Yuriorkis Gamboa: The Most Exciting Fighter in Boxing

Alan ThomsonCorrespondent IJanuary 5, 2010

LAS VEGAS - DECEMBER 08:  Floyd Mayweather Jr. knocks out Ricky Hatton of England in the 10th round during their WBC world welterweight championship fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on December 8, 2007 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

How many times have you watched an aggressive, relentless fighter like Juan Diaz and thought, “Man, if he only had power…”?  

Or looked at a banger like Kelly Pavlik and wondered how good he might have been if he’d been born with world-class speed?

Or thought about someone like Wladimir Klitschko and how exciting he would be to watch if he would just sack up and bang it out every once in a while?

And wouldn’t it be nice to be able to stitch together a fighter who had all of the chops of the ones you were just imagining?

And while you’re at it, to top him off with the ability to shovel himself off the canvas and come back to drop an ass-kicking on his man the way Arturo Gatti used to?

Well my friends, get out of your heads—I’ve got your Frankenstein. And his name is Yuriorkis Gamboa.

He is the newly crowned WBA featherweight champion with a record of 16-0 with 14 knockouts. And if you haven’t seen him yet, be prepared—he fights in a way that can harden the nipples of the most casual or jaded boxing fan.

Gamboa was a Cuban amateur star, winning gold at the 2004 Athens Olympics and the 2006 World Cup championships.

Or course, in the irony that is a part of Cuban sports, as soon as the athletes they train become well enough accomplished, they then use those athletic skills to run, jump, swim or pole vault themselves as far away from the island as possible, at the first opportunity they can find.

While training in Venezuela in December of 2006, Yuriorkis and two of his teammates bolted camp and made their way to Colombia, later heading to Germany, and finally, after receiving their visas, to the U.S.

Gamboa turned pro in Germany in 2007 and was never put in diapers.

In his third fight, he was paired with veteran Joel Mayo who was 40-11. Fight number six was against Samuel Kebede who had a record of 25-1. His 12th fight was with 25-0 Marcos Ramirez. He KO’d all three in the second round.

And in October 2009, he fought for the WBA championship against Whyber Garcia, whom he dominated and stopped in four, taking the title and leaving Garcia wondering whyber the hell he’d ever agreed to get into the ring with him.

But with Gamboa, it’s about more than an untarnished record and near-utopian knockout rate. It’s about the bling he brings to the ring and the nads he uses to flash it.

When you’re in the square with him, you’re dealing with more than just world-class skills laced with insane speed and ridiculous power—he’s there to throw it down hard.

He’s coming after your ass. Someone’s gonna drop. And on three occasions, that someone’s been him.

Of course, he got back up and won those three fights, two by knockout.

When he gets into heavy exchanges, his instinct is to lower his hands and let fly—the type of thing that sends pimple-faced shorties to the corners of Boxing 101 rooms with dunce caps on his heads. But that’s how Gamboa rolls.

Well, at least that’s how he used to roll. Or so his camp hopes.

When he was floored by Darling Jimenez in the first round of their May 2008 bout—the second fight in his previous four in which Gamboa had been dropped—his trainer Osmiri Fernandez was fired in the dressing room after the fight by promoter Ahmet Oner.

He was replaced by trainer Ismael Salas.

In six fights since handing the joystick to Salas, Gamboa’s defense has improved noticeably, but he did go down again, in the first round against Marcos Ramirez in October 2008.

He’ll fight Rogers Mtagwa next, on Jan. 23 on HBO. Mtagwa is fresh off an old-fashioned schoolyard duke-out with rising star Juan Manuel Lopez. Mtagwa lost on points, but more than a few times he put a pretty good head-smacking on Lopez.

We’ll find out how the Cuban Frankenstein measures up. I know I’ll be tuning in to see it.

Cohiba cigars, Eva Mendes, and now Yuriorkis Gamboa—the most exciting fighter in boxing. Gracias, Fidel. You’re too good to me.