Gamboa Beats Ponce De Leon
By Nat Gottlieb Courtesy HBO.com
It was the kind of fight where Yuriorkis Gamboa seemed to
have one eye on his hard-hitting opponent, Daniel Ponce de
Leon, and the other on his critics. In beating Ponce de Leon
in a business-like 8th round technical decision, Gamboa
appeared to work harder to demonstrate he was the kind of
complete fighter who could one day challenge a Juan Manuel
Marquez or Manny Pacquiao, than he did to put on a show
worthy of his reputation.
Universally praised as incredibly explosive and talented,
the undefeated featherweight Gamboa has also been questioned
in the past for his reckless abandon and disdain for
defense. The Gamboa who threw a virtual shutout against
Ponce de Leon Saturday night before the fight was stopped
after an accidental head butt, was neither of those boxers.
Compact and controlled on defense and fighting only in
spurts, Gamboa seemed to be auditioning more than fighting.
Ponce de Leon (41-4, 34 KOs) came into the fight given only
a puncher’s chance to win, and Gamboa seemed determined to
deny him that possibility. The Cuban even said as much in
his post-fight remarks to HBO’s Max Kellerman. “My purpose
was to extend the fight beyond four rounds,” said Gamboa
(21-0, 16 KOs). “Many people said if it went beyond four
that he would knock me out.”
Gamboa seemed confident and in control throughout the fight.
While Ponce de Leon landed his share of punches, none seemed
to have the impact of the lightening fast ones Gamboa threw.
Gamboa said afterwards his eventual target was Pacquiao, but
ironically in winning his fight in workman-like,
unspectacular fashion, he certainly did little to catch the
attention of the pound-for-pound king.
It could have been very different. Several times Gamboa, who
fought in flurries, seemed to hurt Ponce de Leon, but then
would move away and show off his patience and defense,
rather than go for the kill. Against a Pacquiao, with his
amazing power and speed, that might have been a manner of
fighting worthy of praise. Against Ponce de Leon, the
31-year-old, former super bantamweight champion, it did
little to draw admiration.
The end fittingly came without an exclamation point. Both
fighters led with their heads with just under a minute and a
half to go in the 8th round and clashed hard. Ponce de Leon
in replay looked visibly stunned, Gamboa much less so. More
importantly, the Mexican sustained a bad cut over his left
eye and referee Allan Huggins separated the two fighters
immediately and sent them to their corners. After the ring
physician examined Ponce de Leon, Huggins halted the fight
and sent it to the scorecards, where it was a foregone
conclusion: 70-63 twice and 69-64.
Understandably, the pro-Cuban crowd in Atlantic City’s
Boardwalk Hall, which had chanted “Cu-ba! Cu-ba!” several
times in the fight, was subdued at the way it ended--with a
thud, rather than the bang they had come to witness.
What the victory meant for the former 2004 Olympic Gold
medalist is uncertain. There had been talk in the past of
Gamboa fighting either Juan Manuel Lopez or Nonito Donaire,
but during the weigh-in for this bout the Cuban’s promoter,
Ahmet Oner, seemed to feel his boxer had outgrown his
After Gamboa had to take off his underwear to meet the
contracted weight of 127, Oner was quoted as saying, “Yuri
has emphasized a couple of times in the last days that this
is his last fight close to the featherweight limit,” and
indicated his fighter would soon move up to the 130 or 135
pound divisions. After more than 300 amateur fights and 21
as a pro, Gamboa still remains a work in progress, albeit a
terrifically talented one.