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A Critique on Peterson, Rios, Gamboa and Salido

Anthony Peterson Brandon Rios Yuriorkis GamboaBy Ryan Dunn: Last night’s Boxing After Dark on HBO was nothing if not unusual. Two betting favorites stepped into the ring and ultimately showed more weaknesses than strengths, throwing yet more controversy into the lower weights and the quest for dominance. The fights themselves were plagued with ebbing tides, peculiar fouls and equal turns of heroism and disappointment.

Anthony Peterson (younger brother to Lamont, the two youngest of twelve, and two of boxing’s fringe hopefuls) took on a much more rugged Brandon Rios, while emerging Cuban phenomenon Yuriokis Gamboa went toe-to-toe with the stalwart Orlando Salido.

First up was Peterson and Rios. Before the fight, we got a look at the rough upbringing he underwent, including twelve children sleeping in their station wagon. It never hurts to give newcomers a reason to cheer for a guy. Unfortunately, they forgot to showcase Rios and his rough-and-tumble upbringing, because that became the story of the night.

Like his brother Lamont, Anthony Peterson cannot resist the temptation of going toe-to-toe when an opponent bum-rushes. The first round was a boxing clinic ran by Anthony, which yielded nothing more than the points for the round. He forgot to punctuate those jabs with power, and it wasn’t long before Rios started walking through them. By the third round, the fight belonged to Rios, and as they knocked one another silly, with nary a jab in sight, Peterson was quickly falling behind.

In round five, the avalanche of power shots from Rios proved too much for the lighter-fisted, weaker-chinned Peterson to handle, and he went down. The onslaught didn’t end there, and in round six, Peterson’s fatigue (in my opinion) turned into a series of bizarre low-blow uppercuts. On replaying the fight, I don’t believe his intention was malicious. I feel Peterson was trying to work to the body, but buzzed and gassed from the previous round that he couldn’t hit his mark.

Two point deductions came and went, and in round seven, after another pair of low blows, the referee had seen enough. He waved off the fight, disqualifying Peterson in a fight he was destined to lose regardless. All three judges had the fight scored 68-62 in favor of the rugged Brandon Rios.

I found the fight to be exciting and confusing. I don’t know where the discipline went in Peterson, who left his jab at the wayside early on. I understand he was losing the battle of footwork, and finding it hard to keep his distance, so in essence it goes to show that you have to “mean it” when you throw your jab, especially when you’re in against a slugger with heavy hands. I look forward to what the future holds for Rios. A fight with Victor Ortiz has the makings of a potential fight of the year, something we always love to witness.

The second match-up, Yuriorkis Gamboa vs. Orlando Salido, was another puzzler. Many wondered how Gamboa would do when pitted against a higher caliber of fighter. First round KO’s are fun to watch, but when the opposition are fighters like Al Seeger, Walter Estrada or Johnnie Edwards, they don’t mean that much to the elite breed. Gamboa floored the Tanzanian Tiger journeyman Rogers Mtagwa, but he was coming most recently off of a 12 round dominance over Jonathan Barros.

What could he do against Salido, who went pro at fifteen and racked up ten losses before he could tell a check-hook from an uppercut? We were about to find out. And here’s what I discovered…

Gamboa is a phenomenally fast-handed puncher with knockout power. Gamboa also has no defense, and has not learned to straddle the technical boxing with brutish slugging just yet. He is a work in progress, someone who would much benefit from a world-class trainer’s tutelage. I would not be surprised to see him taken in by someone like Freddie Roach as he moves up to take on the bigger names. It will likely happen after he suffers his first loss, which seems almost inevitable at this juncture.

Salido, while a terrific fighter, is not the type of fighter you would expect to give Gamboa such fits from doing basically nothing other than firing back a slow counter after getting hit hard himself. Taking nothing away from Orlando, who fought his fight as good as he could fight it, but I am fairly confident in saying that a well-tuned, better-trained Gamboa would have made short work out of a man of Orlando’s caliber.

Orlando came into the fight heavy, and thus could not compete for the IBF title. Turns out it didn’t matter, as Gamboa won the decision. But it took getting knocked down for the fifth time (yes, it was a knockdown, not a slip, I’ve replayed it enough times to see that it was Salido’s hook that disoriented Gamboa during his own counter, not a wet floor) in order for Gamboa to win the match.

The victory for Gamboa was marred, however, by a very flagrant foul in round twelve. Having hurt Salido in the previous round, Gamboa was on an all-out blitz to put his man away. And he nearly did. Orlando went down in round twelve, and just looked plain exhausted (one thing I won’t take away from Gamboa is his terrific conditioning).

The round continued, and so did Yuriorkis’s ambition. Down Salido went again, but before the eight count ever started, Gamboa threw a very late punch to the back of Salido’s head while he was already down. The blow was glancing, and Orlando did his best acting job, but the fact remains that Salido could have been seriously hurt, and the Cuban champion crossed the line into the unacceptable.

That lack of discipline shows yet another example of his rough-around-the-edges status right now. He shows so much promise, can be as exciting as a Manny Pacquiao, but not right now. He leaves his hands at his hips after throwing combinations like he’s some sort of king. He is very hittable to anyone with a smidgen of speed and accuracy. He is hyper to a fault, and needs to settle into his punches, set up his power game, and learn a thing or two about defense.

I think all of this is possible, and likely probable, and so I still look forward to seeing the 28 year old Gamboa in against guys like Juan Manuel Lopez and Chris John before moving up to find guys like Juan Manuel Marquez, and yes even Brandon Rios. He is not there yet, but I still expect big things for Gamboa. Saturday’s fight should be a sobering realization once he looks at the film and sees where he could have improved.

For the rest of us, we’re hoping that the passing of the P4P torch issues a new renaissance in the sport, because as of right now, we are spending more time yearning for yesteryear than we are dreaming of tomorrow.

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