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On September 10th 2011, Olympic gold medallist and former IBF and WBA Featherweight Champion Yuriorkis Gamboa beat Daniel Ponce de Leon via an eighth round stoppage, bringing his impressive record to twenty one wins (sixteen by knockout) and no defeats. Since sneaking out of a Venezuela training camp and defecting to the US, Cuban featherweight Gamboa has made a name for himself as a lightning fast boxer with furious punching power. 

Despite his unbeaten record and impressive skill, Gamboa has not quite “made it” yet. He would like to be known alongside names such as Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, but his victories and his promoters have been unable to take him there yet. His latest win over Ponce de Leon was supposed to be that fight. If it all went to script, Gamboa would have ended it with a stunning knockout over the experienced Mexican. As it went, an accidentally clash of heads forced the ring doctor to call off the belt, leaving Gamboa – leading on all the score cards – as the winner.

So far, Gamboa has earned two world titles, he is co-promoted by Top Rank, and he has never faced an opponent with a losing record or few pro-fights than himself. He has beaten talented men such as Jonathan Victor Barros, Orlando Salido and Jorge Solis. In short, he doesn’t shy away from a challenge. With his latest victory, he is now eyeing bigger and better things. Following the Ponce de Leon fight, Gamboa said:
“I am ready to fight at 126, 130 or 135. I just want the big fights.”

Is moving out of the featherweight division the only way Gamboa can make a bigger name for himself? Or does he still have fights left at 126 pounds? Let’s have a look at the bouts available to him.

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Nonito Donaire
Not only are there big names in the featherweight division that Gamboa still needs to face, but there are also skilled fighters moving up into the division. One such name, easily the most exciting, is twenty-eight year old Nonito Donaire, the current WBC and WBO Bantamweight champion who is considered a future superstar of boxing.

Having conquered the Bantamweight division Donaire, like Gamboa, has aspirations to move up. Bob Arum, his promoter, shares this view. He said:
“The guy [Gamboa] has to watch out for is the bantamweight champion. He’s a big kid and can grow into a featherweight real easy.”

Donaire went to the same school in General Santos City that Manny Pacquiao attended years before him, and all his life Donaire has lived with comparisons to the Filipino legend. As a fighter, Donaire has it all; he is a boxer and a puncher, he has speed and he can change from southpaw to orthodox at will. Given that both he and Gamboa are of a similar age, and that both are touted as the “next Pacquiao”, it seems inevitable they will fight. Gamboa himself seems willing:
“That would be a very good fight. I think he’s a very good boxer.”

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Juan Manuel Lopez
‘Juanma’ Lopez, twenty eight, is a man who has long been mentioned as an opponent for Gamboa. The former WBO Featherweight Champion has beaten opposition like Rafael Marquez and Steven Luevano in the past, and Gamboa’s promoter, Bob Arum, has tried diligently to match the two up in the ring. Thus far, there have been too many setbacks for it to happen.

Negotiations and fight dates have gone back and forth between the two, and often the bout seemed almost sealed but never quite made it. The will-they-won’t-they tussles came to a head when, on April 16 2001, Juan Manuel Lopez suffered a shock loss to underdog Orlando Salido. The loss came from nowhere for the Puerto Rican, and considering that Gamboa had already soundly beaten Solido, it ended talks of a Yuriorkis Gamboa – Juan Manuel Lopez bout.

Despite this the fight still remains an attractive and crowd-pulling prospect, but first Lopez needs to get back to winning ways. He remains a top featherweight contender and his talent cannot be thrown into question yet, so it is hoped he will convincingly win his next fight on October 1 against Mike Oliver. Even if he does win though, there is the danger that Lopez will walk into an empty room in pursuit of Gamboa. Will Gamboa have left the featherweight Division by the time Lopez is ready to face him?

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Chris John or Miguel Angel Garcia
Chris John is something of an old hand in the featherweight division, despite only being thirty-two years old. ‘The Dragon’ has won an impressive forty-five out of forty-five, stopping his opponent by knockout twenty two times. The Indonesian first won the WBA World Featherweight title back in 2003, beating Oscar Leon with a twelve-round split decision. If his capture of the title wasn’t unanimous, his keeping of it certainly has been. He has successful defended the belt twelve times, beating fighters like Rocky Juarez and Juan Manuel Marquez.

John was upgraded to “Super” champion and, for once, it is hard to argue with the title. The featherweight fighter has been a superb belt holder, and although he doesn’t get the media attention you might expect, beating him would look impressive on any boxing CV. He would be a good fight for Gamboa.

From an experience champion, we move on to a hot prospect. American featherweight Miguel Angel Garcia is one of the rising stars in the division, having a thus-far twenty six match unbeaten record. He hasn’t won a world title yet, but a shot at a belt is not far away for him. ‘Mikey’ Garcia has a power punch that could stop an elephant (if it were fighting at featherweight) and his knockout record backs this up – he has won twenty two fights this way. He also quick and likes to mix up his game a little; he is a switch hitter who can change from orthodox to southpaw stance with ease. He is a nightmare to face.

Garcia next fights on Nonito Donaire’s undercard on October 22, but no opponent has yet been named. Gamboa and co. need to keep an eye on him, because if a move to Super Featherweight or lightweight proves unworkable at present then a bout with the kid from California would be both a ticket seller and a tough test.

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Adrien Broner
Now we come to the super featherweight division, Gamboa’s supposed destination of choice. Here there is competition, though not as much as in the weight class below it. The most attractive proposition for Gamboa here is Adrien Broner, the skillfull, undefeated wonderkid from Cincinnati. Carrying a nickname of ‘The Problem’ around with him, Broner has certainly proved to be one, coming through victorious in all his twenty one fights.

He is seen to be the number one super featherweight by some, but this really is an exaggeration given that the twenty-one year has yet to win a world title belt. He has fought a decent level of opposition though, recently beating Jason Litzau by first round technical knockout, and before that winning an unanimous decision over Gamboa’s last opponent, Daniel Ponce de Leon.

Broner is due to fight for the vacant WBO Super Featherweight title on November 26, but no opponent has yet been named. Assuming he wins, Broner would be waiting for Gamboa with a world championship belt around his waist and this would be too enticing for ‘El Ciclon de Guantanamo’ to pass up. A fight between Gamboa and Broner is a no brainer, with both having impressive unbeaten records and generally regarded as having exciting futures.

Broner is a technician who likes to wait for openings to appear and exploit them with ruthlessness. He will have a tough time being patient against Gamboa, who will throw a flurry of punches at him with no mercy. Broner is not perturbed though, and has already said he will fight Gamboa. In his own words:
“A lot of people keep saying that I should fight Yuriorkis Gamboa. If Gamboa wants to meet at a catchweight, or come up and fight me, then, you know, we could do it.”

The Future for Yuriorkis Gamboa
He and his management have stated on numerous occasions that the Gamboa plan has always been to move up. The fight I would like to see is Gamboa vs Donaire. The one I think we will get is Gamboa vs Broner. Whichever one happens, it is something to look forward to. Where does Gamboa see his future heading? Here is what he said:
“I want to go for Manny Pacquiao and the legends.”

Is Gamboa fighting soon? What is Donaire up to? Only one way to find out. Click here for the upcoming fights.