IT takes a special fighter to bring down a whirlwind puncher like Yuriorkis Gamboa of Cuba. You can say that American Terence 'Bud' Crawford displayed that special pugilistic skill when he recently tamed the fearsome 'Cyclone of Guantanamo' to retain his World Boxing Organization (WBO) lightweight (135 pounds) title.
Crawford demolished Gamboa like a wrecking ball going through hapless bowling pins. Make no mistake, Gamboa actually got off to a good start in the first three rounds, intimidating Crawford with his handspeed and punching power. Crawford felt the jitterbugs early on, but by the middle rounds he was dictating the tempo with his left jab and counterpunching. The 5-foot-5 Gamboa, with a five-inch reach disadvantage, encountered difficulty getting inside. Gamboa also paid dearly for his habit of lunging in with his hands down as Crawford repeatedly nailed him with well-timed counterpunches. When Crawford noticed that Gamboa often dropped his left hand, he switched to a southpaw stance and started jabbing with his right hand, catching the Cuban flush on the jaw and setting him up perfectly for the follow-up left.
Gamboa crashed to the canvas four times, once in the fifth and eighth rounds and twice in the ninth stanza. By the time referee Genaro Rodriguez pulled the plug in the ninth round, Gamboa had become a crash-test dummy.
Gamboa‘s record dropped to 23-1 with 16 knockouts. Truth be told, the disappointing setback was an accident waiting to happen. A former Olympic gold medalist, Gamboa barged into pro boxing in 2007 with tons of potential, but he lost his way in the punch-for-pay business. While he won the World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight (126 pounds) championship in 2009, managerial and personal issues derailed his progress. He bolted Top Rank in 2012 and hooked up with rapper/businessman 50 Cent (Curtis Jackson in real life) and Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s The Money Team Promotions. When the partnership between 50 Cent and Mayweather Jr. failed to get off the ground, Gamboa ended up joining 50 Cent’s SMS Promotions which had ties with Top Rank.
Amid the promotional impasse, Gamboa was arrested twice for assaulting his ex-wife Dunia Martinez, with whom he has two children. He was also implicated in the drug scandal involving Biogenesis, a Miami-based anti-aging clinic charged with peddling performance-enhancing drugs to pro athletes. Gamboa turned out to be one of the clients of the clinic.
After being inactive for over a year, Gamboa resurfaced in the ring in December 2012 and was nearly knocked out by Filipino Michael Fareñas in a super featherweight (130 pounds) bout. Though unimpressive at 130 pounds, Gamboa moved up to lightweight (135 pounds) where he eventually capitulated against Crawford.
At age 32, Gamboa’s days in the ring are numbered. It has become clear that the Cuban is too small to compete in a heavier weight class. At 126 pounds, Gamboa overwhelmed foes with his speed and innate power, but at 135 pounds his suspect chin melted like butter.
In stark contrast, boxing fans are now keeping a close tab on the undefeated (24-0, 17 knockouts) Crawford. One of three children, a young Crawford earned his spurs as a street fighter in Omaha, Nebraska. Trouble followed him in the streets and in one heated dice game Crawford was shot behind his right ear. To avoid the streets, Crawford played football and basketball, but he often got kicked out of the teams because of his bad temper. He eventually found boxing to his liking; the perfect avenue to channel his anger.
Crawford ascended to the WBO lightweight throne just three months ago by beating Ricky Burns. The latest win over Gamboa is easily the biggest in his career, but all point to Crawford scaling greater heights.