Yuriorkis Gamboa: At the Threshold of Greatness or Wasted Potential?
Yuriorkis Gamboa is showcasing his world-class skills on December 8th at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez battle to settle the past while the sensational Gamboa will display a seminal performance that will paint the picture for the future landscape of boxing. The flamboyant Cuban will be playing the role of Matador while Michael Farenas has been cast in the supporting role of the bull. At 21-0 with 16 knockouts, the super featherweight extraordinaire is looking to end 2012 in style and make an indelible mark in the sport in 2013.
The discrepancy between Gamboa's talent and fame is massive. His superlative skills should have his name on every pound-for-pound list. However, he has yet to step up and demand that recognition by besting the best. Prior to the new year, the former featherweight world champion will be 33 years old. This is his time to etch out his legacy.
This is the current title picture in the super featherweight (130 pounds) division:
Juan Carlos Salgado
The most highly heralded champion in the division is Japanese WBA super featherweight champion Takashi Uchiyama. This is the person whom Gamboa should seek out. That should be his first mission of 2013 and the impetus for a new approach to matchmaking. Respectfully, his biggest wins to date have been over credible contenders: Jorge Solis, Daniel Ponce De Leon and potentially Farenas, but he now needs to step up his game and embrace challenges worthy of his pending legacy. A Uchiyama bout would be a watershed moment for his career and, hopefully, the catalyst for only taking subsequent marquee fights.
Another important challenge would be to then battle Salgado for the IBF title. After that, he should make the best fight available in boxing. It is not Pacquiao-Mayweather. In fact, it is Gary Russell Jr. and Yuriorkis Gamboa! How much of a role rapper, and new boxing magnate, 50 Cent plays in the decision making is uncertain, but it behooves him to yield whatever influence he may have over his superstar client.
Gary Russell Jr. is the featherweight sensation with blazing hand speed and immaculate technique. There is no greater fight in the sport of boxing today than a clash of these two undefeated mega talents. Russell displayed a dominance in the amateurs that promised pro glory and has proven himself worthy of the praise.
Despite the accolades, Gamboa's amateur pedigree is even more laudable—although Russell's technique is more refined. Russell's tender age of 24, compared to Gamboa's pending 31st birthday, dictates that this needs to transpire within the next year or so to truly allow their prime years determine the winner. This is an opportunity for a legendary trilogy a la Ali-Frazier and Leonard-Duran.
Gamboa is a weight class above the American Russell for now and the aging pugilist might find making 130 difficult in the future. There is another blockbuster bout awaiting the dynamic Cuban at 135. Nobody would have a problem with witnessing Adrien Broner meet his toughest challenge to date. A Broner-Gamboa clash would delight the boxing universe. Again, Gamboa has an opportunity for an uber-compelling bout to engender fame and fortune. At the behest of boxing history, Gamboa is called upon to make these meaningful matches come to life.
For now, Gamboa is content on fighting reptable opponents that are low-risk, low-reward contests that undermine his ability. Come 2013, at 31, he will really need to change his pace and begin taking advantage of the mega bouts that are looking him straight in the face. Should he vacillate and resign himself to unworthy challengers, he could be remembered as having the boxing career that mirrored the wasted potential of the phantom Mayweather-Pacquiao bout. As great as he is, Gamboa should know something that all 30-year-olds learn too late: Potential and promise aren't coming back once they leave.
In today's boxing climate, the Klitschko brothers lament that they have no opposition to motivate them. Andre Ward has no serious competition and neither Floyd Mayweather nor Manny Pacquiao seem interested in fighting one another. Serendipity has graced the life of the 2004 Olympic gold medalist by providing him with an opportunity at true greatness. Will he answer the call or not?
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