When speaking of celebrated Cuban prizefighters, some of the names that readily come to mind are Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles, “Kid’ Chocolate, “Kid” Gavilan, Luis Manuel “El Feo” Rodriguez, Ultiminio “Sugar” Ramos and Joel Casamayor. It would be premature to suggest that Yuriorkis Gamboa is in that class – yet – but “The Cyclone” has certainly created a commotion and one would be hard-pressed to find anybody who doesn’t think the Miami-based Cuban has the potential to become a definite world champion and perhaps an all-time great. The 2004 Olympic Games gold medalist, 2009 Prospect of the Year and WBA No. 3-ranked contender, Gamboa (14-0, 12 KOs) will face second-ranked Jose “Cheo” Rojas (25-6-1, 17 KOs) of Caracas, Venezuela, for the interim WBA featherweight title this Friday on ShoBox: The New Generation on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the west coast).
In the co-feature at Buffalo Bills Casino at Primm, Nev., undefeated Selcuk Aydin (17-0, 14 KOs) of Turkey makes his ShoBox and United Sates debuts against hard-punching southpaw Said Ouali (25-2, 17 KOs), a native of Morocco who now lives in Las Vegas, in a 12-round battle of top 10 welterweights.
Tickets for an event presented by Hamburg, Germany-based Arena Boxing start at $20 and can be purchased at www.primmvalleyresorts.com. Doors open for the live event open at 6 p.m. PT.
“I want to fight for a world championship,” Gamboa said. “I want to be the best in the world. My objective is to win at 126 pounds and in about two years I would like to move up to 130 and then 135.”’
The confident, offensive-minded, hard-hitting Gamboa, who defected to the United States after a competition with Venezuela’s national team in late 2006, has been on the fast track to the big time since he turned pro 24 months ago (April 2007). This will be his fourth start at Buffalo Bills Casino.
Gamboa’s meteoric rise has drawn the attention of many due to a lethal combination of dazzling speed and one-punch power in both hands, a vulnerable chin and a sometimes-flawed defense, which can lead to knockdowns (he’s been decked three times) but makes for edge-of-your-seat fun and much-see TV.
Simply put, when Gamboa is in high gear and letting the combos fly, he is a spectacular fighter – his defensive deficiencies notwithstanding. Below are remarks from a few experts about the hyper-aggressive, flashy, five-foot-five, 27-year-old who is known for a powerful mixture of lightning-fast flurries and stop-you-in-your-tracks knockout punches:
ShoBox blow-by-blow announcer Nick Charles said: “To me, watching Gamboa for the first time was like getting hit by a tidal wave. There is no doubt he’s got flash, but what about that chin? The combination of his unmistakable skills and obvious weakness makes him a fighter I don’t want to miss in action.”
Said Steve Farhood, ShoBox analyst and boxing historian: “Gamboa’s speed, power and style generate as much excitement as any fresh face that has come along in recent memory. The fact that he’s an Olympic gold medalist adds quality and accomplishment to the flash. I was in Florida for his first fight in the States, and he blew me away. He has a certain presence in the ring, and the fact that he’s been dropped a couple of times only adds to the urgency to watch him every time he fights.”
Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports said: “I think Gamboa is one of best in fighters in the world who doesn’t have a title. He has no peers offensively and if he ever tightens his defense, he could become a superstar.”
Offered Dan Rafael of ESPN.com: “I like Gamboa and think he is very exciting. Whether he wins, or eventually loses, he’s always exciting to watch and, because of his style, he is always in a good fight, which is what I want to see when I tune in to ShoBox. Rojas is a pretty reasonable step up for Gamboa.’
Gamboa has maintained a high level of activity since going pro after bringing home flyweight gold to Cuba. The ambitious prospect-turned-contender has already fought twice in ’09 after competing five times in ’08 and on six occasions in ’07.
A mature, highly skilled boxer-puncher, the undefeated dynamo made more like a “Hurricane” than a “Cyclone” in his last outing, blowing away the vastly more experienced, former world title challenger, Colombian southpaw, Walter Estrada, in only 35 seconds, on Feb. 20, 2009, at Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
“It didn’t go exactly how I wanted,” said Gamboa, who has stormed through the ratings at a startling speed and is ranked by the four major organizations. “I was hoping to get some work in, but I knocked Estrada out and that’s not a bad thing. I never look for a knockout.
