he took on a young, talented boxer-puncher on the road after a significant layoff. In addition, Crawford, who has fought as a junior welterweight in the past, had a significant size advantage over Gamboa. When the two men met at ring center before the opening bell, the disparity between them was striking. Gamboa looked like a pygmy beside Crawford, who entered the bout, unofficially, at 152 pounds. Before the switch-hitting Crawford could assert his physical advantages, however, Gamboa opened fast and swept the first four rounds by jumping in—with little regard for defense—behind looping rights and left hooks. Eventually, as the rounds went by, Crawford would time many of his ragtag rushes perfectly.

Little by little, Gamboa began to slow down and Crawford, 26, revved his offense into high gear, raking Gamboa with jabs, hooks, and straight lefts. When Crawford committed himself to fighting in a southpaw stance—and digging to the body—Gamboa was looking at a two-lane blacktop to nowhere.

For the most part, Gamboa did not have the firepower to hurt Crawford, and he could not have made it easier for Crawford to break through with one hard counter after another once he began to decelerate. At featherweight, Gamboa could get away with his reckless hands-down, chin-up approach—his supersonic speed guaranteed a certain amount of leeway—but at 135 pounds he looked sluggish and disorderly. His chin, as undependable as something produced by General Motors, gave way in the fifth round when a right hook from Crawford connected flush and sent Gamboa reeling. A few cuffing follow-up punches later and Gamboa was down on the canvas, taking the mandatory eight-count for the umpteenth time in his career. A wobbly Gamboa, now sporting puffiness below his left eye, made it to the end of the round, but he was staggered once more before the bell rang.

Although Gamboa, originally from Guantanamo Bay but now fighting out of Miami, Florida, rebounded a bit in the sixth, he needed some serious Santeria to make it through the seventh and eighth rounds, much less turn the fight around. When Gamboa forced a wild exchange in a neutral corner in the eighth, Crawford, Omaha, Nebraska, drove him to his knees with a straight right from the orthodox stance. Gamboa, 32, was now getting pasted from all points on the compass. But his all-or-nothing strategy never flagged—even as Crawford threatened to flatten him like a soggy Dixie Cup.

Incredibly, it looked like Gamboa would get some of the black magic he needed in the ninth round when he rocked Crawford with a sharp right. But a weary Gamboa has apparently lost his finishing touch as well, and he unsuccessfully chased Crawford around the ring like windblown tumbleweed. Crawford, now 24-0 with 16 knockouts, also clinched and clutched until he cleared his head, and when he did, he rallied to floor Gamboa again with a pair of thunderous lefts. Showing the kind of moxie he seemed to lack over the last few years, Gamboa rose and declared himself dead game by initiating a brief shootout that culminated with Crawford landing a pinpoint right uppercut that bounced Gamboa off the canvas. Referee Gino Rodriguez ended the slaughter without issuing a count, and the euphoric crowd exploded in unison. In his first fight in his hometown, Crawford, with limitless potential, had raised the kind of ruckus that usually converts newcomers to boxing into instant fanatics.

As for Gamboa, he has guaranteed himself at least one more big payday based on his brave, if foolhardy, performance. But what remains for him is probably a limited future of diminished expectations. He has not looked sharp in years, he took serious punishment from Crawford, and he will be 33 years old in December. To make matters worse, Gamboa, whose record falls to 23-1 with 16 knockouts, looks like he may be caught between divisions. He is certainly no lightweight. And he proved that on Saturday night against Crawford—and against the traveling hands of time—in more ways than one.

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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