Sharkie’s Machine: The WBA, Yuriorkis Gamboa and the ‘Making’ of a Champion
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (April 18, 2009) Photo © Tom Casino/SHOWTIME  
Introducing…The WBA Featherweight “Ordinary” World Title. Who’s going to get a shot at the WBA’s “Super” World Title and who might participate in the fight to win the next invented title, the WBA “Minor” World Title. How many titles does the WBA want and how many sanctioning fees does that all add up to? Just like too many Chefs spoiling the soup, too many champions’ waters down the quality of the word “champion” in the sport of boxing. Why not do things the old fashioned way, let fighters work their way up the ladder of contention so they can EARN their way to becoming a top contender in
their division and then fight to eliminate the other top contenders in route to EARNING a shot at the one, real Championship Title? It’s so simple. But nooooo. Yes, boxing is a business but there’s good business—and there’s bad business.

Friday night at the Buffalo Bill Star Arena in Primm Nevada , unbeaten 125-pound sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa (15-0, 13 KO’s) got a shot at a suddenly vacant (or suddenly created) WBA title. The man Gamboa fought in order to win this title was Venezuela’s Jose Rojas (25-7-1, 17 KO’s), a man who’s been out of the ring for 13 months and his last opponent had a pathetic record of 1-9. What kind of qualification is THAT?

Rojas used to be a pretty good fighter. In his better days, he knocked out current WBA “Super World Champ” Celestino Caballero back in 2003 and fought Chris John to a Draw in Indonesia back in 2004. John beat him in a rematch by blowout Decision in 2007. On paper, Rojas is the best fighter Gamboa’s ever faced in his pro career. Gamboa won the fight by TKO in nine after the ref stopped it during a Gamboa rally at a point where there was no point in continuing this one sided contest.

What does the real WBA titlist, Chris John think about the WBA watering down the value of his title, which he’s defended eleven times since 2004?

Gamboa has said he wants to fight Chris John and after winning this fight, that he couldn’t lose, he said he’d fight “Anyone who comes to fight him.” Well, why should Chris John come here to fight Gamboa? Last time John came here to the USA , he got robbed by the Judges in his fight with Rocky Juarez, where the Judges scored the fight a Draw after Chris John had clearly out-boxed Juarez and won the most rounds. And who thinks Gamboa will travel to Indonesia to fight John? The result will be two champions in the same division in the WBA who won’t fight each other. What’s the point of that?

This is not to suggest anything against the fighters, it’s not their fault that boxing is run the way it is, with so many divisions, too many titles and not interest to get decent coverage in mainstream newspapers or regular TV. There’s a reason boxing isn’t as popular as it once was. Between all the mismatches, bad decisions, predictable Pay-Per-Views with crappy under-cards every other week, titlists being stripped of their belts outside of the ring for political reasons and so many other inconsistencies have turned boxing into a cult sport instead of the mainstream sport it used to be. Bad business.

As fans, we should question why boxing operates without any legitimate structure. After all, this is OUR sport! There wouldn’t be any boxing if it weren’t for us, the fans who spend our money buying tickets or subscribing to premium cable channels so we can follow it. It’s no wonder boxing isn’t as popular as it was just a few decades ago. If you put out a good product, fans will follow. If you put out a questionable product, the fan base shrinks to the point where your friends who follow other sports laugh when you say you’re a boxing fan. The WBA and all the alphabet organizations should take note.

What has either Gamboa or Rojas done to qualify for a title shot? Gamboa is fun to watch but who has he fought in his short pro career that justifies him getting a title shot? It’s all so cheesy and an insult to Gamboa, Chris John and the intelligence of boxing fans that pay attention to details. Sure, many of us want to see Gamboa climb the ranks—but not like this. He’s not earning a title, he’s being given one. The difference is huge.

There was little drama in Gamboa vs. Rojas. I scored it a shutout for Gamboa, who did all the punching, albeit mostly ineffectively, while Rojas did a lot of slipping and sliding but rarely punching. How could Gamboa lose?

From the opening bell Gamboa was the aggressor, chasing Rojas around the ring with punches, most of which were missing. Rojas showed some slick defensive moves and good stamina in the way he ran and ducked punches. Rojas displayed all the finest qualities one would expect from a sparring partner, giving Gamboa nine rounds to showcase his skills against an opponent that would rarely throw punches back.

If Rojas was there to win, it didn’t show. Forget compu-box stats, in nine rounds combined, I doubt Rojas landed more than 15 decent punches. In effect, Rojas was there to insure that Gamboa won this fake WBA title, which should make him even more marketable in the minds of the scambologists who run the WBA.

The best way for Gamboa to insure his marketability is to fight progressively better fighters and win. What was interesting was how long it took Gamboa to finish a guy with decent boxing skills minus an offense. It should be noted that the referee stopped this fight during a Gamboa rally in the ninth round, where Rojas was clearly capable of continuing—but the truth is, there was no reason to continue this one-sided mismatch between a 37 year-old on the decline against a 27 year-old rising star.

Now that Gamboa has a title, who will he fight next? Gamboa is not ready for Chris “The Mechanic” John, who’s a most efficient boxer and ring tactician who knows how to manage a wild swinging up and comer, no doubt. Though John’s not a big puncher, he’s able to out-box opponents and score consistently enough to win rounds. Gamboa still fights amateurishly; he wings his punches, he doesn’t have a very good defense and has nearly no experience in the pros against good fighters that come to win. Its unlikely Gamboa will be rushed into any fight with the top guys in the division. So what’s the point of “giving” him a title? Though Gamboa has beaten guys with nice looking records, he is yet to beat any of his undefeated contemporaries at the prospect level.

A prospect like Gamboa should fight guys like Orlando Cruz (16-0, 7 KO’s) of Puerto Rico, Oleg Yefimovych (16-1, 10 KO’s) of the Ukraine , Miguel Angel Garcia (15-0, 12 KO’s) from Oxnard California . These are fighters with records and experience similar to Gamboa’s. If he can beat those guys, then he should move up and fight real contenders. If he succeeds there, he’ll be properly prepared for a real title fight in the near future.

Gamboa has a lot of assets, he’s strong, has good stamina, can punch from various angles, an aggressive ring demeanor, etc., but he has a few weaknesses on defense and would do well to improve his punching technique so he can get better extension on his punches, since at five- foot, five, he doesn’t have a long reach. If and when he fights top fighters, he won’t be able to just bully his way in like he’s done successfully against lesser opponents. Yuriorkis Gamboa has a LOT of potential, I hope his handlers don’t mismanage him into oblivion.

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