“It seems with my style that the knockouts just happen. Thankfully they have happened often.”
The crowd-pleasing, always-attacking Gamboa rebounded from a knockdown to score a 10th-round TKO over Roger Gonzalez in his outing before last on Jan. 9, 2009, at Buffalo Bills Casino. The match was halted at 2:12.
“My defense (he tends to hold his hands low) is something I know I have to correct as I advance in my career,” said Gamboa, who’s cocky inside the ring but a respectful gentleman outside. “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.”
On July 18, 2008, at Buffalo Bills Casino, Gamboa looked devastating as he annihilated Al Seeger in the first round to capture the North American Boxing Organization (NABO) featherweight belt.
None of Gamboa’s foes have entered the ring with a losing record.
Southpaw Rojas, who owns a KO 3 victory over current junior featherweight standout and WBA titleholder Celestino Caballero, is making his Shobox debut and second start in the United States.
In the last 12 years, the 19-year veteran’s only defeats came against WBA champs Chris John, Yober Ortega and Antonio Cermeno. The five-foot-eight-inch, 36-year-old is 9-1-1 in his last 11 starts, including a third-round TKO over Rafael Castillo in his last outing on March 20, 2008.
An awkward, aggressive boxer-puncher who is not unaccustomed to coming back from a layoff, Rojas is getting a fifth shot at an elusive WBA belt – his third at 126 pounds. He went 0-2 at 122.
Two outings ago, in a rematch of a Dec. 4, 2004 bout that ended in a fourth-round technical draw, Rojas lost a decision to the still-undefeated John in a hard-fought match on March 3, 2007.
In their initial encounter, Rojas led John by one point on two of the three scorecards after three rounds. It was stopped at 1:41 of the fourth with both boxers cut over their right eyes by a clash of heads.
Rojas was a top amateur for Venezuela before turning pro July 29, 1989 (Gamboa was six-and-a-half). Rojas’ career was interrupted for four years (1992-96) when he served in the Venezuelan military.
Aydin is an exciting, untested fighter who’s ranked eighth in the WBC, one notch lower in the IBF. A 5-foot-seven, 25-year-old, Aydin will be making his ShoBox and U.S. debuts.
An excellent European amateur, Aydin competed in the 2004 Olympic Games. He turned pro on Nov. 10, 2006 – about a year and a half after he was suspended for hitting a referee.
In his last outing, the aggressive boxer-puncher twice leveled Luis Hernandez en route to winning by first-round TKO on March 8, 2008.
Ouali, who is rated sixth in the WBC, No. 12 in the WBA and No. 4 in the IBF, has won 10 in a row, including eight straight by knockout. A fighter not always known for power won his ’09 debut with a first-round TKO over Johnathon Nelson on Jan. 16. Ouali fought at Buffalo Bills Casino in his outing before that, registering a fifth-round TKO over Allen Conyers on Sept. 5, 2008.
“Moving to the United States on April 4, 2000, was something I worked for my whole life, since I was a little kid,” the 5-foot-10, 30-year-old southpaw said. “I literally started from nothing. I started from scratch, from the Diamond Gloves to the Golden Gloves to the Nationals.
“My style is kind of different. I like to throw power shots but I know how to box, too. Different guys, you’ve got to fight them differently. That’s what I’m trying; it’s about how you can adjust.
“I’m left-handed, but it depends on what I do. Some sports I play with my left hand, some I play with my right hand. I write just with my right hand. When I throw a ball, I use my left hand.
“In my Moroccan culture, doing things with your left hand was like a sin. When you’re left-handed, they try to change you to right-handed. They did it to me. I’m more right-handed than left-handed, I think.”
Charles and Farhood will call the ShoBox action. The executive producer of ShoBox is Gordon Hall with Richard Gaughan producing and Rick Phillips directing.
For more information on SHOWTIME Sports, including exclusive behind-the-scenes video and photo galleries, complete telecast information and more, please go to the new SHOWTIME Sports website at http://sports.sho.com.