By Cliff Rold
It was a beautiful dissection.
It’s been clear for quite some time that Cuba’s Yuriorkis Gamboa is flawed. His frequent trips to the canvas and ability to make drama out of walkovers left all the clues. He kept escaping because the gifts he was blessed with, the power and speed, bailed him out.
On Saturday, Terence Crawford put together a complete performance to solve the riddle. Gamboa brought a strong game. It took a special counter to top it.
Was it indicative of a special fighter growing in our midst?
Let’s go the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Crawford A-; Gamboa A/Post: A-; A+
Pre-Fight: Power – Crawford B; Gamboa B+/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Crawford B+; Gamboa B-/Post: B+; C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Crawford B+; Gamboa B+/Post: A; B+
The plaudits calling it the Fight of the Year for 2014 so far might not be entirely accurate (there are a few fights this year that keep pace with Crawford-Gamboa), it is certainly a candidate. The quality of the action, the combination of skill and hard hitting, was excellent.
This scribe didn’t see it quite as competitive as some though.
HBO had Gamboa winning the first three rounds as did many in the press. It might have been awe at the speed of Gamboa. Crawford was right there with him even in the early rounds. The only frame Gamboa definitively won was the third. The first was two distinct halves, the second half favoring Crawford. Round two was a coin flip, as was the fight going in.
Crawford rocked Gamboa seriously for the first time in round four. Outside of a brief glimmer of hope for Gamboa in the ninth, it was almost all Crawford from there. The taller, bigger (much by way of rehyrdration), and more disciplined man locked in and surgically took Gamboa apart.
Crawford’s body attack took the steam out his man and the right hand just wasn’t missing upstairs. Prior to the fight, Crawford was still a bit of an x-factor. We knew more about Gamboa, for better and worse. What we knew bore fruit in his early effort and, almost, in round nine. Gamboa was dangerous throughout.
But now we know for sure about Crawford. He’s the goods. Will it carry above Lightweight?
That would seem the big question. It’s still too early to declare Crawford a sure thing as he moves on in weight, something that appears imminent. His two best wins are over a Ricky Burns and Gamboa who both came up the scale to Lightweight.
At this moment, Lightweight isn’t the deepest class. Jr. Welterweight is. Crawford’s connection to Top Rank could mean a quick shot at someone like Jesse Vargas for a belt but the real challenges rest in men like Lucas Matthysse, Danny Garcia (if he sticks around), and perhaps Ruslan Provodnikov. Crawford’s package of boxing and battler will mix just fine with those men.
And along the way we’ll find out even more. Crawford has made it worth looking forward to. On another note, his ability to put butts in seats in Omaha is a plus. Nebraska has shown they’ll travel like few other regions for their Cornhuskers. If he can tap into that, big fights could come sooner than later and we could have a genuine grass roots star on our hands.
For Gamboa, his stock should go up even if his body should probably head back to 130. Jr. Lightweight has some good fights for him, namely Takashi Uchiyama and Takashi Miura. Mikey Garcia could also factor in if he can resolve his issues with Top Rank. We’ve not seen the last of Gamboa. Now that he’s been brought down a rung, we might even see more of him.
Report Card Picks 2014: 29-14
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]