Skills: Solis, a protégé of great Mexican trainer Jesus Rivero, has more-sound fundamentals and better technique than Gamboa. The rangy boxer possesses an educated jab, makes use of feints and subtle upper-body movement and is a solid counter puncher. Gamboa is known for his speed and power but he can box. The Cuban amateur star understands distance and does a good job of controlling it, along with the tempo of a bout, with his athletic footwork and timing.
Power: Solis has respectable power as evidenced by his 64 percent KO ratio. In fact, the Mexican veteran has stopped six of his last 10 opponents. However, if he has a weakness, it’s his lack of physical strength and killer instinct. Solis is a pure boxer with a less-than-formidable physique. Gamboa is the opposite. He’s built like the Warner Bros. Tasmanian Devil character and he has the relentless attitude of the cartoon terror, hence his nickname “El Ciclone” (The Cyclone). With his world-class speed and his willingness to go for the KO, it’s no surprise that Gamboa has stopped 15 of his 19 pro opponents.
Speed and athletic ability: Fans can count on one hand the number of active fighters who can match or surpass the blazing speed and power with which Gamboa is gifted. Gamboa, who possesses razor-sharp reflexes to go with his explosiveness, is one of the sport’s most gifted athletes. Solis is a solid athlete but he’s rather ordinary compared to the Cuban dynamo.
Defense: If there’s one category that clearly belongs to Solis, it’s this one. Gamboa has technically been down five times in his career, and it isn’t because he can’t take a punch. Gamboa has touched canvas that much because of woefully poor defensive technique mixed with an attitude of invincibility. The Cuban often keeps his hands down and dares his opponents to catch him as he lunges in with his offensive bursts. The more-seasoned opponents he’s faced — Adailton De Jesus, Darling Jimenez, Marcos Ramirez, Roger Gonzalez and Orlando Salido — have taken advantage of his overconfidence. However, with the exception of Salido, Gamboa got up (unfazed) and stopped everyone who has dropped him. Solis is not untouchable, but being a Rivero disciple, the Mexican strictly obeys the basic rules of technique. That means his hands are up at all times. Solis blocks punches well and his stick-and-move style also limit’s the amount of punishment he usually takes in a prize fight.
Experience: When assessing Gamboa’s experience, his decorated amateur career, which included a reported 250 bouts, must be taken into consideration. Gamboa faced the best amateur boxers of Cuba and the world from 2000 to 2006. However, Solis’ edge in professional experience is significant. The perennial contender, a veteran of 45 pro bouts, has logged 272 rounds. Gamboa has only gone 85 rounds in the paid ranks. Solis has also faced more contenders and fringe contenders than Gamboa, as well as a bona-fide world-beater in Pacquiao.
Chin: Solis has been down once and he has been knocked out once, but it was three-division beltholder Humberto Soto who dropped him and Pacquiao who stopped him. Both bouts took place at junior lightweight. Gamboa has been dropped five times but he’s never appeared seriously hurt. If he’s been rocked by any of the punches that put him down, or by any of the cleaner shots his opponents have landed during exchanges, the Cuban either does a good job of hiding it or his recuperative ability is impressive. The hunch is that both Solis and Gamboa possess solid but slightly less than world-class chins.
Conditioning: Solis, who has gone the 12-round distance seven times, is extremely regimented in his preparation. Everything from his diet to road work to his floor exercises is done by the book. Gamboa is a gifted athlete who is ultra-competitive. He loves to challenge and push himself in training, which includes constantly bettering his overall conditioning from camp to camp.
Wear and tear: Gamboa’s extensive amateur career has to be figured in this category, but even with all those amateur bouts it’s a fair bet that he has less “mileage” than Solis, who turned pro in 1998. Solis hasn’t been in many grueling bouts but the many rounds in the gym and in his fights have to have taken their toll over the years.
Corner: Solis began his career under the guidance of Jesus Rivero, one of Mexico’s most celebrated trainers. However, the enigmatic boxing philosopher retired from the sport before Solis had advanced very far as a professional. Solis’ younger brother, Ulises Solis, a former 108-pound titleholder who was also trained by Rivero, took over as his head trainer as he developed into a contender. The strong boxing foundation instilled by Rivero is evident in Solis’ technique and style, but one has to wonder whether he would be a more complete fighter with a seasoned pro trainer, such as Nacho Beristain, coaching him over the years. Gamboa has been trained by Ismael Salas since the Al Seeger fight in July of 2008, but he’s known the veteran amateur and pro coach his entire life. Salas, a native of Guantanamo, Cuba, was the head amateur coach of that region, and he trained Gamboa’s father. The two have a very strong rapport. They also have a complimentary relationship. Salas, who also trains strawweight titleholder Kazuko Ioka, has worked with 11 titleholders, including former light heavyweight beltholder Danny Green, since he defected form Cuba in 1989. The trainer’s experience is helping Gamboa adapt a more professional style.
Outcome: Gamboa will try to impose his superior strength, speed and power on Solis by immediately taking the fight to the Mexican challenger, but he’ll find that the 31-year-old veteran was prepared for a blitz. Solis will gradually slow down Gamboa with well-timed straight rights in the early rounds, limiting the kinetic titleholder’s offensive bursts with his busy jab and lateral movement. Gamboa will regroup in the middle rounds, using his speed and timing to hurt Solis with hard single counter punches that slip over and under the challenger’s jab. When a body shot causes Solis to double over and back up, Gamboa will rush in looking to finish the fight, but he’ll learn that the veteran is dangerous when backpedaling when he runs into a right uppercut that momentarily stuns him. Gamboa will cautiously stalk Solis in the following rounds, working his jab and putting together crisp combinations. He will repeatedly hurt Solis but the backpedaling challenger will hold, duck, twist and turn, headbutt and occasionally punch back in a diehard effort to survive. However, despite Solis’ ring savvy, Gamboa will take over the bout in the late rounds.
Prediction: Gamboa by late stoppage.