Three Punch Combo: Reflections on Canelo, Matthysse, and Yuriorkis Gamboa

THREE PUNCH COMBO – Yuriorkis Gamboa suffered a stunning loss this past weekend to veteran Robinson Castellanos. It was the type of loss that will probably end Gamboa’s days as a top contender. And thinking back on his career, it was just five years ago when Gamboa seemed destined to be the sport’s next pound for pound king.

In March of 2012, HBO put out a press release officially announcing the contest between Gamboa and Brandon Rios for the vacant WBA lightweight title and fight fans from across the world were excited to see how the contrasting styles of the two undefeated fighters would mesh. As we know, the fight never happened. There are many stories as to what occurred, but Gamboa never showed at the first official press conference and the fight was soon scrapped. But what if he had faced Rios in 2012?

First, remember that Gamboa, who was then under contract to Top Rank, was supposed to be the star. Rios, also with Top Rank, was seen by many as a niche fighter. The thought in boxing was that Rios could make for some fun fights against other brawlers, but against more seasoned and skilled boxers would probably fall short. A loss to Gamboa would not be devastating for Rios, as Top Rank believed that Rios would still have a strong future making entertaining fights against similarly aggressive fighters (like Mike Alvarado, who was supposed to fight on the undercard).

But knowing what we know now and also remembering where both men were when the fight was supposed to happen, I think Rios would have been the first to expose Gamboa who has always had defensive issues. He frequently left his hands down, pulled straight back with his chin in the air and squared up often to his opponents. These issues were never corrected. Rios, with his smart aggression, would have found Gamboa easy to hit.

Also, remember the fight would have been at lightweight. Rios was a big lightweight whereas Gamboa was more suited for featherweight/super featherweight. Could Gamboa have taken the punch of Rios? I doubt it given his questionable chin and the size advantage of Rios. Just remember what Terence Crawford did to Gamboa a couple of years later at lightweight. And to this point, Rios probably would have been able to easily absorb Gamboa’s best shots given his size advantage. With Gamboa unable to get his respect, Rios would have just become more and more aggressive against the defensively challenged Cuban.

If the fight had taken place, I think Gamboa would have had his moments similar to the Crawford fight, but Rios’ power and unrelenting aggression would have gotten to him as the fight moved forward. Rios probably would have stopped Gamboa in the mid-rounds and set the career of Gamboa back a little earlier than would ultimately be the case.

The Return of The Machine

Lucas Matthysse returned to the ring after a 19-month absence and scored an impressive 5th round TKO win against Emmanuel Taylor. It wasn’t just that Matthysse won, but how he won that showed that he is once again a force to be reckoned with in the sport.

Emmanuel Taylor is a solid fighter and some, including myself, thought he would spring an upset. He had never been stopped as a pro and had given some very good fighters tough fights, including Adrien Broner and Antonio Orozco. There were also a lot of questions about Matthysse. Was the fire still there? How would the power carry to welterweight? Was he possibly shopworn? Well, Matthysse not only showed the fire from the opening bell but hurt Taylor with seemingly every solid punch that he landed. The power was still there and there were no signs of a shopworn fighter as he let his hands go when the openings were presented. All in all, it was the type of performance we saw from Matthysse when he was obliterating solid fighters on the way up a few years ago.

It’s funny how this sport works though. If Matthysse hadn’t looked so sharp, he’d no doubt get offered a fight with a big name welterweight his next time out. But the fact that he destroyed Taylor will make it tough for him to attract the top welterweights into the ring. The risk for them is simply too great. Does anyone think Bob Arum would consider matching Manny Pacquiao with Matthysse later this year based on this performance from Matthysse? Of course not. Will Adrien Broner’s team try to get in touch with Golden Boy about a future date with Matthysse? Highly unlikely.

I am guessing Matthysse is going to return in a few months on a Golden Boy on ESPN show. It won’t be a big name but someone similar to Taylor. One possible opponent in such a scenario is Pablo Cesar Cano who is a solid veteran and coming off a win against Mauricio Herrera. Matthysse would be heavily favored, but Cano is a come forward brawler and the fight would certainly make for good television. The one name down the line I could see potentially wanting a Matthysse fight is Viktor Postol. Yes, they fought once and Postol beat Matthysse. But since then, Postol lost to Terence Crawford and he needs a signature win to get back in contention. Given his style and skill, Postol is not a fighter many of the top fighters are clamoring for, so it would make sense for the two to hook up again in a high stakes crossroads fight.

It’s Time to Give Canelo His Just Due

In the immediate aftermath of his dominant showing against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., Saul “Canelo” Alvarez announced he would face middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin in September. The fight has been long anticipated by boxing fans, many of whom have been critical of Canelo for seemingly sidestepping Golovkin the past few years. However, given the history of Canelo it’s no surprise that this fight is happening as he has been willing throughout his career to accept tough challenges.

Canelo began his career often taking on more experienced opponents in fights that he wasn’t necessarily favored to win. In his third pro bout, he took on future world champion Miguel Vazquez. Granted, it was Vazquez’s pro debut. However, down the road Canelo did face Vazquez in a rematch and by this point it was known that Vazquez possessed a style that was not easy to crack or look good against. But Canelo accepted the challenge in this early stage of his career of facing such a slick fighter in a bout that he was certainly not assured to win. Canelo did win, of course, and fights like the one with Vazquez gained him an early reputation of taking on all comers.

The Vazquez rematch took place in 2008. Fast forward a few years to 2011 when Canelo faced Ryan Rhodes. Rhodes was no pushover. He was a big skilled experienced southpaw who had a good record and entered the fight on a ten fight winning streak. But Canelo passed this fight with flying colors too.

It is somewhat forgotten in boxing circles that in 2012 Canelo signed to fight the slick southpaw punching machine Paul Williams. There were not a lot of fighters willing to face Paul Williams at this stage of Williams career but Canelo accepted the challenge. Of course, the fight did not come off due to Williams’ career-ending injury in a motorcycle accident.

A year later, Canelo accepted the challenge of the then undefeated Austin Trout. A slick fighter who was then in his prime, Trout seemingly posed a big threat to Canelo who had a fight with Floyd Mayweather hanging in the balance. Canelo took the fight and won impressively. A year after facing the best fighter in the world in Mayweather, Canelo faced another slick fighter that few were willing to face in Erislandy Lara.

The names just kept coming after the Lara fight. There was the dangerous puncher in James Kirkland, the speed of Amir Khan and, of course, having to deal with a potentially much bigger man in Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.

Canelo’s resume speaks for itself and is probably the best in the sport at the moment. He has never backed down from a challenge and has fought many fighters that other top fighters were simply unwilling to face. It’s time to give him the credit he has long deserved for his willingness to fight the best.

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