By Jake Donovan
Two years ago, Yuriorkis Gamboa was recognized as the best featherweight in the world, so good that Top Rank did its best to avoid any chance at a showdown with prized possession Juan Manuel Lopez. The superfight that could have been instead saw its bottom fall out altogether when Lopez suffered a knockout loss to Orlando Salido.
Gamboa was sent in another direction – up the scale for a scheduled showdown with then-unbeaten lightweight Brandon Rios. The fight never happened, as Gamboa bolted from the promotion and eventually from Top Rank.
He has since resurfaced with hip hop superstar-turned-aspiring promoter 50 Cent. His comeback fight – a points win over Michael Farenas in an uneven performance – took place on a show with Top Rank as the lead promoter, Juan Manuel Marquez’ upset knockout win over Manny Pacquiao, with a similar pattern playing out this weekend.
Gary Shaw serves as co-promoter for Saturday’s card at the Bell Centre in Montreal, headlined by Chad Dawson’s light heavyweight title defense versus Adonis Stevenson. Shaw, who at one point co-promoted Gamboa’s career, has two fighters on this card – Dawson and Gamboa’s opponent, unbeaten lightweight Darley Perez.
The bout takes place at the lightweight limit, the heaviest at which Gamboa has ever fought. His previous high weight came last December, when he struggled against Farenas, although 15 months of ring rust possibly played as much – if not more – of a factor.
Perez is dug in as a lightweight, fighting at or near the weight for the duration of his career, even if only four years into the pro ranks. The Colombian native steps way up in competition, however, with his biggest win to date a narrow decision over Bahodir Mamadjonov in a matchup of unbeaten prospects last August on ESPN2.
At stake is a future alphabet title shot against Richard Abril, though for the loser the threat of being shoved way down queue.
Will Gamboa return to elite-level form and grow into a new division, or will Perez prove an old boxing axiom true that size does matter?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes this weekend’s big fight will play out.
PREDICTIONS – YURIORKIS GAMBOA vs. DARLEY PEREZ
“I think Gamboa will shine in this fight after a shaky performance against Farenas in December. I think Gamboa hits the deck early (as usual) but Perez seemed to be somewhat exposed in his last fight and I think Gamboa finishes him in nine.”
- Ryan Burton (Gamboa by knockout)
“I don’t believe 135 to be a good fit for Gamboa, with the Perez fight an unnecessary risk. I see both fighters hitting the deck, but Gamboa far more shook and never completely recovering as Perez offers a career-best performance en route to a career-best win.”
- Jake Donovan (Perez by decision)
“Perez TKO6 I keep thinking back to the Farenas fight and while Farenas can punch a little, Perez can flat out punch. Gamboa is very hot/cold so this may bite me in the ass but I just feel Perez is in the right place at the right time.”
- Ernie Gabion (Perez by knockout)
“Unlike most Colombian fighters, Perez offers more than just brute power; he has some skill behind it. Gamboa will look better and sharper than his last fight but he will taste the canvas none the less. Perez will be game but Gamboa's sheer speed and athleticism will be the difference as he outpoints Perez in fun fight.”
- Luis Sandoval (Gamboa by decision)
“A tough fight to predict but not in terms of a virtual winner: Gamboa will win this one anyway - the question is the way, he will find to dominate his limited opponent. Perez looked average against much less experienced Baha Mamadjoniv, and he was floored twice by a 8-8-1 fighter in his latest fight. The stoppage will be a nice prediction but I think, at lightweight Gamboa, a former flyweight, won't be so powerful to deal significant damage to his foe. And Perez's solid skills (and amteur background) will be on display too - so the fight goes the distance.”
“- Alexey Sukachev (Gamboa by decision)
Gamboa Dec. Perez: Gamboa looks to have just a little too much class and experience for Perez . That said, it’s Gamboa so the chance for an upset, or at least some dramatic wobbles or a knockdown, are there in a new weight class.
"- Cliff Rold (Gamboa by Decision)
Totals: Yuriorkis Gamboa 4, Darley Perez 2
The interim lightweight title fight between Yuriorkis Gamboa and Darley Perez serves as the televised co-feature to the light heavyweight championship between Chad Dawson and Adonis Stevenson. Both bouts serve as part of a televised doubleheader, airing live from the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada on HBO’s World Championship Boxing (Saturday, 10:00PM ET/7:00PM PT).
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox