Two talented fighters will clash in Omaha, Nebraska. Yes, Omaha.
One dynamic and flawed, the other steady and polished. Styles make fights for sure, so when newly crowned WBO lightweight champion and native Cornhusker Terence "Bud" Crawford (23-0, 16 KO) makes his first—and apparently only—defense against "The Cyclone of Guantanamo" Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-0, 16 KO), boxing fans may be treated to an intriguing battle.
The two men have identical records but have taken very different paths to their undefeated marks. On Saturday, someone's "O" has to go.
Not many casual fans will have this bout circled on their calendars, but hardcore fans can appreciate the intrigue in this one.
If you're interested, here's how you can watch.
When: Saturday, June 28 at 10 p.m. ET
Where: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska
Live Stream: BoxNation (Region Restricted)
The Book on Crawford
The "steady and polished" description fits the champion. Though he's just 26 and has had only 23 professional fights, Crawford has a poise and maturity about him in the ring and out. His in-ring style and personal demeanor aren't flashy, but they are effective.
Crawford easily outboxed Ricky Burns to earn the title in March but has already indicated that he may be moving up to 140 pounds after the bout. In a Q&A with Anson Wainwright of The Ring Magazine, Crawford said:
This might be my last fight at 135, then I’m gonna go up to 140 and try to do what I’ve done at 135 at 140. (Junior welterweight) wasn’t a big difference from (lightweight) really, actually I felt stronger at 140 (against Breidis Prescott). I have my handlers pick the opponent and I just fight them. I never call out anyone, I just fight.
Crawford first burst onto the professional scene when he stepped in for injured Khabib Allakhverdiev in March 2013 to face Prescott. Though less experienced, Crawford handled himself well and defeated Prescott by unanimous decision.
It was an HBO broadcast, and Crawford got the network's attention with the solid performance. He has won three times since then, including capturing a world title. Now he's eyeing a move to 140 pounds, where bigger fights await him.
He has big plans ahead, but there's a storm on the horizon.
The Book on Gamboa
Once thought to be one of boxing's future superstars, Gamboa's career has hit a snag. Oddly enough, the lull isn't due to a loss, though the "flawed" defensive approach has brought Gamboa many anxious moments.
Promotional conflicts have led to extended layoffs, and thus Gamboa has only fought twice in the last two years.
Jake Donovan of Boxing Scene is just one in the boxing community who has soured on Gamboa over the last couple of years. Per The Ring Magazine, Donovan says: "I had high hopes for Yuriorkis Gamboa when he first entered the pro ranks and embarked on an ambitious schedule. I don't see that same version still existing as he's moved up in weight."
In an interview with Santos A. Perez of the Miami Herald, Gamboa explains that his inactivity shouldn't lead people to believe that he may not be in fighting shape. He said: "The purpose is not only to remain active with as many fights as possible. A big part of your career is training and remaining fit. I have never been inactive when it involves training."
Gamboa is now promoted by rapper 50 Cent and has seemingly found an inroad to fight more frequently. He'll be turning 33 in December, so Gamboa can no longer be looked at as an up-and-coming talent. He needs a major victory, and that's exactly what a win over Crawford would represent.
Tactically, this fight is interesting on a few different levels. Crawford owns a 2.5-inch height and five-inch reach advantage over Gamboa. Because Crawford has a solid jab, this length will be a major factor in the fight.
Two ways to counter a good jab are with speed and timing. Gamboa has plenty of both. The compactly built Cuban is one of the most explosive punchers in the smaller weight classes. His Achilles' heel is his lackluster defense.
He keeps his hands very low, and against a technically sound fighter with long reach and good power like Crawford, that could spell trouble. Gamboa has been down or dazed multiple times in his career, but he has quick recovery skills and great instincts.
Those qualities have allowed him to survive and in some cases come back to finish an opponent.
Crawford's chin has never really been tested. This is partly because his defense is just about as solid as his offense. Will Gamboa's quickness allow him to test the champion's beard?
I say no.
Crawford is too sharp to be befuddled by speed alone. Unless Gamboa introduces a whole new defensive strategy, he'll leave himself open for some big shots. He has heart and may not be stopped, but Gamboa will likely hit the canvas twice or more on his way to a lopsided loss due to the knockdowns.
The champion will retain his belt with an impressive unanimous-decision victory.
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