This Saturday, the featherweight who lives up to his nickname “The Cyclone” should have been facing much-feared Celestino Caballero, a bold, over-the-top move worthy of full-blown YURIORKIS GAMBOA! celebrations. Instead, Gamboa is taking his Cyclone self into what still stands as the hardest fight of his career against tough veteran contender Orlando Salido. If for some reason you don’t know about Gamboa yet, all I can tell you is that anyone who can legitimately be compared to a force of nature — he possesses a cocktail of speed and power rivaled only by pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao — is someone you need to see box.
The undercard is a bit of a bait-and-switch itself; Top Rank had promised HBO Gamboa-Caballero and in the co-feature, a lightweight bout between Humberto Soto and Anthony Peterson. Instead, Peterson is fighting Brandon Rios, which actually might be an upgrade. Soto has become more boring as he has moved up in weight, while Rios is a dynamic fighter like Peterson. There’s a chance this meeting of hard-punching youngsters steals the HBO show.
YURIORKIS GAMBOA-ORLANDO SALIDO
Gamboa and Salido share a common opponent, Rogers Mtagwa, and both knocked out the hard-headed Tanzanian, although Gamboat did it in three fewer rounds.
But Salido is by far the more seasoned professional. Salido fought Juan Manuel Marquez in 2004, losing a decision. He fought Robert Guerrero in 2006, winning a decision but having it rendered a no contest after Salido failed a post-fight drug test. And he’s split two fights with Cristobal Cruz, winning the most recent one earlier this year to return to Ring’s top-10 rankings at #3 to Gamboa’s #6. All of those fights in Salido’s 47-fight career eclipse those in Gamboa’s 18-fight career.
Salido as a fighter is in the boxer-puncher mode, sort of, but he’s neither a high-level boxer nor high-level puncher. He can move a little, he can counter a little, he can punch a little — mainly with his big straight right hand — and he can brawl a little. Overall, he’s a little awkward. He likes to come forward, and while he was knocked out a few times early in his career, he’s not lost by KO since 2000, a testament to his having a good chin, because he is most certainly hittable. He’s a tough dude, with most of his recent losses — he has 10 in all — coming via close decision.
Gamboa isn’t just special effects, to borrow a phrase from Floyd Mayweather. He’s physically gifted, capable of unleashing a storm of hard, fast punches that look quick in slow motion. But he’s also improved his game, fighting smarter on defense and picking his moment of attack better so as not to leave himself so vulnerable. He’s been dropped a couple times, but it’s hard to say he has a bad chin, exactly, as he never seems to have been badly hurt. Then again, if he gets dropped against some of the lesser fighters who have dropped him, you wonder what would happen if a better, stronger fighter got ahold of that chin. His level of competition has been fairly advanced for someone of his pro experience, since he’s got an extensive amateur career from his days in Cuba, but Salido’s his best opponent so far, surpassing Mtagwa.
I happen to think Gamboa has gotten himself very disciplined, to the point that if he gets hurt these days, or finds that he can’t blow out an opponent, he’ll be content boxing his way to a decision. He has the talent and skill level to do so against Salido, assuming Salido doesn’t either catch him with something big or outlast Gamboa with grit. But I think Gamboa will mash him up like a fast-motion trash compactor, maybe in relatively short order. Despite Salido’s toughness, he hasn’t fought anyone quite like Gamboa — who has? — and I doubt he’ll hold up, given how very hittable he is. I’ll give Gamboa seven rounds to do it, at most. Then I’ll make a second prediction of “never” for the time frame in which Gamboa will fight Caballero or Juan Manuel Lopez, fights everyone wants more for Gamboa than Gamboa-Salido, because that’s how Top Rank is doing things these days with its top fighters — keeping them out of harm’s way.
ANTHONY PETERSON-BRANDON RIOS
Before reviewing some video, the perception I had in my mind was that Peterson was the better technician and faster, but Rios was the slightly bigger puncher. I think I’m right about Peterson being faster and Rios hitting harder. I tend to go with the faster technician against the slower puncher in most cases. But I’m less sure now about Peterson being the better technician.
These two are, in some ways, very alike. Both are explosive combination punchers, with authentic power in both hands, good jabs and an equal degree of savagery applied to both head and body shots. They’re both pretty big lightweights, with Rios standing at 5’9″ to Peterson’s 5’8″, although Peterson has the 4″ arm length edge at 74″. Neither has fought particularly impressive opposition, but they both are pretty young. I might give Rios the edge in competition, in part because he beat a fellow prospect in his last fight, Jorge Luis Teron, although Peterson has probably beaten the better veteran of the two, Javier Jauregui.
The biggest technical difference is in the level of each boxers’ defense. Both prefer to block punches with their gloves, but Rios is better at it by far. Peterson also opens himself up a bit more. Rios offense is more measured and focused; Peterson kind of attacks willy-nilly.
So give me Rios in a slight upset. The betting odds I could find favored Peterson just a tad. The Peterson brothers are made of hardy stuff, as Lamont showed in his gritty effort against Timothy Bradley last year. I don’t think Peterson will get knocked out. But he’ll get the worst of it in a unanimous decision against Rios.
[TQBR Prediction Game 4.0 is in effect. Remember the rules.]
As I’ll be on vacation this week, the tremendous Alex McClintock will be handling the post-fight write-up for Gamboa-Salido and Peterson-Rios.