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Friday, March 25, 2011
Gamboa: 'Solis is a top-notch fighter'

By Diego Morilla
ESPNdeportes.com

Few fighters in today's boxing game command the respect from fans and media alike enjoyed by this 29 year-old former Olympic gold medalist from Cuba. An exciting, all-action style and a world-class skill set honed during an outstanding amateur career helped propel Yuriorkis Gamboa (19-0, 15 KOs) into championship status merely two years after fleeing his native country to become a professional prizefighter. Efficient and to the point, just like his pin-point hooks and crosses, the "Cyclone of Guantanamo" took a break in the final days of his preparation for his fifth defense of his featherweight title against battle-tested contender Jorge Solis (40-2, 29 KOs) on March 26 (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET), to chat with ESPNdeportes.com about this upcoming bout and beyond.

What can you tell me about training for this fight?
Training was good. We did a lot of rounds of sparring. We're in good condition, and we're ready.

Do you have a special strategy for this fight or do you consider your skills to be too much for Solis to handle?
Solis is a top-notch fighter. He's coming down from 130 pounds, where he was an interim champion. This is a fight that we will have to study and in which we'll have to be more patient.

Does his flat-footed, forward-charging style suit your fast, mobile type of boxing?
He's always charging forward and that's beneficial to me, because there I can exploit my quickness of hands. And also my lateral movements, because he won't be able to find me to counterpunch me.

The fight against (fellow 126-pound titlist) Juan Manuel Lopez is what everyone expects. Do you see it happening any time soon?
I hope it does come through, because there has been a lot of talk about that fight. But this is up to the promoters to decide. I am ready to fight him whenever he is ready.

Aren't you afraid of missing the fight with Lopez if it takes too long to be made and he ends up going up in weight?
I can't control what he will do next. All I can do is continue fighting my own fights, defending my titles, and trying not only to defend but also to unify those titles, which is a goal of mine. If he goes up in weight, that's his decision.

What is more important to you? Unifying titles or fighting guys like Lopez or Donaire?
To me, the most important thing is unifying titles. It will be very important, because that will leave a mark of who I am in the category, and if I can face Juan Manuel Lopez I would be unifying titles in my division anyway, so that would serve a dual purpose.

Who would be your most difficult rival in the division besides Lopez? Chris John?
We haven't talked about that fight yet, but it would be a good fight for me. It's a fight I am really interested in.

Do you think Salido will be a good measuring stick to compare yourself with Lopez at this point?
Well, he'll be fighting Salido right after I fought him. This will be the same situation as with (Rogers) Mtagwa. He says I was able to finish Mtagwa because he softened him up for me. And now I will use that same argument against him.

You have a very young, short career, and yet you enjoy a lot of worldwide recognition as one of boxing's best. Do you think this adds pressure on you or is it good to be always the favorite?
I don't really feel the pressure. I know that as long as I leave more than 100 percent of my effort in the ring I will have my hands raised at the end even though I've had only a few fights, because I have the experience of having more amateur fights than most of the fighters around me today. I come from a long amateur career in Cuba in which I fought more than 400 fights, and I became Olympic champion. Very few people in today's professional boxing can match this record.

What do you think people see in you that excites them the most?
My style has been the same as the one I have been using since my amateur days; I haven't added anything. What I did add in the professional ranks is trying to have a little more patience, because the fights are much longer. I don't fight three or four rounds anymore, I fight 10 or 12. That's why I had to have much more discipline, which is something not many other fighters have.

Would you consider jumping up in weight to make better fights?
Eventually, I would like to go up in weight. Once I have unified practically all titles I will be ready to go up to a higher weight class.

How do you envision the fight developing in your mind?
Like I said earlier, I will have to study the opponent carefully because I know he brings a lot of experience, but I also plan on being more patient, waiting to see his weaknesses and exploiting those weaknesses, and using my intelligence a little bit more.

Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.