By Jake Donovan
Everything was civil for most of Thursday’s press session in Omaha, Nebraska to help promote the June 28 lightweight title showdown between defending champ and hometown favorite Terence ‘Bud’ Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
The bout, which airs live on HBO, will take place at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, the first title fight in 42 years, when Joe Frazier knocked out Ron Stander in their 1972 heavyweight championship bout.
Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum – whose Top Rank company proudly promotes Crawford – sold the fight as the two best lightweights in the world, with identical records (23-0, 16KO for both fighters). With the session open to the public, the crowd was sizeable and vocal, cheering wildly anytime the city of Omaha was mentioned and more so for any reference to – and every spoken word by – Crawford.
Even the fighters themselves were cordial and appreciative of the other stepping up to endure such a tough challenge.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to once again be able to step into the ring and provide for my family,” stated Gamboa, who hasn’t fought since a points win over Darleys Perez last June. “I came here to prove to everyone – my critics and fans alike – that I’m willing to face Terence in his own backyard, so that everyone can witness a great fight.”
The normally soft-spoken Crawford was receptive to the comments and complimentary of his upcoming title challenger.
“It’s gonna be a good fight, I know it,” Crawford insisted. “Yuriorkis Gamboa is a truly incredible champion. I honestly have nothing bad to say about him.”
Except that he did – not bad, per se, but enough to light a fuse towards the end.
“The only thing I can say about the man is that he shouldn’t have taken this fight.”
It could have ended there, and all parties go on their way. Crawford, who hit the road to win the title with a clear-cut win over Ricky Burns in Glasgow, Scotland this past March, could’ve simply had the last word, stood and posed with his challenger for the obligatory stare down before heading off to prepare for the first defense of his title.
Instead, his own promoter decided to keep things going.
“This is normally reserved only for debates… but we are going to allow for a rebuttal,” quipped Arum, before motioning to Gamboa to respond.
Things took off from there, though never escalating beyond words.
“I didn’t make a mistake in taking this fight,” Gamboa insisted. “Before you speak, you have to compare our records. You have to measure the caliber of fighters I fought versus who you fought. You never fought an Olympic champion like me, a three-time champ like me.”
Crawford didn’t wait for a cue from his promoter to respond, instead instinctively stepping to the microphone to put a few words in Gamboa’s ear.
“One thing, you ain’t fought me yet,” Crawford bluntly stated.
Following a reply from Gamboa, the hometown champ continued to break it down.
“This ain't the amatuers. You have a zero, but soon to have a loss. I'm the champion you the challenger. You gonna to see on June 28, that's what it's going to be about.”
It’s been nearly 100 years since a fighter from Omaha – Perry ‘Kid’ Graves – claimed championship status, and never before has a fighter from Nebraska defended his crown at home. If both fighters live up to their word, then June 28 figures to be well worth the wait.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox