3 More Rounds

Prizefight Preview: Crawford vs. Gamboa

Photos: Chris Farina / Top Rank

Photos: Chris Farina / Top Rank

Welcome back to the Prizefight Preview!

For the past five years, the sports universe has eagerly awaited a potential showdown between the top two stars in the sport of boxing. During that time, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather have strategically ducked and dodged each other, robbing fans of the opportunity to witness the best boxer-puncher of the era tangle with the most athletic counter-puncher in boxing history.

While we may never see this showdown of the immortals, a similar style matchup will take place this Saturday night on HBO. In what amounts to a “Poor-man’s PacMan vs. Money May,” unbeaten WBO lightweight champion Terence Crawford puts his title on the line against unbeaten 2-division title holder Yuriorkis Gamboa. The newly minted champ will play the role of Pacquiao with his aggressive two-fisted attack from all angles, while the challenger will do his best Mayweather impersonation with slick footwork and world class counter punching.

Crawford_media day_140625_005aIt’s been a wild ride over the past 15 months for Crawford (23-0, 16 KO’s), going from a virtual unknown to a world champion in the blink of an eye. His break-out performance in March of last year against dynamite puncher Breidis Prescott was all the more impressive due to the fact that he was brought in as a last minute replacement. Crawford took advantage of the opportunity and HBO exposure, dominating the match for all 10 rounds, while putting himself in the middle of the lightweight championship conversation.

Conversation became a reality roughly three months ago, as Crawford traveled to Scotland to challenge hometown hero Ricky Burns for his WBO title. In a masterful performance, the Nebraska native out-boxed and out-slugged the champion en route to a clear-cut decision victory. Now, it is Crawford who has earned the right to be the “home team,” as Saturday night’s contest will take place at the CenturyLink Center in the new champ’s hometown of Omaha.

While many title holders of the past have sought-out a soft opponent for their initial title defense, Crawford has chosen the path of most resistance in Yuriorkis Gamboa (23-0, 16 KO’s…yep, they have identical records!). The former amateur superstar has been equally successful as a pro, having won multiple title belts at featherweight and junior lightweight. While he may not have the most visually pleasing style or rabid fan base, the Cuban phenom has earned the respect of the hardcore boxing community with his electric reflexes and immeasurable instincts.

What makes a fighter like Gamboa a must-see attraction is his rare combination of sheer athletic excellence and physical vulnerability. On the handful of occasions when Gamboa has been cracked &/or dropped by a power shot, he has always come back to dominate the remainder of the match with his nasty left hook from a variety of angles and distances. When his head is screwed on straight and he is in his element, there are few fighters in the sport that display more pure talent than the 2004 Olympic gold medalist has shown. With his manager 50 Cent at his side, the dynamic duo will look to make their first big splash as a business team by invading the Midwest and scoring a landmark victory.

Crawford_Gamboa_finalPC_140626_009aThis feat will not be easy to complete, however, as Crawford has shown a mind-bending matrix of size and skill in his recent bouts. Physically he is a nightmare for any 135 pound opponent with his lengthy reach and height advantages. He can fight from either the southpaw or orthodox stance with equal ability, releasing combinations to the head and body with fluid motion.
The one disadvantage the champion may be facing would be in the speed department, however, as the challenger has some of the fastest hands and feet in the game.

Will Crawford’s combos take the cake, or will Gamboa’s swiftness seize the day? My money is on the champ in this one, as every close round should sway Crawford’s way with his overall punch output and accuracy, while Gamboa looks to load up and score on 3-5 monster shots per round. I expect a great deal of contact in the middle rounds, with both guys hitting the canvas at one point or another. In the end, however, the Omaha crowd should be going home happy, as their hero retains the championship after 12 competitive rounds of elite level boxing.

And then, we can wait for Floyd and Manny for five more years…and then five more…and then…

PREDICTION: Terence Crawford by majority decision, 115-111, 114-112, 113-113


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