It would be wise to delay the showdown with Manny Pacquiao, and the spot in Canastota cannot be booked just yet. Yes, Yuriorkis Gamboa is a superb prospect, but the Cuban is not without his deficiencies, as viewers who tuned in to the headline bout on HBO's Boxing After Dark from Buffalo Bills Arena in Primm, Nevada are now well aware.
Gamboa, a gold medallist at the 2004 Olympics for Cuba, earned a unanimous decision in his lightweight tussle with Darling Jiminez, but he was sent to the floor with a sharp right in the fourth round, and he showed some tendencies that fighters a bit more talented than Jiminez may well be able to solve.
The judges, by scores of 97-92, 97-92, 99-91, tapped Gamboa the winner, as HBO's Harold Lederman did, by a score of 98-91. The fans in the arena threw some boos the Cuban's way after the decision was announced, perhaps deciding that there was a bit more sizzle than sirloin for their liking in the Cuban's game.
The 26-year-old Cuban Gamboa (entering at 9-0) weighed in at 128 1/2 pounds, while the 28-year-old New Yorker Jiminez (entering at 23-2-2) weighed 131 officially. Russell Mora was the third man in the ring.
In the first round of the lightweight faceoff scheduled for 10 rounds, the cyclonic Gamboa put punches together with rapid fire efficiency. But Jiminez, with ample amateur experience, didn't cave in to the heralded prospect. He tried to counter the Cuban, but it's hard to hit what ain't there. Gamboa, with just 10 pro fights, gets angles about as well as anyone in the game. He moves his feet sweetly, and finds a clear angle to launch his ultra-quick throws. In the second, Jiminez looked befuddled. Couldn't blame him, there is no way really to prepare for Gamboa, with sparring, or films, until you are in the ring with him. The Cuban can be cocky, as he drops his hands to his hips, and struts about the ring as he sizes up his foe. But until somebody knocks some of that certainty out of him, who am I to say that he shouldn't be so sure of his himself? In the third, Jiminez came out aggressive, understanding that he could just lay back and get picked apart, or he could try and bring it to the flashy Cuban. Gamboa leaps in with a left hook that usually hits his target, and the New Yorker wasn't able to slip too many of those offerings. That said, Jiminez, while losing every round, was never wobbled or dropped, so at least a sliver of hope remained for him as long as he stayed upright. On to the fourth. Jiminez bulled Gamboa into the ropes and nailed him with a straight right that put him on the floor. He was up immediately, but what was I saying about his cockiness?! And about a sliver of hope?! Jiminez landed his own left hook, to the chin, as Gamboa ran more, and grabbed more, than he'd ever been forced to in his previous nine outings.
In the fifth, Jiminez landed hooks to the body, and Gamboa answered with a mess of punches, some sharp, some pitter pat. Whereas earlier it looked like Gamboa could fight 20 rounds and not breathe hard, we now saw him with his mouth open a bit.
In the sixth, Jiminez hit home with a straight right. His hands looked definitely heavier than the Cuban's, who was not so effective in using his feet to get kind angles as he was in earlier rounds.
In the seventh, Gamboa kicked it off with a string of combos. But Jiminez took them, and kept on plugging away. Fans booed when Gamboa shoved Jiminez to the floor; the Cuban may want to temper some of his showy stylings, and cocky flourishes, as blue-collar fight fans often don't take kindly to excessive in-ring flamboyance.
In the eighth round, Gamboa took back the momentum, and he did more competent work in the ninth. Jiminez' corner knew their guy needed a KO to leave Nevada a winner and he kept on trying to land that right hand. Gamboa was too slippery, though.
In the tenth round, Gamboa flurried for about 30 seconds straight to start the frame. The Cuban really wanted to cap the night with a stoppage but the New Yorker proved stubborn. His face was lumpy, but his will remained stout. In and out, side to side, Gamboa wasn't taking too many chances as the seconds ticked down. Gamboa enjoyed a 271-113 edge in punches landed at the end of the night.
Mexican Alfredo Angulo (entering 12-0, weighing 154) met up with Colombian Richard Gutierrez (24-1 entering , weighing 152) in a junior middleweight match fight, scheduled for 10 rounds.
In the first, Angulo, who was escorted by YouTube sensation/MMAer KImbo Slice, ate some leather from the vet, who served notice that he would not be caving into the more heralded prospect easily. His straight right hand hit home several times, and we had to wonder just who the favored fighter was in this scrap. Angulo placed his left hook well to the body, and he flurried to try and steal the round.
In the second, the action again took place at close quarters. Neither man is prone to dance excessively to find an angle; they're both unafraid to stand close, stay in the pocket, and smack. Angulo's body work started to stand out by the last third of the round. A cut high on Angulo's head didn't seem to bother him. In the third round, both men were busy. Both prized volume over accuracy. Angulo (age 25), not born with blazing hand speed, seemed to slow towards the end of the round, but Gutierrez (age 29) is not a defensive specialist.
In the fourth, Angulo barked at his foe down the stretch, signaling his fire and furious intent. Gutierrez chattered as well; these were two proud, macho hitters in a phonebooth tussle. Or, as Lennox Lewis would say, a "phone box." On to the fifth. Gutierrez landed a left hoook that had Angulo hurt. He leaped on the Mexican, who came to pretty quickly. He landed his own bombs, and had Gutierrez in even deeper trouble. He looked to hold on, and answer, but Angulo was too busy. Gutierrez didn't go down, or take a knee, and ref Tony Weeks stopped the bout at 2:48 of the fifth, because the loser wasn't defending himself well. No beef from my vantage point--the Colombian has a chin too good for his own good, and Weeks did the right thing. "El Perro" doesn't have blazing hands, and he may get picked apart by a fast-fisted cutie, but he is fun to watch. In the same vein as James Kirkland, who opened the show, he is there to take it to his foe, and I sincerely doubt he will ever be in a boring bout.
In the show opener, 24-year-old Texan James Kirkland (entering 21-0, weighing 154) took on 33-year-old Nigerian Eromosele Albert (21-1 entering, weighing 152 1/2) in a scheduled 10 rounder. Albert hit the deck in the first round, but he got up. Not for long, as his legs were dodgy, and Kirkland leaped on him, and ref Joe Cortez stepped in and stopped the affair at 1:06.
The money shots that sent Albert to the floor were a left-right-left combo. Upon rising, Kirkland hit Albert with four more shots, but he was dazed and confused from the first assault, and ripe for the taking. If you like a pugilist to have a fighting mentality, then you should keep your eye on the lefty Kirkland, who understands that fans like finishers, and why take a chance on inept judges when you can remove them from the equation?
By the way, his trainer is top flight female fighter Ann Wolfe, who prides herself on running an old school style gym. You best be ready to defend your turf when you enter Wolfe's lair. She, as a trainer, is one to watch as well.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV