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Terrence Crawford v Yuriorkis Gamboa review

Yuriorkis GamboaBy James Allen: In his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska on the twenty-eighth of June 2014, Terrence Crawford successfully beat back the challenge of Yuriorkis Gamboa to his WBO Light-Welterweight title.

The two men met with identical undefeated records, though Gamboa’s campaign has mainly been waged at Super-Featherweight, and the disparity in size between the two has been evident ever since the first press conference. This clearly didn’t matter to Gamboa then, and it didn’t seem to bother him as they listened to the silky tones of Michael Buffer introduce the fight to a rabidly partisan crowd.

The Cuban got off to a sharp start within the cagey confines of the first three rounds, leaping in from the outside with straight shots to the body and utilizing upper-body and head movement on the way out. Crawford remained offensively sparse until the third, where he became more pro-active with both his counter-punch attempts and with his initiation of the action. All in all the opening quarter remained rather drama-free, the only notable blows landed were Gamboa’s winging right hands and the odd combination, and he punctuated the third with a solid right hand at the bell.

The fourth round began with Crawford coming out in the southpaw stance, which would turn out to be the key to unshackling the fight. With a hard right-hand jab and counter-clockwise movement he negated Gamboa’s own right hand which was beginning to become a problem up to this point.

Gamboa was unable to counteract the adjustment and so his attacks became repetitive. He abandoned the focus on the body and was content with leading with the left-hook and following it with the right.  He paid for this. Crawford stepped back in the midst of one of these foreseeable attempts and unleashed a sharp right hook that landed right on the button. Gamboa was left shell shocked but still upright before shipping another right and being dumped on the deck with a cuffing left, looking somewhat like a flapping fish on the way down. He gamely stood back up, ready to fight, and withstood the subsequent attack that left him dazed enough to hang on to Crawford as if trying to slow dance with him as the bell sounded.

The knockdown seemed to relax both fighters and exchanges were more frequent as the sixth wore on. Gamboa regained his legs throughout the session despite Crawford being much more liberal with his output, and the round ended without major incident.

The same could not be said for the seventh as Crawford asserted his dominance, mainly with a skilful right hand lead out of the southpaw stance, where he had remained since the fourth. The jab and the hook were utilized to great effect and Gamboa’s legs seemed unsteady yet again at the break; his corner dousing him in water from a soaked sponge and making him remain standing during the interval.

In the eight Gamboa seemed to say to himself ‘the hell with it’, boring forward, winging in right and left hooks in what increasingly looked to be a desperate effort. It was during one of the rushes that Crawford scored the second knockdown of the night, firing of a succession of hooks himself as he retreated from the Cuban missiles being launched at him. Gamboa was immediately up again, answering the count with a nonchalant snarl and a nod to the referee. He remained under a hazy cloud though and took two more flush hooks on the bell.

What turned out to be the conclusive round began with Crawford reverting back to an orthodox stance and getting rocked in the process. It is a testament to Gamboa’s skill and self-belief that he was able to land sharp and hurtful looking punches at this stage in the game, and the left hook right hand combination that shook the champion were his best of the night. He recognized the hometown kid was hurt and immediately laid in on his foe. And so commenced the only genuine firefight of the contest with both men dropping their hands, swinging and landing. Crawford’s life force was the least depleted and it showed as he sent Gamboa to the ropes with a right hook, following up with a right uppercut that grazed past the chin and a left hook that flattened his diminutive foe. Gamboa, who at this point had showed everyone he has a heart bigger than the island he hails from, was straight back to his feet again, but with thirty seconds to go the jig was up. He stumbled forward again, dead set on throwing until he no longer had it in him. He fell forward in a last ditch kamikaze effort that led him on to a perfect right uppercut that detonated on his chin. The blast sent him hurling on to his back and forcing the referee to halt proceedings. A merciful ending. Gamboa was already sat up as the ref crouched over him waving an end to the fight.

The manner in which Gamboa suffered his first loss as a professional endeared him to me. He never shelled up, never lost faith in his own ability to end a fight. He fought with the swagger befitting an Olympic Gold Medalist and former world champion, and never played by the rules that Crawford so effectively dictated. His efforts on Saturday against the bigger man were more admirable than his previous twenty-three outings combined. I doubt I am the only one who feels this way.

As for the stone-faced champion, he now has the victory over the marquee name his resume has so desperately needed. Even his away victory against Ricky Burns where he captured the title did not carry as much weight as this. He stayed calm under the persistent fire of his rock-like pursuer, and made the perfect tactical adjustments at the perfect time, displaying an impressive awareness. The win may be discredited to some extent because his opponent was so much smaller than he, but he performed well within himself throughout, which is a scary prospect for those he will face in the future.

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