LAS VEGAS – When he was on the island of Cuba, living in a communist state, Yuriorkis Gamboa was deprived of basic freedoms. He eventually was able to escape, defecting to Germany before settling in Miami.
After punching his way to the upper-echelon in the sport, mesmerizing the public with his rare blend of speed and power, Gamboa realized his dream of fighting professionally while enjoying freedom. But after a long battle with his co-promoters (Top Rank and Arena Box-Promotion) and ensuing problems with his new promotional outfit, Gamboa found himself stripped of his greatest love – competing in the squared-circle.
After 15 months on the shelf, Gamboa returns on Saturday – with a new promoter in 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions – in the co-feature to Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez IV in Las Vegas, when he takes on Pacquiao-promoted Michael Farenas (HBO PPV, 9 p.m. ET).
“Obviously I didn’t like the inactivity, but at the same time I don’t think it jeopardized me,” Gamboa told RingTV.com through translator JC Rodriguez. “I stayed in the gym for 15 months because there was talk of me coming back in the ring, then a fight would fall through so I never really stepped away from the gym. From the moment I step in the ring and hear all my fans cheering me on, to the point where I have my arms raised in victory, that’s what I missed the most.”
Gamboa (21-0, 16 knockouts) has competed at featherweight for the majority of his career, but faces Farenas (34-3-2, 26 knockouts) at 130 pounds, where he plans to stay for a while, though he sees 135 pounds in his future.
“They spoke about the [Brandon] Rios fight at 135, that’s all it was, talk, because there was never any contract signed,” said Gamboa of the proposed Spring 2012 fight that never materialized. “At 135 pounds, I haven’t really had a fight, but it’s something that I’m looking at in the future. [But right now 130 pounds] is a better weight class and more comfortable for me.”
50 Cent (real name Curtis Jackson) has been calling out for a fight between his charge and THE RING’s No. 1-rated lightweight Adrien Broner next year. It’s a challenge Gamboa would relish, though first he would have to make that jump in weight.
“He’s a good fighter,” said Gamboa, 30. “It would be a very technical fight, he’s a great technician, so am I. It’s something that would have to unfold in the ring, but we’ll see if he would be able to handle that pressure.”
After so much time away from the ring, it’s hardly surprising Gamboa is returning against a modest opponent like Farenas, saying “he’s a good opponent for me right now.” Farenas took a big jump in class in his last fight, traveling to Japan to face THE RING’s No. 1 junior lightweight, Takashi Uchiyama. The fight was inconclusive though, with an accidental clash of heads ending the fight in a technical draw in the third round.
“El Ciclon de Guantanamo” doesn’t believe the layoff affected the momentum he had in the sport and plans to remind everyone on Saturday of what they’ve been missing.
“I’m going to make a statement,” he said. “You’re going to see I didn’t lose anything.”