Unbeaten Gamboa still building big-fight appetite
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor

Ocala, FL (Sports Network) - Maybe it's an appetizer. Maybe it's not.

Depending on who's asked, the Saturday night title defense for IBF featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa could be one of the final run-ups prior to the Cuban export's anticipated 126-pound showdown with fellow unbeaten belt-holder Juan Manuel Lopez.

Or it could be just another ladder rung on the climb to something else.

Yuriorkis Gamboa won the vacant IBF laurels with a unanimous 12-round defeat of Orlando Salido.
Either way, Gamboa, born in Guantanamo and now living in Miami, faces 13-year pro Jorge Solis in the main event of HBO's "Boxing After Dark" show from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which will also include a 10- rounder between Matt Remillard and Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia.

The broadcast begins at 9:45 p.m. (et).

"When you see Gamboa fight, you see incredible natural ability that is very Roy Jones-esque," said Todd duBoef, president of his promoter, Top Rank. "He has speed and power in both hands that are not seen too often in this sport. What he needs now is the ring experience.

"We are also working on his marketability. People need to see him fight more often and need to see him out there more often. Not just to show the great gifts that he has but to show them against tough competition and that's how guys get known. Those performances are what will captivate the consumers, fight fans and the media."

It's the initial defense of the crown for the 29-year-old, who won the vacant IBF laurels with a unanimous 12-round defeat of former title claimant Orlando Salido on September 11 in Las Vegas.

Solis, meanwhile, is best known for his first of two career losses four years ago in San Antonio, where he fell in eight competitive rounds to subsequent pound-for-pound phenomenon Manny Pacquiao.

He's won seven of eight since to improve to 40-2-2 with 29 knockouts, but Gamboa sees no point in comparing his eventual result to his foe's previous match with the Filipino.

"I don't think it is a marker or any point of comparison," he said. "The fight happened awhile back and obviously Manny is a different fighter now than he was then. My fight with Solis I don't think is an indicator of anything compared to his fight with Pacquiao."

Neither does he see a need to rush toward the aforementioned Lopez, who defended his WBO featherweight title with an eighth-round stoppage of Rafael Marquez on November 6 to improve to 30-0.

Lopez will next risk his title on April 16 in Puerto Rico -- against Salido.

"In reality I don't feel rushed to make that fight," Gamboa said. "By the same token, there has been so much talk about me facing Juan Manuel Lopez and it hasn't come to fruition. I don't feel there is a need for so much talk if the fight isn't going to happen. I want it to happen and I hope it happens but I don't want to talk about something that won't come through."

Other champions in the division including WBA claimant Chris John and WBC title-holder Hozumi Hasegawa, and, in fact, Gamboa expressed as much enthusiasm about them as he did about Lopez.

John, from Indonesia, is 44-0 as a pro and has held his belt since 2004. He'll make defense No. 14 on April 17 against No. 5 contender Daud Cino Yordan.

Meanwhile, Hasegawa, a bantamweight champ for five years, captured a share at 126 with a wide decision over previously unbeaten Juan Carlos Burgos on Nov. 16 in Japan.

"I just think that [Lopez is] one of the champions in my division among others," Gamboa said.

"They have created this expectation about a fight that has not happened after a year of talking about it. What I want to do is tend to my business and keep collecting belts, hope that it happens and if it doesn't I just move on."

And the more he moves on the more marketable he becomes, according to duBoef, who used the universally panned Bradley-Alexander clunker at 140 pounds as a cautionary tale about unbeaten champions matched too soon.

Build it up, he said, and not only will they come, but they'll be hungrier from the wait.

"I wouldn't say that it's not on the radar. I would say that the business models around the two of them are separate and I think there is time to build the fight into a really big fight and the time both fighters will benefit from," he said. "How the fight happens so that we maximize the interest.

"We saw a recent fight between Alexander and Bradley that was a little early for it to happen. We all talk about when De La Hoya fought Trinidad that became captivated by everybody. I think there is something in between -- to build up the marketability of both fighters -- fighting good fights along the way and building up demand. I don't think we do well with timelines, I think we do well building businesses around both fighters and when it's ready to go it's ready to go."


(Some fights may not be televised)


ESPN2 - Cosmopolitan Resort, Las Vegas, Nevada

Yudel Jhonson (9-0) vs. Richard Gutierrez (26-5-1) - 10, middleweights

Erislandy Lara (15-0) vs. Carlos Molina (17-4-1) - 10, junior middleweights

TeleFutura - Sports Center, Fairfield, California

Antonio Escalante (24-3) vs. Alejandro Perez (14-2-1) - 10, junior lightweights


HBO - Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey

Yuriorkis Gamboa (19-0) vs. Jorge Solis (40-2-2) - IBF featherweight title

Jorge Diaz (15-0) vs. Teon Kennedy (16-0-1) - 12, junior featherweights

Miguel Angel Garcia (24-0) vs. Matt Remillard (23-0) - 10, featherweights

Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who's written professionally since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him at www.twitter.com/fitzbitz.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.
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