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Thursday, July 17, 2008
All-action Gamboa gunning for win on Friday

By Joe Tessitore
ESPN.com

Yuriorkis Gamboa
Only two opponents have managed to hear the final bell against Yuriorkis Gamboa, left.
Yuriorkis Gamboa emits a strange signal in this sport.

He is a fighter. A true fighter.

You can tell by every move he makes -- and most of those moves involve no regard for personal safety or comfort.

"I sold my gold medal to pay for my daughter's birthday party," Gamboa, who won the gold at the 2004 Olympics, said of his struggles to make ends meet before he left Cuba for a life of freedom and capitalism. "I wanted to be able to give her the celebration she deserved as the daughter of a champion."

How can you not root for this guy?

"Friday Night Fights" is headed to Primm, Nev., to see Gamboa, the super featherweight most feel is destined to become a world champion.

Ah, Primm; there's nothing quite like a $29 hotel room and $5.99 prime rib special to frame your fight fix. Actually, you could send me anywhere to broadcast Gamboa's fast ascent.

Primm is somewhere between Vegas and the "next gas -- 100 miles" sign. But I'd rather head to that border town in the middle of a desert than snooze through yet another Wladimir Klitschko victory like the one we witnessed Friday. It's sad when the heavyweight champ doesn't move you -- or apparently many boxing fans, according to the TV ratings I saw.

Gamboa is sure to provide head-turning action, just as well as he moves his opponent's neck.

He is fighting in Primm for the second time in two months. Gamboa might like Primm, but he's hardly prim and proper. Reckless and ruthless is more like it. Just the way I like my fighters.

I recently was reminded of my preference for entertaining punchers by Pennsylvania commissioner Greg Sirb, one of the most respected men in the game. The likable Sirb took issue with comments I made about one of his judges. Sirb's point was that I often reward punchers. My response: Hell yeah, I do. I love skilled pros and respect the sweet science, but this is the hurt game. Effective punching will always trump everyting else. Effective punching is a skill in itself.

Gamboa (10-0, 8 KOs) is an effective puncher. He showed that in his U.S. TV debut in February when he TKO'd Johnnie Edwards in the first round on "Friday Night Fights." Edwards went on to beat down former champ Freddie Norwood. It was a smashing success that poured fuel on an already-roaring fire of Gamboa hype.

For some, that heat was turned down a bit when he showed flaws in his recent 10-round unanimous decision over Darling Jiminez. Gamboa hit the canvas in that fight but still won nearly every other round. He did so with that exciting all-action style for which he's known.

"I just go in like a cyclone, like the Tasmanian Devil, and tear everything that gets in my way," Gamboa once told the "Friday Night Fights" team.

Gamboa has defeated 21-fight veteran Adailton DeJesus, as well as the aforementioned Edwards and Jiminez. That's not the normal course for a pro with only 10 fights.

Gamboa was set to fight Jose "Cheo" Rojas, a four-time title challenger, on Friday, but legal issues nixed that matchup and Gamboa will get Al Seeger instead. Seeger (27-3, 21 KOs) unsuccessfully challenged Daniel Ponce De Leon two years ago.

Raw talent and athleticism have gotten Gamboa this far. These next few fights might reveal a lot about how far he can go. Will he be a titlist? Likely. Will he be an elite fighter with a long career ahead of him? That depends on his ability to grow and learn. And now he has a new trainer to ask those tough questions of him.

Former trainer Osmiri Fernandez was let go after the mixed reviews from the Jiminez fight. Ismeal Salas now is in the corner. Salas is a Cuban legend who worked with the country's great amateurs of the 1970s. He defected to Thailand but now is based out of South Florida.

Salas gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Primm on Friday. Buffalo Bill's Resort and Casino awaits.

Gamboa's latest wild west shootout should be a fun one.

Joe Tessitore is the blow-by-blow announcer for ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights."