Lopez and Gamboa: Megafight Brewing

By Andrew Harrison: Madison Square Garden will play host to Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa on October 10th and although the pair will be treading the same boards, we must show patience before we see them exchanging leather. The Top Rank promoted ‘Latin Fury 12’ card they co-headline is all part of the audition process, a showcase for punters to peruse each of these Latin American rising stars in turn, before the duo are cast together in starring roles for what may well be the blockbuster attraction of 2010.

Lights, camera……….instant classic?

Boxing continues to evolve, twisting and turning resiliently in sport’s marketplace. Its recent incarnation has seen a shift towards more competitive matches, rarely in fact have fans had it so good. Defeat for a young fighter now no longer tolls the career death knell it once did, back when squabbling networks were obsessed only with spotless records.

Saliva inducing encounters between unbeaten fighters on the rise such as Miguel Cotto-Ricky Hatton, Riddick Bowe-Lennox Lewis and Felix Trinidad-Ike Quartey, blue chip epics lost in time due to overprotective promoters, will hopefully be looked back upon as aberrations. With threats to the sport’s fan base ever more prevalent, attractive fights rather than attractive fighters are now the order of the day.

Former 2004 Olympic champion Gamboa is currently 15-0 (13), the Cuban hotshot having torn through the featherweight ranks after defecting from his native soil in 2006. Gamboa’s flight from Cuba he would argue was a bid for freedom of trade whereas the country’s founding father Fidel Castro on the other hand, prefers to term it ‘talent theft’.

‘El Ciclon de Guantanamo’ has lightning in his fists with an especially sharp, loud crack of thunder in the right one, his relative inexperience tempered by the fact that he’s been matched tough. The career inertia which resulted from his homeland regime means that he’s already 28 years old and is not therefore hanging around; moving quickly has at times left him looking vulnerable, which only makes him more exciting.

His prospective opponent Juanma is equally adept at putting his opponents’ lights out. Graceful and dynamic, he owns a teeth numbing right hand and is another in a procession of super fighters from the bountiful island of Puerto Rico, one looking to emulate such luminaries as Felix Trinidad, Wilfredo Gomez and Carlos Ortiz. Currently 26-0 (24), Lopez has left fans awestricken with recent performances at super bantamweight, not only exhibiting nitro-glycerine hitting but also the ability to churn out punches in record busting volumes.

It’s unusual to see two budding superstars who are willing to risk losing their unbeaten records so early in their careers. It has long been seen as shrewd to let bouts between future big players build and grow, for world titles to be collected and fan bases fattened before the boxers came together. Let it boil and simmer the promoters assure us, before often overcooking the golden goose.

David Reid-Fernando Vargas was spoiled after Felix Trinidad had finished with the pair whilst Jermain Taylor-Jeff Lacy would have been so much more compelling circa 2005.

Fights between high calibre men who know nothing of defeat can wield a different energy. Ali-Frazier, Trinidad-Vargas, Chavez-Taylor, Lopez-Alvarez, Bowe-Holyfield and Leonard-Hearns to name examples, all featured exhibitions of frightening resolve; fighters who refused to be discouraged no matter how tough the going became, so utterly convinced were they that it was their right to win.

There is added excitement there for fans also, who can’t be at all sure of what they are about to witness. Defeat can pigeonhole a fighter (weak chin, no stamina, can dish it out but can’t take it) which can drain drama from a contest, we have an inkling of what will unfold, parts of which have been revealed before.

“The atmosphere will be incredible when Juanma moves up and takes on Yuriorkis” the permanently beaming Bob Arum noted, “It’s going to be a monster fight, Juanma is showing he’s a complete fighter. Who can stand up to him at junior featherweight or featherweight with maybe the exception of Gamboa?”

There are many who will answer with the name of Celestino Caballero, the brilliant Panamanian who Lopez has been accused of ducking. ‘Pelenchin’ has taken to publicly challenging Lopez via Youtube, an idea Juanma seems receptive to before he begins his raid on the feathers.

“I am willing to fight Caballero whenever, but first his promoters have to sit down and speak with mine. I have listened to Caballero and not said anything, so I hope that when the fight comes, he backs up everything that he says. I am going to knock him out. He won’t make it past the eighth round”

Lopez has suggested January 2010, however whether or not Arum will be willing to jeopardise the Gamboa fight remains to be seen. It’s too important to lose this one, a fight in which both men will be using each other to leapfrog towards greatness. Leonard did it against Hearns, Frazier before him against Ali and Chavez more recently against Taylor, hacking and chopping his way all the way to the finish line.

Article posted on 01.09.2009

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