by James Slater – Super-hot featherweight prospect Yuriorkis Gamboa, a man many see as a definite world champion of the future, is back in action this coming Friday night (Feb. 20th) when he meets Colombian veteran Walter Estrada in Florida. It may not mean all that much, but the 34-year-old will represent Gamboa with his second most oft-beaten foe – with the southpaw having lost eight of his 43 pro bouts. You have to go back to Gamboa’s third paid outing, against Joel Mayo, to find a guy he has boxed who had more defeats on his record coming in.. Does this mean the 27-year-old hotshot is actually taking a backward step in his next fight?
It’s still early days for “El Ciclon de Guantanamo,” obviously, but is there a chance, just a little one, that his handlers are not quite as super-sure anymore about their fighter after the number of times he has found himself hitting the mat already in his not yet two year long pro career? Remember, there was talk of Gamboa boxing for a world title this year.
This may still be the case, but the featherweight has yet another 10-rounder scheduled for April. Has the fighter and his management taken the foot off the pedal somewhat?
There is no need to rush, and a fighter taking his time is absolutely fine – but Gamboa has met better fighters then the one he will box on Friday, therefore it’s legitimate to ask if he and his team are now matching him more cautiously on the way to his planned world title shot. Not only has Estrada got more losses on his record than all but one of Gamboa’s previous opponents, but he is also one of the oldest men the Cuban will have fought. Back at the very start of his pro career Gamboa met three guys who were all aged 36, but after that he was stepped up and put in with young and still ambitious guys. There seems little doubt, that for this next fight anyway, Gamboa is being moved back down a notch or two.
What will the flashy and powerful featherweight gain by flattening Estrada, as he surely will? Estrada has been stopped in four of his eight losses, and he has not won a meaningful fight for years. Stopped recently by Britain’s Kevin Mitchell (TKO by 5, June of 2008) and before that by Rafael Hernandez (KO by 2, July of 2007), the Colombian has not appeared at all durable. He has also lost three of his last four outings and though Estrada can hit a bit himself with 24 of his 35 wins coming via stoppage, it is to be hoped Gamboa will not be matched this softly again while he continues making a name for himself as a top contender.
“Give the guy a break,” some fans will doubtless say, “He’s only had 13 fights.” But when a fighter is hyped up as much as Gamboa has been, and when his team says he will definitely be the best P-4-P fighter in the world one day, should he really be moving back down in class at the age of 27? No-one is a bigger fan of the exciting Miami-based Cuban than me, but there is, for the first time, a nagging concern that Gamboa may not actually be as good as we thought he was.
In any case, look for Gamboa to stop Estrada early, possibly within the first two or three rounds.