By Jake Donovan (photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank)
Red-hot featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa continues to bide his time in waiting for a superfight with Juan Manuel Lopez to materialize, staying busy with a convincing 12-round decision over Orlando Salido on Saturday evening at The Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada.
The win earned Gamboa his second alphabet title at featherweight, on a night that was dedicated to John Arum, the late son of Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum who died last week at the age of 49 in a hiking accident just outside of Seattle.
Eyebrows were raised when Gamboa was listed as an 11-1 betting favorite over the durable Salido, but the Cuban blue chipper justified the wide margin from the opening bell. The difference in speed, skills and overall talent was overwhelming, as Gamboa dazzled his fellow titlist with jabs, right hands and left hooks while taking very little in return.
Salido danced as hard as he could to make a competitive fight out if, charging forward in the second but often coming up empty. Gamboa fought a far more disciplined fight than is usually the case, playing smart defense and coming back with hooks to the body and flurries upstairs.
Gamboa fronted like he wanted to end matters in the third, charging off of his stool and tagging Salido with repeated head shots, but unable to land the type of blow that could send everyone home early.
The sequence proved telling, as the next three rounds became an awkward affair. Both fighters received warnings over the course of the fourth and fifth rounds for roughhouse tactics, the type of fight favored Salido, who tried to make a fight of it midway through.
As the second half began, Gamboa came out with renewed energy, taking the fight to Salido but suddenly easing off of the gas and returned to boxing and dancing. The most memorable sequence of the seventh came after the bell. Both fighters connected, though Gamboa’s was more visible (and also the last to land), drawing a warning from referee Joe Cortez.
Both fighters came out energized for the eighth. Gamboa jumped off to a strong start, but suffered a mental lapse just long enough to get clipped with a counter shot from Salido the resulted in the fifth knockdown of his young career.
Gamboa smirked as he rose to his feet, but Salido gave him reasons to take the fight seriously with several landed power shots once action resumed, offering the suggestion that he was more hurt than he let on. His corner certainly sensed it, demanding that he didn’t need to do anything other than box.
The Cuban listened to some degree, mixing boxing and finessing in the ninth, but not offering much in the way of activity. Salido did enough to close the gap on the scorecards, but Gamboa settled down and chose his punches wisely in the tenth.
Salido continued to charge forward, but Gamboa’s left hooks and overhand rights were enough to control the tempo and keep his opponent one step behind. Consecutive left hooks had Salido in considerable trouble, but managed to stay on his feet (save for a brief slip) long enough to survive the round.
Finally realizing that he could hurt his foe, Gamboa fought with a greater sense of urgency in the 11th. Unfortunately, the spurt was short-lived, as an accidental clash of heads left Salido with a cut along his forehead which required a brief exam from the ringside physician.
To his credit, Gamboa didn’t allow the unexpected break in the action to interrupt his rhythm. If anything, he offered some of his best work of the night once the bout resumed, screaming “ahhh” every time he landed a punch, which was quite often in the round.
Gamboa connected even more in the 12th and final round, although one sequence –and the ineptitude of Joe Cortez – nearly cost him the fight.
Salido was twice sent to the canvas in the round, but only once was officially ruled a knockdown. Gamboa floored his opponent for the first time in the night with a right hand upstairs and left hook underneath .
For whatever reason, Salido vehemently protested, even going so far as to shove his hand at the referee, though not receiving a warning. He would instead absorb more punishment, with Gamboa scoring with repeated head shots, including a right and a left-right combo that sent Salido to the canvas for the second time.
However, because Cortez was so badly out of position, the sequence was never ruled a knockdown, nor was Gamboa ordered to back off and move to a neutral corner. In the spirit of protecting himself at all times, the Cuban continued to throw until instructed to stop doing so.
By the time Cortez moved into position to intervene, the knockdown was missed and the way-past-his-prime third man instead docked two points for what was ruled an intentional foul.
Fortunately for Gamboa, it wasn’t enough to severely impact his massive lead on the official cards at the end of the night. Scores were 116-109, 114-109 and 115-109 for the 2004 Olympic Gold medalist and now unified featherweight titlist, who improves overall to 19-0 (15KO) with the distance win.
A three fight win streak is halted for Salido, who falls to 34-11-2 (22KO) on a night that proved frustrating all around.
Earlier in the day, the Mexican was stripped of his alphabet title for exceeding the maximum 10 lb. allowance in between the day-before weigh-in and same-day weight check, putting on 12 pounds overnight.
