by Chris Robinson
Earlier this month, trainer Ismael Salas had a glorious moment when his fighter Guillermo Rigondeaux captured his first world title, seizing the WBA junior featherweight strap with a harrowing sixth-round knockout over Rico Ramos inside of the Palms Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada.
And while Rigondeaux, the two-time gold medalist from Cuba, is truly a special talent, Salas is no stranger to working with such pedigree, having trained his countryman Yuriorkis Gamboa for a memorable period as a professional.
Sporting a 21-0 record with 16 knockouts, Gamboa is regarded as the man to beat in the featherweight division because of his blazing speed of both hand and foot. Reflecting on his time with Yuriorkis, Salas admits he was anything but ordinary.
“As you know, they call him ‘The cyclone’,” Salas told me earlier this month while in Vegas. “He’s so intense, the way he is, the way he lives, is intense. It’s the way he fights. He’s a cool guy but with intensity.”
Gamboa now works with renown trainer Emanuel Steward but Salas shows no animosity towards the move, simply stating that his former charge is still like family to him and that it was a ‘business-wise decision’ made by his management.
It looks now that Gamboa will have to rely on all of Steward’s knowledge as he very well may be finding himself in an uphill battle with former lightweight champion Brandon Rios in a few months’ time.
Top Rank apparently is keen on matching the two fighters up on April 14th at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas but it seems to be such a drastic move for Gamboa to move up two full weight classes against a punishing, aggressive brawler like Rios.
Salas too has his doubts.
“You know, in my own personal view, it should be steadily,” the trainer said of Gamboa’s impending rise up in weight. “That fight is fine, but not now. Let’s say he’s at 130 then he goes up to 135.”
It is surprising on some fronts to see Rios entertaining such as fight, as he failed to make the lightweight limit of 135 pounds in his last fight with John Murray, losing his title on the scales in the process.
Rios would salvage the moment by pounding Murray out in under eleven rounds one night later at Madison Square Garden in New York and while he still remains one of the hottest names in the sport, Salas feel he will have serious issues with Gamboa if he struggles to make weight again.
“He’s tough," admits Salas. "He’s real tough and everybody knows that. But one thing I can tell you is for sure, if Rios has problems making weight like in the last fight, he will have a big problem with Gamboa.”
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