By Keith Idec
NEW YORK – Yuriorkis Gamboa doesn’t feel any additional pressure to beat Jason Sosa on Saturday night.
His critics consider Gamboa past his prime, unable to regain his championship form, but that doesn’t faze the three-division champion. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist is confident he can conclude what thus far has been a difficult year for him by beating the rugged Sosa (20-2-4, 15 KOs) in their 10-round super featherweight fight in The Theater at Madison Square Garden (HBO).
“All fights are important to me, especially this one, because I wanna continue with my career and I wanna look impressive,” Gamboa told BoxingScene.com through a translator. “I don’t feel any pressure. I don’t feel like my back is against the wall. Every time I train to win. I’m gonna win, so there’s no pressure. There’s no fight with anyone that I cannot come to win. So any fight, I’m gonna come to win.”
The 35-year-old Gamboa beat Mexico’s Alexis Reyes (15-3-1, 7 KOs) in his last bout, but only won by majority decision after having three points deducted during that 10-round fight for illegal tactics. Gamboa (27-2, 17 KOs) was dropped twice in his previous fight and lost to Mexico’s Robinson Castellanos (24-13, 14 KOs) by technical knockout when he refused to come out of his corner for the eighth round May 5 in Las Vegas.
He defeated Rene Alvarado in his first fight of the year, but Nicaragua’s Alvarado (27-8, 19 KOs) knocked down Gamboa in the 10th and final round of that match March 11 in Verona, New York.
The loss to Castellanos was particularly tough for Gamboa, who before that fight had lost only to Terence Crawford (32-0, 23 KOs), perhaps the best boxer, pound-for-pound, in the sport.
“[Before] that fight, I was very high in weight,” Gamboa said. “I could barely eat at all and I felt very fragile. But I had already made the commitment to fight at a certain weight [133 pounds], and I killed myself to make it. So I wasn’t my best in that fight.
“I learned from that mistake and I have concentrated a lot more on this fight than I was back then. Now I’m focused, my diet’s good and I’m good for this fight.”
Gamboa replaced Castellanos as Sosa’s opponent when Castellanos pulled out of the fight with a back injury.
The Sosa-Gamboa bout will be the first of three fights HBO will broadcast, beginning at 10 p.m. ET Saturday night. It’ll be followed by a 10-round light heavyweight fight that’ll send Cuba’s Sullivan Barrera (20-1, 14 KOs) against the Dominican Republic’s Felix Valera (15-1, 13 KOs).
In the main event, Russia’s Sergey Kovalev (30-2-1, 26 KOs) will battle Ukraine’s Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (19-1, 16 KOs) in a 12-round fight for the vacant WBO 175-pound championship, one of the three titles Kovalev lost to Andre Ward a year ago.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.