by David P. Greisman
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – They were the three outcomes that fans of Yuriorkis Gamboa had been looking for.
He won. He won easily. And he went home early.
Except the end of the fight wasn’t off a sensational knockout, but rather from an accidental head butt and an anticlimactic early reading of the judge’s scorecards.
Gamboa defeated Daniel Ponce De Leon via unanimous technical decision, two judges scoring the action 80-72, the third tally of 79-73 finding one round to give to Ponce De Leon.
That Gamboa won was no surprise. That both men remained standing wasn’t quite expected.
Gamboa and Ponce De Leon each have reputations for rendering their opponents defenseless or unconscious. Gamboa, with his blinding hand speed, had captured an Olympic gold medal in 2004 and had only allowed four of his 20 pro fights to go the distance. Ponce De Leon, with 34 knockouts in 41 victories, had landed on the highlight reel on several occasions simply by landing his left hand.
It was a given that this Cuban and this Mexican would ooze machismo in the ring Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.
Ponce De Leon’s bravado quickly turned into defiance, daring Gamboa to come at him more, to stand with him and fight. Gamboa, meanwhile, dared Ponce De Leon to do something about it.
Gamboa didn’t need to stand still with Ponce De Leon, not when he could draw him into fast right hands, and not when he could force Ponce De Leon back to the ropes and strafe him with furious flurries.
Ponce De Leon couldn’t do anything about it. His hardest punches rarely landed. Those that did land didn’t deter Gamboa.
Don’t take that to mean that Gamboa didn’t respect Ponce De Leon’s power. The same fighter who demolished Rogers Mtagwa (knocking him down three times in two rounds) and who destroyed Jorge Solis (knocking him down five times in four rounds) chose a more tactical approach with Ponce De Leon.
Gamboa sought to establish his right hand early, often launching it as a counter shot against Ponce De Leon’s slower jabs and southpaw left hands. He’d also send that right out as a lead, sometimes looping it around De Leon’s gloves, more often lacing it between his guard.
In his past form Ponce De Leon might’ve attempted to blow Gamboa away, to challenge the chin that some have doubted ever since the knockdowns Gamboa suffered earlier in his career. In his present form Ponce De Leon is more cautious, a boxer-puncher rather than a brawler.
Ponce De Leon has known his own limitations since being stopped in the first round by Juan Manuel Lopez in 2008. He was even more aware of his limitations as Gamboa’s counters and leads continued to land.
Ponce De Leon came forward, working behind a jab, following up with left crosses and hooks to the body. He tried the occasional counter, seeking to make up for his deficit in speed by timing a left hand.
Gamboa easily blocked or dodged or ducked most. One Ponce De Leon left hand in the third round was met with Gamboa ducking under and glaring at his foe with disregard as he moved the action back toward the center of the ring.
Soon it was Gamboa who had Ponce De Leon on the ropes. He bounced back and forth in front of him, toying with him as to when the punch would come. A crisp right hand connected. Gamboa moved away.
Between rounds, Gamboa stared at Ponce De Leon from his stool.
Gamboa chose his own spots and gave Ponce De Leon none. When Ponce De Leon sought to exchange in close, Gamboa cranked up to a much higher gear with lightning-fast combinations.
Toward the end of the sixth Ponce De Leon let loose with about a half-dozen shots, none of which were of consequence. Gamboa needed only retaliate with a single right hand.
The 2,085 in attendance responded almost every time Gamboa landed clearly. They would not be sent home with the ending to which the previous seven rounds had been building.
Gamboa’s head collided with Ponce De Leon’s about halfway through the eighth as Gamboa came forward. The clash of heads opened a vertical sliver in the middle of Ponce De Leon’s forehead above his left eyebrow.
The bout was waved off at the 1:24 mark.
Ponce De Leon falls to 41-4. Gamboa improves to 21-0 and announced afterward that he’d be abandoning the featherweight division for the 130-pound weight class.
There were three results that fans of Gamboa could take with them after his win over Ponce De Leon.
He won. He looked good in victory. And he moves on to his next challenge.
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com.
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