Such are the standards that Yuriorkis Gamboa has set for himself that a solid victory over a quality opponent isn’t enough.
Gamboa was coming off a sensational fourth-round knockout of Jorge Solis in March, after which even the most cynical among us dubbed the former Cuban standout a superstar in the making.
Gamboa gave another good performance against Daniel Ponce de Leon on Saturday in Atlantic City, N.J., outboxing the former junior featherweight titleholder before the fight was stopped in the eighth round because of a cut on de Leon’s forehead.
The judges scored the truncated 127-pound fight 70-63, 70-63 and 69-64 in Gamboa’s favor, a convincing victory.
However, no one who saw Gamboa for the first time on Saturday would think he’s particularly special. No one was dazzled this time.
Oh, he showed flashes of his quick, damaging combinations and considerable power. Just flashes, though. For the most part, Gamboa (21-0, 16 knockouts) was content to take relatively few chances and outbox a slower and less-talented foe.
This Gamboa is a better fighter than the gifted but reckless Gamboa of his early pro career, but not nearly as exciting. He won a tough matchup fairly easily but scored few points in the marketing department.
De Leon (41-4, 34 KOs) deserves some respect. The 31-year-old Mexican is known as a tough, determined brawler but has better skills than many give him credit for.
He gave slick featherweight prospect Adrien Broner difficulty in March, losing a unanimous but close decision that some believe should’ve gone the other way. And Gamboa clearly wasn’t going to have his way with a fighter of this caliber, one who could give anyone trouble on the right night.
Gamboa won every round on two cards and all but one on the third because of his speed and elusiveness but most of the rounds were competitive.
In the end, however, the former WBA and IBF featherweight titleholder did his job. He beat a respected opponent to set up more high-profile fights in the near future.
Gamboa joined legions of small fighters by calling out Manny Pacquiao in the ring after the fight, a matchup that seems highly unlikely given that the Filipino icon fights four divisions above Gamboa.
More likely he’ll face another good featherweight, perhaps unbeaten Mikey Garcia. The brother of trainer Robert Garcia and Gamboa are both promoted by Bob Arum, which would make for smooth negotiations.
And fans dream of a Gamboa-Nonito Donaire matchup, although the bantamweight would have to jump two weight classes to make it happen.
Gamboa appears to be at or near the peak of his powers. He believes he’s ready for anyone.
“If they think they’re one of the best,” he said of prospective featherweight opponents, “I’m ready for the best.”
No one would argue with him on the point even if he didn’t wow us on Saturday night.
Photo / Naoki Fukuda