<
>

Q&A: 'You will see the same Gamboa'

6/30/2014 - Boxing

It has some time since Yuriorkis Gamboa was widely considered among the most exciting and best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.

Yet nearly three years and two divisions later, Gamboa (23-0, 16 KOs), the former featherweight world titlist, has yet to taste defeat.

Despite battling inactivity and promotional issues since 2011 -- including twice sitting out for periods of more than one full year -- Gamboa, 32, once again finds himself in a major fight.

The 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist will challenge lightweight titlist Terence Crawford (23-0, 16 KOs) on Saturday at CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska (HBO, 10 p.m. ET/PT).

Gamboa, along with translator Tony Gonzalez, recently took time from training to talk with ESPN.com about Saturday's fight:

The majority of the prefight talk has centered on whether you can return to being the Gamboa of old. How much has that been overblown?

You will definitely see the same dynamic and explosive guy in the ring on [Saturday].

How much has your in-ring style changed since moving up two weight classes to 135 pounds?

None. Not at all. You will see the same Gamboa.

What did you take away from being so inactive the past few years in terms of things you were able to work on in the gym?

It has helped out somewhat. I can say that. I have worked on what I may consider to be some deficiencies so it has helped in that aspect.

Despite being such a skilled boxer coming up through the Cuban amateur system, you fight with a much more exciting style than many of your countrymen. Where does that come from?

It all started with my father. That is the style that he taught me when I little growing up and obviously I implemented that into the other things I learned being on the Cuban team. The result is what you see now.

What was your impression of Crawford's victory over Ricky Burns, in which he went into his opponent's backyard of Scotland in order to win a world title?

It's something I just learned of today. Obviously it's something positive you can talk to him about and it just goes to show you that you can go into someone's backyard and beat them.

Considering Crawford's strengths as a slick boxer, will you need to be more of a puncher in this fight in order to have your best shot at winning?

Not exactly, because I consider myself a very good defensive fighter as well, along with being a good counterpuncher. So I don't necessarily agree with that remark.

You're a former pound-for-pound level fighter who has somewhat fallen out of sight and out of mind despite remaining unbeaten. How much will that provide you an opportunity to be a sleeper within the division?

Yes, absolutely. It will. I would agree with that.

You came close to securing a title fight against Mikey Garcia earlier this year before it fell apart. How hard has it been the past few years not being able to get the fights you wanted most?

It's just part of a boxing and sporting career. Not always do you get what you want so it's just something that you have to learn to deal with.

From your point of view, why did the fight with Garcia fall apart?

In my opinion, and from my point of view, it's similar to what happened in the Brandon Rios fight [in 2012]. Both sides just never came to terms on any sort of a deal and there was never a meeting of the minds. Everything just fell by the wayside after that.

You're at an age where smaller fighters begin to slow down. How good do you feel at this weight class in terms of your speed and power?

I don't think I am losing my speed, actually. It's still an advantage that I think I have. I have demonstrated I still have my speed and my power and I think it's something that I am bringing up with me to this division and it will bring me a great advantage.

How much of a factor will Crawford's punching power play in this fight?

I can't give you an honest opinion on it. But at the same token, I don't categorize him as a puncher. If he has had knockouts it has maybe been against opposition who have been way inferior in terms of the quality of opponents that he is used to.

After all of the ups and downs in the past few years, what does it mean for you to get back into a marquee main event fight with an opportunity to compete for a world title?

I think it's something that obviously is very exciting to me. For me to be able to demonstrate my skills on a platform like HBO is obviously something I look forward to.

If you get a victory over Crawford, where do you believe you would fit in among the best in the division?

Obviously it's something in my aspirations that I have been very vocal about in the past -- I want to become a pay-per-view fighter. I think beating Terence Crawford would set up a huge match between myself and Mikey Garcia and I think that would be a great pay-per-view match.

What do you have to do, above all else, in order to be victorious on Saturday? 

I need full concentration on what I am doing inside the ring. When carrying out my game plan, precision is very fundamental to me. And obviously making precise blows on the body and wherever else I need to debilitate him and eventually lead to the victory.