Had he won the fight, the title would’ve been declared vacant while Gamboa’s championship status would’ve remained intact.
Instead, Gamboa leaves the Vegas ring with two straps around his waist, accomplishing the feat in the presence of fellow unbeaten titlist Juan Manuel Lopez, as promoter Top Rank continues to allow the highly anticipated featherweight super fight to marinate.
RIOS EARNS TITLE SHOT WITH DQ VICTORY OVER PETERSON
In the televised co-feature, Brandon Rios put on a power punching display but was left to accept victory in the form of a seventh round disqualification against Anthony Peterson in a lightweight title eliminator.
Peterson jumped out to an early start in a bout pitting undefeated lightweights making their respective HBO debuts, jabbing from the opening bell and also offering combinations to the body. Rios struggled to pin down the elusive Peterson, though enjoyed a brief moment of success with an uppercut that caused Peterson to clinch and regroup.
The two fought mostly on the inside in a crowd-pleasing second round, which on paper favored Rios, who scored repeatedly with uppercuts and also one-twos upstairs. Peterson refused to wilt, shooting his right hand through Rios’ leaky defense.
As thrilling as was the second round, action was even more furious in the third. Both fighters enjoyed multiple moments of success with their power shots, though Rios did it with greater frequency, throwing more than 130 punches in the round. The two-way action thrilled everyone in the room, expect trainer Barry Hunter, who lit into Peterson between rounds, insisting that his charge was fighting the wrong fight.
The trainer’s words proved to be wise, as Peterson was stunned badly in the fourth round. Rios connected with a heavy jab and follow up right hand that began a vicious rally which eventually had his foe on wobbly legs. Peterson eventually slowed down the bum rush by offering a late round clinch, but couldn’t offer anything to swing momentum back in his favor.
Peterson went back to side-to-side movement in the fifth, but wasn’t mixing in his jab, much to the chagrin of his corner. Rios came on big time in the second half of the round, connecting with right hands and once again drawing Peterson into an inside fight to perfectly set up a left hook that floored Peterson for the bout’s first knockdown.
Hunter went deep to the motivational well in between rounds, giving his surrogate son the “You’re blowing it speech” originally offered by famed trainer Angelo Dundee shortly before Sugar Ray Leonard rallied back to stop Thomas Hearns in their famed 1981 welterweight unification match.
It’s unclear what Peterson took out of the speech, but very little of what he offered in the sixth round came in the form of legal punches. Referee Russell Mora was forced to warn and eventually take two points from Peterson in the round for repeated low blows.
The deductions couldn’t have come at a worst time, as he appeared to otherwise win the round, but instead dug himself in a deeper hole on the scorecards.
It eventually became a moot point as the fight wouldn’t go beyond the seventh round. Peterson boxed in the early going, before Rios once again came on with his much heavier blows. Peterson flirted with disaster, continuing to target the body but eventually went too low not once but twice more, leaving the referee no choice but to end the fight.
The official verdict was a disqualification at 2:59 of the seventh round.
Rios advances to 25-0-1 (17KO) with what is by far the biggest win of his young career in what has become a banner year. The Oxnard, Calif. native became a married man two weeks ago, but had to put his honeymoon on hold while preparing for this fight.
Needless to say, the celebration will be twice as sweet as he gets to enjoy some downtime.
Once he returns to the ring, awaiting Rios is a mandatory shot at lightweight titlist Miguel Acosta. He also took the time to call out Humberto Soto, whom the Mexican-American accurately accused of cherry picking his opponents and avoiding tough challenges since his arrival at lightweight.
Proof of the aforementioned claim is the fact that Peterson waited over a year for his mandatory title shot, but was instead encouraged by his promoter to take on Rios for a fight pointing him towards a different titlist.
It was the type of risk you have to take to advance in the sport, but Peterson fell short of realizing his dream. He suffers the first loss of his young career as he falls to 30-1 (20K).
The loss comes nine months after older brother Lamont Peterson came up short in his title bid against Tim Bradley late last year.
While the dream continues for the boxing brothers who overcame far worse in surviving the mean streets of Washington DC as children, it’s a long road back to the top for two fighters who never seemed to rate very high on the list of priorities for promoter Top Rank since signing with the Vegas-based company in 2008.
Both bouts aired live on HBO’s Boxing After Dark.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected] .