Vegas’ Bright Lights: Is Gamboa Ready?

SolisBy Coach Tim Walker – It’s difficult to think of New York City in a lesser light than Las Vegas in terms of boxing greatness, but in recent years, Vegas has undoubtedly replaced the once centerpiece of the sport as boxing’s new Mecca. From the MGM Grand, to Mandalay Bay, to Caesar’s Palace, to the Palms Hotel, to the Mirage Hotel, to Planet Hollywood, to well, you get the point. Vegas is not without its share of major hotels and casinos willing to dust the gold accents, polish their silverware and power-vac the red carpets in order to host big boxing events. Vegas has nearly 80 venues currently available to host boxing shows. That may sound like a lot of venues but in comparison, New York City has considerably more (somewhere in the area of 200-300 venues, albeit many smaller or less prestigious venues with the exception of Madison Square Gardens and possibly Yankee Stadium). Still, no city, especially in recent times, can put on a boxing show quit like Las Vegas.

New York is the city that never sleeps but Las Vegas is the city that boxers aspire towards. It is where high rollers fly in on private jets to blow wads of expendable cash. It is the city where models play. It is the city of dreams, where a regular Joe hopes to catch a triple seven on the quarter slots. The buffets are plentiful.. The pleasures (wink wink) are endless. The drinks are strong and the carafes never empty. Like New York City, and of course Hollywood, Vegas has the propensity to make you or break you, or make you then break you, or just flat out break you. It is both the city of sin and the city of lights, at the same time. It is perpetually the city of big dollars, bigger schemes and the biggest events. Especially, big boxing events with no apparent fall off foreseen in the future.

Intro Cuban boxing star, Yuriorkis Gamboa (18-0 KOs 15).

Gamboa enters a moment in his career where he stares straightforward into those Vegas lights. The bar of preparation is set and either his team has done what is necessary to prepare him or they haven’t. Preparation is much more than winning if the goal is to ascend to the boxing heavens. Preparation means the whole shebang. It will be measured in his ability to handle the aforementioned lights, the cameras and all the action/distractions that comes along with being a major recognizable figure in one of the most recognizable cities. Preparation means making the right contacts, shaking the right hands and securing the right relationships. Winning is always the goal of a prize fighter but if he desires to be side “A” of the 45rpm, then winning alone won’t do it.

A clue that his team understands the significance of this bout is the replacement of previously scheduled foe, IBF 126 pound champion, Orlando Salido (34-10-2 KOs 22). Salido is viewed mostly by critics and fans as a sacrificial lamb who could offer little to discourage the power-handed excitable Gamboa. The choosing of this opponent for his debut onto the Vegas stage caused many an eyebrow to lift. The boxing community’s general response was a bit of confusion. Gamboa is a highly accomplished amateur boxer and there are very few, if any, boxing styles that he hasn’t faced and dominated. Grumbling over this matchup might have prompted, or at least helped further the need, for a better opponent.

Now in Salido’s place is the current WBC featherweight champion Elio Rojas (22-1-0 KOs 13). Rojas represents a much tougher opponent on paper and in the ring. Rojas’ resume is highlighted by wins over Takahiro Ao (19-2-1 KOs 9) and Johnnie Edwards (15-5-1 KOs 8). Gamboa also faced the teak tough Edwards, and though Rojas overwhelmingly won his battle with him, Gamboa is still the only man to knock out Edwards and he did it in one round.

The quality of Rojas’ boxing skill cannot be denied. In 2001 he won a bronze medal at the World Championships and if you’ve ever seen him fight then you know he hits much harder than his record suggests. Still, at this stage in his career he might be best known for a scandal at the 2002 Central American Games. After aspiring to a gold medal, Rojas was subsequently disqualified for testing positive for a weight loss diuretic called Lasix. He has flown a bit under the radar and this bout represents the single greatest challenge of his career thus far.

Final Thought

Gamboa has the potential to be a star, a huge star and Vegas is the place that can make him a star provided he understands the game. In 18 pro fights Gamboa has proven his worth. Still, knocking out Jose Rojas in Primm, Nevada is light years away from knocking out Elio Rojas in Las Vegas, Nevada. An anonymous writer once wrote, “It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.” For Gamboa to take the next step it not only matters whether he wins or loses, but also, how he plays the game.

Last Note

A minor report has surfaced that there may be a fight ending injury to Rojas. More to come on that soon.

Coach Tim Walker is a contributing writer for and his own personal blog at welcomes comments. To suggest fighters for Monthly Stud and The Project please email You can also check out him out at

Article posted on 28.07.2010

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