By J.J. Alvarez
Three years after the conclusion of an incredible amateur career, which included a gold medal from the Athens 2004 Olympics, the Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa entered the sport of professional boxing with the ferocity of a hurricane. His punching power and fighting style allowed him to conquer the 126 lb. title in only 2 years.
But as time went on, the “Ciclón de Guantánamo” (“The Guantanamo Cyclone”) lost his compass inside and outside of the ring. Now approaching the age of 37, there is an uncertainty around his career - perhaps he is close to retirement - even though he remains optimistic regarding his upcoming fight against the Mexican Miguel Beltrán Jr. (33-6-0, 22 KOs) on the 10th of November at the Miami-Dade County Fair & Expo in Miami.
Facing a rival seven years younger, and with an unclear future in the sport, Gamboa must do more than simply emerge victorious in his next fight. His future is hanging on by a thread and this could be his last battle inside the sport of prizefighting.
His career began with a spectacular knockout in the 3rd round against Alexander Manvelyan on April 27th of 2007, in Hamburg, Germany. This victory occurred after leaving his homeland for 6 months to train in Brazil and prepare for the Pan American games in Río de Janeiro.
Gamboa in Miami
“He’s regaining his explosiveness and I think he’s headed down the right path in order to once again achieve stardom,” said trainer Pedro “Peter” Roque to a group of reporters at Tropical Park Gym, in Miami. Roque continued, “He had an excellent preparation and is in superb conditions physically, technically and in health”.
The Cuban born Gamboa added two victories to his record last year, both by majority decision. The most recent being against the American Jason “El Canito” Sosa, November 25th of 2017 at the Madison Square Garden Theatre in New York.
There in the Big Apple, and on other occasions over the course of 11 years in the sport of boxing, Gamboa once tasted the canvas in the 7th round and once had a point deducted in the 10th for repeatedly clinching his opponent. Three months before, Gamboa had won again by majority decision against the young Mexican Alexis “Baby” Reyes, at the Grand Oasis Arena in Cancun, Mexico. This time he had three points deducted due to technical fouls in the 5th, 8th, and 9th rounds.
“We’ve worked on a lot of technical aspects, mainly keeping his left hand up while he’s on the offensive,” affirmed Carlos Gamboa, the father of Yuriorkis. “On many occasions, he goes towards his opponent and isn’t defending himself with that hand”.
The bout between the former multiple world champion Gamboa and the Aztec Beltran Jr. will take place on the fair grounds of the Tamiami Park and not inside the Marlins Park Stadium, as was previously announced. Sources close to the event’s organizers say that the baseball installments demanded a costly insurance that was “impossible to pay”.
This will be Gamboa’s big opportunity to compete in front of the enormous Cuban community within Miami. This is the closest he’s been to fighting in front of his exiled compatriots since October of 2007, when he defeated the Brazilian Adailton “Precipicio” De Jesus at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, which neighbors Miami-Dade.
Beltran Jr., in his most recent fight, this past September 14th in Culiacan, Mexico, won by knockout in the first round against his co-national Misael “El Toro” Muñoz. Referee Leonardo Bermúdez called a stop to the contest with only 2 seconds left. However, not much can be said of Beltran Jr.’s victory, considering Muñoz has an abysmal professional record of 14 losses, all by knockout, and has never tasted the sweetness of victory.
Gamboa's executioners: Crawford and Castellanos
Gamboa conquered the WBA World Featherweight title with a spectacular knockout in the 4th round against the Panamanian Wyler Garcia on October 10th of 2009 at Madison Square Garden. The following year, on September 11th, the Cuban acquired the vacant IBF World Featherweight title when he unanimously defeated the Mexican Orlando “Siri” Salido at the Palms Casino and Resort in Las Vegas. Gamboa fell to the canvas in the 8th round, but Salido tasted the same medicine on more than one occasion in the 12th.
Four years later, Gamboa made the mistake of taking on one of the world's pound for pound best, the American Terence “Bud” Crawford in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska at the Century Link. Gamboa had only fought once in the 135 lb. division before crossing paths with Crawford, a born puncher who constantly changes his stance and creates tactical uncertainty amongst his opponents. As an appetizer to the unforgettable match against Crawford, The “Guantanamo Cyclone” unanimously defeated the Colombian Darleys Pérez, June 8th of 2013 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, where Gamboa raised the Interim WBA World Lightweight title.
Motivated by his success thus far of 23 victories (17 by way of knockout and 6 by unanimous decision), Gamboa went up against Crawford, who gave him a beat down, including knockdowns in the 5th, 8th and a few more times in the 9th. This resulted in referee Genaro Rodríguez bringing an end to the massacre at 2:53 of said round. With this victory, the North American retained his WBO World Lightweight title.
Six months later, Gamboa returned victorious, winning by TKO in the 6th round against Joel Montes de Oca. His streak continued, defeating Hylon Williams Jr. and René Alvarado, both by unanimous decision over the course of 10 rounds. But in his next contest, Gamboa arrived in poor physical condition and was mauled by the Mexican Robinson “Robin Hood” Castellanos at the luxurious MGM Grand Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.
Considering the records of both fighters, Gamboa was a big favorite to defeat Castellanos, who was 23-12 at the time. However, the Cuban came into the fight lacking speed and adequate preparation. In the 3rd round, a straight right hand knocked down Gamboa. The following rounds consisted of more of the same, and with little or nothing left to offer, and without any possibility of changing the course of the fight, Gamboa’s corner conceded defeat before resuming the 7th round.
Gamboa and his two trainers, Pedro Roque and Carlos Gamboa, are optimistic regarding the upcoming fight against Beltrán, Jr. This will be a great opportunity to see if the Cuban’s winds are still in full force or if this cyclone is about to peter out. We will see.
Translated by E.G. for J.J. Alvarez of Boxeo.tv