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Terence Crawford went on the road to one of boxing’s most hostile environments for a road fighter in March, taking the WBO Lightweight Championship from Ricky Burns in his home country of Scotland.
The result was crystal clear, but given Burns’ history of escaping with some shaky verdicts on home soil in the past, Crawford still had to be a little nervous when the scorecards were read.
The undefeated 26-year-old will get a homecoming of his own on Saturday night, making the first defense of his new title in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, against the also unbeaten Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Gamboa, who fought only twice in the past two years, was once considered one of boxing’s fastest rising stars, but promotional issues and the resulting inactivity have forced him from that spot. This will be his first fight in more than a year, and he’s never been in there with—at least as a professional—as slick a technical boxer as Crawford.
Still, Gamboa remains a must-see attraction for his willingness to engage in all-action fights. He has great power, but he doesn’t have a great chin. That makes him almost equally likely to taste the canvas as deposit his opponent there, and it provides a certain intriguing quality to all his fights.
Crawford, the first Nebraska-born fighter to capture a world championship, will have the benefit of fighting at home. But that’s not always a blessing. It adds pressure and expectations. Just ask Mike Alvarado.
Crawford will need to remain at the top of his game, box effectively and stay away from Gamboa’s power if he hopes to avoid becoming the first Cornhusker to lose a championship.