They weren't facing each other, but it was a showdown of sorts at the Theater at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez showed the assembled what they have in their arsenal, and at the end of the night, the majority of boxing fans will likely view Gamboa as the favorite when he and JuanMa get it on in a few months.
The just-up-from 122 JuanMa (125 1/2; age 26; from Puerto Rico) came in with a 27-0 mark, while the WBO featherweight beltholder Steven Luevano (126; age 28; from California) was 37-1-1 coming into the main event which was shown on HBO's Boxing After Dark. The Puerto Rican stopped his foe, in the seventh round, and was in total control from the start to the furious finish. But the way Gamboa used his speed and power to overwhelm Rogers Mtagwa a half hour before will be the main takeaway for the folks in attendance.
In the first, the two lefties traded jabs. They both went for the head, and JuanMa's throws were the more accurate overall. In the second, JuanMa got tagged with some straight rights, so if he was thinking that he'd been fed a past his prime guy, a steppingstone gimme, he now knew better. In the third, JuanMa's left buzzed the champ. I noticed he has a tic, though. He throws a combo, then shoves down his trunks with both hands, something that a Gamboa-quick fighter will make him pay for. JuanMa closed the gap more in four, and Luevano's reflexes slowed. He did score with a right counter at the end of the round though, sending a memo that he was still making a go of it.
In the fifth, JuanMa mixed in more body work, wisely. The two mixed it up inside more, and Luevano didn't get blown away, maybe surprising some, seeing as how his power pak is of a lesser grade than the Puerto Rican's. His left eye swelled up by this point. In the sixth, the two were again banging in tight. JuanMa pressed forward, and was the busier, more effective pugilist, clearly. In seven, Luevano got hurt, off a right uppercut. Two right hooks and two left hooks were the icing and the cherry. He went down at 2:26, and was wobbly when he got up. The ref Benji Esteves didn't like the looks of his eyes, and halted the scrap. The official time: 44 seconds.
The numbers: JuanMa went 138-381 to 98-390 for the loser.
Gamboa after said he wasn't concerned with Gamboa's win, and wondered why Mtagwa came in underweight.
Please check back for George Kimball's ringside report.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV