Go back to April of 2017 and his pro debut, and plenty of people were excited about Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa. The defector had dazzled as an amateur, winning gold in many places, including the Olympics and, after a few pro wins, even more people were excited in a big way by Gamboa; by his dazzling speed of hand, by his punching power and his accuracy, by his sheer aggression. True superstardom seemed to be in the 25 year old’s future.
Fast-forward a little under 15 years, and we all know things didn’t turn out as great as they could have done, you could argue should have done for Gamboa. Sure, he won a couple of belts (WBA and IBF featherweight titles) but Gamboa is today best known for his losses – to Terence Crawford (the June 2014 fight still Crawford’s stiffest test) and, more recently, to Gervonta Davis and Devin Haney.
Gamboa, now 40 years old and sporting a 30-4(18) record, is basically a fighter who has grown accustomed to being thrown in to test young up-and-coming stars. Gamboa was once the up-and-coming star but things have changed. Next up for Gamboa will be a date with Isaac Cruz on the Errol Spence-Yordenis Ugas card in April. Cruz, AKA “Pitbull,” gave “Tank” Davis a hard time of things in their December fight and the 23 year old Mexican will now be the latest young stud to be fed Gamboa.
Cruz, 22-2-1(15) and never stopped is a rough and tough warrior who will surely have too much of just about everything when he fights Gamboa in their lightweight duel. Or might Gamboa surprise us all and roll back the years with one last spirited performance? Gamboa, who may not get many more big opportunities should he lose to Cruz, is still durable; having extended both Davis and Haney, yet he has not won a meaningful in many months (you could argue years). As an under-card fight this one is not a bad fight but for Gamboa fans it could prove to be a sad affair.
To repeat, Gamboa really did look like the whole package back in the day; not only talented as hell, but also exciting, all the more so because he was a little vulnerable, being decked a few times on his rise to a world title. Now slower, far less explosive and perhaps making most of his moves from memory, Gamboa must wonder where his career went wrong. Gamboa has been stopped three times but Cruz could make it four times come April 16th.