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HBO Auditioning For New Stars

BY John Nguyen ON May 14, 2008
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Some of the biggest names in the sport seem to have a permanent fixture in the consciousness of boxing fans.  Despite each suffering more than one loss in recent years, fighters like Jones, De La Hoya, Trinidad, Hopkins, and Tarver remain some of the biggest draws in the game, for name-brand recognition if nothing else.

So the question must be asked, who will replace these marquee figures when they retire, as one must assume (and, in some cases, hope) they will?

This Saturday's HBO Boxing After Dark triple-header offers three fighters who aim to make their bid for the type of acclaim reserved only for boxing's most elite.  Yuriorkis Gamboa, James Kirkland, and Alfredo Angulo are three prospects whose reputations already precede them as they prepare to step into the ring Saturday night.  It's worth examining, then, what each could potentially bring to a sport which is in desperate need for a changing of the guard.

Yuriorkis Gamboa (9-0, 8 KO)

Why the Buzz?

A former Cuban amateur standout, the young junior lightweight has already drawn stylistic comparisons to younger versions of Meldrick Taylor and Roy Jones.  That alone should get your attention.  When watching Gamboa's blinding speed, dazzling power, and pinpoint accuracy at work, you don't get the impression that you are watching a fighter with only nine pro fights.  Gamboa's maturity, which is an obvious product of his prolific amateur career, is the reason why his handlers are moving him along at an accelerated rate.  It will be interesting to see if the highlight reel performances will continue as his competition level rises.  If he remains just as electrifying, we could be watching a future great at work.

He needs to avoid...

experiencing too much too soon.  At the relatively advanced age of 26, it is understandable that Gamboa's people want him to progress quickly.  However, with so much talent at 130 and 135, it's important to avoid putting him in over his head before he is truly ready.  One doesn't have to look too far into the past for examples of can't miss prospects who were in too deep early in their careers.  Remember Davey Moore?  How about David Reid?  Let's not add Yuriorkis Gamboa to the mix.

For all the amateur polish he brings to the ring, the fact remains that the professional game is an entirely different endeavor.  Gamboa may seem to have all the answers now, but it's a guarantee that he is still learning with every fight.  Saturday's bout against Darling Jimenez, a veteran of twenty-five pro fights, is a jump for Gamboa, but likely within his reach.  Hopefully future matchmaking continues to prove ambitious, but at the same time reasonable for the promising young star.

James Kirkland (21-0, 18 KO)

Why the Buzz?


Junior middleweight prospect Kirkland has, as his record reflects, phenomenal punching power.  In tandem with his relentless aggression, Kirkland exudes excitement in the ring.  A fighter who is willing to eat a few punches to land bigger ones of his own, as Kirkland is, will always appeal to fight fans.  At only 24, the youthful Kirkland has a lot of upside, which will hopefully result in more technical nuances being added to his occasionally one-dimensional approach.

He needs to avoid...


the alarming recklessness he's shown in recent fights.  It seems that Kirkland has already bought into his own developing mystique as one of the division's premier power punchers.  As most bangers do, he trusts that his potent fists will bail him out of any predicament in which he finds himself.  This results in Kirkland taking needless chances and taking unnecessary punches, as he did in his last outing against Allen Conyers.  In that fight, an over-anxious Kirkland ate canvas and was in serious trouble before returning the favor en route to a first round stoppage.  Against Eromosele Albert, who has only ten knockouts in twenty-one wins, Kirkland probably won't pay such a hefty price for his mistakes.  The hope for Kirkland, though, is that his penchant for exciting fights makes him into a mini-Tyson rather than the next Julian Letterlough (no disrespect, may he rest in peace).

Alfredo Angulo (12-0, 9 KO)

Why the Buzz?

Sporting his trademark dog collar during his ring entrance, Angulo's style reflects the tenacity and dogged determination his image suggests.  He's no crude brawler, mind you.  He demonstrates technical proficiency to match his startling punching power.  Though he has only a dozen fights, his last three opponents had a combined record of 47-6-1, and none of the three saw the end of the second round, including division trialhorse Archak TerMeliksetian, who failed to survive the opening stanza.  “El Perro” appears to be the rare fighter who is more bite than bark.

He needs to avoid...

being overly ambitious.  Angulo may have the toughest assignment on Saturday night as he squares off against the solid Richard Gutierrez, whose only loss came in a competitive fight with welterweight standout Joshua Clottey.  Like the aforementioned Gamboa, Angulo's people seem quite comfortable, perhaps too comfortable, with matching him tough.  Sure, he looked sensational in his last few outings,  but he figures to be tested sternly against Gutierrez.  It can kill a young fighter's confidence to suddenly find his opponent standing up to the kind of punches which so easily felled others.  How will Angulo respond when his weapons of choice appear to be firing blank rounds?  The answer could come this weekend.

Saturday night should go a long way toward proving if these three young fighters can stage a coup to force yesterday's stars to abdicate their thrones at the top of the sport.  Regardless of what the verdicts are, the cases themselves should prove to be compelling.  Hopefully, Gamboa, Kirkland, and Angulo will be able to produce convincing, affirmative answers, one way or another, as to their standing among the hottest prospects in the sport.

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