YURIORKIS GAMBOA! Yeah, part of the fun is just saying his name out loud, I admit it. The other part is that the featherweight is one of the most exciting performers in the sport these days. His awkward and defensively-astute opponent Friday night on Showtime, Jose Rojas, wouldn’t let Gamboa unleash the full excitement of which he is capable, but Gamboa finally demonstrated long stretches of focusing on defense — a key to him reaching his potential — and got his best victory by knocking out the sturdy vet to win some version of some alphabet title belt or the other. Having adopted Gamboa long ago, I very much liked what I saw.
Meanwhile, Selchuk Aydin won a split decision over fellow welterweight Said Ouali in a taut, action-packed battle in the undercard bout.
SELCHUK AYDIN – SAID OUALI
I really don’t think either of these welterweights are going to be “players” in the welterweight division, as one of the Showtime commentators said the winner would be. Ouali wouldn’t listen to his trainer, Roger Mayweather; Aydin was extremely easy to hit. But they put together a helluva nice fight. And who knows? Maybe I’m wrong; maybe this is the kind of fight where both men come out better fighters. I just doubt it.
I gave Aydin seven of the first eight rounds, although a number of them were close. It wasn’t just his volume punching; it wasn’t just his aggression. He was landing head-snapping uppercuts. Ouali stood up to them well, which means he has a great chin, or Aydin’s glossy knockout ratio is a mirage, or both. Either way, they were clean, effective punches. Of course, Aydin’s point deduction in the 6th for low blows made that a 9-9 round on my card (I didn’t like the deduction, because I like to see a ref warn that a point is about to be deducted first) so there was a window for Ouali to rally on my scorecard. And rally he did. Suddenly deciding to listen to Mayweather and not allow himself to get bullied to the ropes — which he did with foot movement and by tying up Aydin when he got close — Ouali won the last four rounds, I thought. He needed a knockdown in the 12th, and almost got it. Because he didn’t, that meant I gave Aydin the win, 114-113.
One judge saw it for Ouali; can’t complain there. One judge saw it 115-112 for Aydin; can’t complain there, either. Jerry Roth saw it 116-111. Maybe I could complain a little about that one. But it was a good, close fight, where, despite both men’s flaws, I left a satisfied customer. If either man goes at a top-10 welterweight, he loses, but maybe each would give a lower-end top-10 welter some trouble. Mainly, I’m just glad it was a good fight. They both showed great determination, and fought like it really meant something. Good for them; good for us.
YURIORKIS GAMBOA – JOSE ROJAS
No, the “title fight” wasn’t a real title fight, per se. Yes, Rojas was 37 years old and inactive in recent years. Nonetheless, I thought this was a really nice W for Gamboa. He says he wants Chris John next. I think he’d be better off moving up one more step first, fighting a legit top-10 feather, but if Gamboa fights like this, I’d give him a chance against John.
In the 1st round, Gamboa started with his hands up, then started dropping them by the end. I thought, “Oh no, he’s already reverting to his stupid hands-down style.” While he had some lapses sporadically through the fight, though, Gamboa mostly demonstrated tighter defense. The only time he got hit cleanly was when he was going in for his own attack, and I can live with him getting hit a little in cases like that. After all, who wants Gamboa to be conservative in unloading his considerable offensive arsenal? Later in the fight, after he’d worn Rojas down to the point where his punches weren’t very dangerous, he dropped his hands a little, but again, I can live with that some, too. Gamboa felt Rojas’ power and wasn’t threatened. If he wants to showboat, he’s taking a risk, but not a terrible one.
Rojas did give him trouble as a long lefty who was hard to hit cleanly. But Gamboa picked his spots intelligently, swelling up Rojas right eye to a disgustipating degree. Gamboa probably could have finished Rojas off before the 10th round. Rojas didn’t win a round, and he became less and less formidable as the fight wore on. Gamboa seemed content to land a nice right hand late in the fight then admire his work with Rojas staggered around a little. By the 10th, Gamboa let his hands go a bit more, and the staggering had become such that the referee stepped in to stop the fight. It was a good stoppage.
I’m proud of my boy. I know his tendency to get knocked down in fights is part of the fun, but since I’ve championed Gamboa so, it’s better for my ego if he wins with less drama. After this showing, I’m fully back in the capitalization/exclamation point mode on YURIORKIS GAMBOA!