Gamboa cruises against Ponce De Leon
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Featherweight Yuriorkis Gamboa's talent has never been in question. He is fast -- really fast -- and powerful. He is a gifted fighter, groomed during his stellar amateur days as a star on the powerhouse Cuban national team.
In 2004, he cruised to an Olympic gold medal and, like many of his teammates, eventually defected, leaving behind family and friends to pursue his professional dreams.
Everything is working out how he had hoped since he fled Cuba in 2007.
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He has won multiple featherweight belts -- even if they were eventually stripped from him -- and he is on his way to a major fight after what looked like an effortless performance in a dominant eighth-round technical decision against Daniel Ponce De Leon on Saturday night before a pro-Gamboa crowd of 2,085 at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall.
It wasn't the kind of explosive showing we have seen from Gamboa in other fights, but it was incredibly effective.
He totally shut down Ponce De Leon, a former junior featherweight titlist known for his tremendous power. Ponce De Leon's problem in this fight, however, was that he could never deliver it.
Round after round, Gamboa beat him to the punch and racked up the points. Lead right hands, left hooks, body shots, combinations -- you name it, Gamboa landed it. The fight ultimately was short-circuited at 1 minute, 24 seconds of the eighth round after an accidental head-butt left Mexico's Ponce De Leon (41-4, 34 KOs), 31, with a cut over his left eye, near his nose. It didn't look too bad, and the bleeding was quickly stopped after referee Alan Huggins called it off on the advice of the ringside doctor -- although Ponce De Leon didn't appear to want to continue, and didn't protest the stoppage one iota.
All three judges had it for Gamboa -- 80-72, 80-72 and 79-73. ESPN.com also had it 80-72.
"He stood with his head up in the exchange and he got cut," Gamboa said. "I saw that he didn't have anything for me."
"I saw it coming, the head-butt, but I couldn't get out of the way," Ponce De Leon said. "It was a good stoppage because it was in a spot that it wasn't going to stop bleeding."
That is certainly debatable, but the story here isn't the end of the fight. It was Gamboa's continuing to blossom against quality opponents.
Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs), 29, said he is done at 126 pounds and now wants a big fight.
"I want to go for Manny Pacquiao and the legends," Gamboa said. "In my weight division, I have no challenges. If [the big names] are ready for me, I am ready to face the best. No more 126. I'm done."
Co-promoter Ahmet Íner said Gamboa's next fight would be in the 130-pound junior lightweight division, with an eye on the 135-pound lightweight division soon thereafter.
I want to go for Manny Pacquiao and the legends. In my weight division, I have no challenges. If [the big names] are ready for me, I am ready to face the best. No more 126. I'm done.” -- Yuriorkis Gamboa on his immediate future
"Any opportunity, we are open," Íner said. "There is nobody right now. There is nobody there [at featherweight]."
Gamboa shows the kind of ability that has many placing him high on the pound-for-pound list, and this dominant performance should do nothing to dissuade that notion.
"My actions are showing it," Gamboa said.
He made it all look so easy, too.
"It is easy," Gamboa said. "I didn't need to use all my energy. It is unnecessary."
He also showed considerable poise.
"I'm showing that I don't have to be all crazy and reckless," he said.
Top Rank had talked about Gamboa possibly next fighting on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II HBO PPV undercard on Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden. But Top Rank president Todd duBoef said the company would prefer to secure a January HBO date for him.
"That's our priority," duBoef said, who promoted the fight against Ponce De Leon with Golden Boy, the first fight the rival companies have done together since they co-promoted Manny Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton in May 2009.
DuBoef loved what he saw from Gamboa, who had a loud contingent of fans waiving Cuban flags in the ballroom.
"He reminds me so much of a young Roy Jones," duBoef said. "They are like carbon copies of each other. Incredible power, they pick their shots and then use the incredible speed to get out of danger. They throw a lot of punches and then get out. They don't use jabs and they do everything unconventional, but they are such gifted athletes."
So does he believe in Gamboa's growing pound-for-pound push?
"I think his talent puts him way up there," duBoef said. "On ability, he is one of the most gifted fighters I've seen."
And now, ideally, we will see him against even better fighters than Ponce De Leon.
Cruz crushes Davis
Puerto Rican junior lightweight Luis Cruz (19-0, 15 KOs), whom Top Rank recently signed to co-promote along with Miguel Cotto's company, brutalized Antonio Davis (28-7, 13 KOs) before knocking him out at 1 minute, 39 seconds of the sixth round.
Cruz took it to Davis throughout the fight, wobbling him numerous times. In the fifth round, Cruz dropped Davis to his rear end with an uppercut and Davis' corner was poised to stop the fight but didn't.
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Davis, a former featherweight and junior lightweight title challenger, was taking a terrible beating in the sixth round when Cruz unloaded a flush right uppercut that knocked him out. He was down for several minutes.
With the win, Cruz secured his position on a major card. Top Rank announced he will open the HBO PPV telecast on the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III undercard Nov. 12 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
• The last time junior featherweight Jorge Diaz (15-1, 9 KOs) of Paterson, N.J., fought, he lost his first pro bout, a 12-round decision in a grinding, physical battle with Teon Kennedy in March on a Gamboa undercard. Returning to the same ring on another Gamboa undercard, Diaz scored a controversial third-round knockout of Rafael Lora (11-7, 5 KOs) of Irvington, N.J.
Diaz dropped Lora with a left hand in the second round after Lora had turned his back on Diaz, who reached around and nailed him. But in the third round, Diaz scored a far more questionable knockdown. He landed a blatant right hand behind Lora's head. Referee Sparkle Lee called timeout, but because Lora couldn't continue, the fight was declared a TKO with 11 seconds left in the round.
• Welterweight Wale "Lucky Boy" Omotoso (19-0, 17 KOs), a native of Nigeria who trains in Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., overcame a rough start to rally for a fifth-round TKO of Calvin Odom (15-11, 11 KOs) in a crowd-pleasing slugfest.
Omotoso controlled the opening part of the first round before Odom, of Inglewood, Calif., dropped him with a left hook and then continued to hurt him during his follow-up attack. At one point, Odom nailed him with a right hand and Omotoso went staggering across the ring and into referee Sparkle Lee, who may have prevented him from being knocked down.
The fighters traded back and forth throughout the fight. Odom, his left eye cut in the third round, went down on a right hand in the fourth round. In the fifth round, Omotoso landed a couple of hard shots as Odom was pinned against the ropes and Lee called it off 33 second into the round.
• Philadelphia's Miguel Cartagena (3-0, 2 KOs) stopped Cristian Cruz (3-3, 3 KOs) of the Dominican Republic at 2 minutes, 20 seconds of the second round.
• In the opening fight of the card, Omaha, Neb., junior welterweight Terrance Crawford (15-0, 11 KOs), in his second fight since signing with Top Rank, slugged it out with New York's Angel Rios (9-7, 6 KOs) in a fight that had the crowd cheering throughout. However, Crawford dominated and won a shutout decision on scores of 80-72, 80-72 and 80-71.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.
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