Featherweight terror Gamboa could enter Pacquiao territory someday

Publish date:

ATLANTIC CITY -- Late Saturday night, long after Yuri Gamboa had demolished Daniel Ponce de Leon in eight lopsided rounds, I asked Top Rank promoter Todd duBoef: What does Gamboa have to do to elevate himself into the rarefied air of Manny Pacquiao?

"Creating another Manny Pacquiao isn't easy," duBoef said. "I wish it was. There just aren't many guys like him."

That's true, of course. Pacquiao is a once-or-twice-in-a-generation fighter. But make a short list of candidates who could fill the void whenever Pacquiao decides to walk away from boxing and Gamboa has to be on it. Consider: Gamboa has blinding speed and superior power. He speaks supremely confidently -- albeit only in Spanish -- and has a Tony Montana type of swagger in the ring. I compared him favorably to Pacquiao. DuBoef mentioned Roy Jones.

"If you look at old Roy Jones and you look at Gamboa, they are very similar," duBoef said. "They don't use jabs. They use lead left hooks. They do everything very unconventional but they are so gifted as athletes. They are almost spitting images [of each other]."

There is one thing that Pacquiao and, to a lesser extent, Jones had: a natural ability to finish someone off. By his own admission, Pacquiao takes a lot of chances. He's willing to eat a few punches if it means he can get inside and make it a brawl. Gamboa has the power to put down anyone at 126 pounds -- just ask Rogers Mtagwa or Jorge Solis -- but doesn't always look for opportunities. He connected on several crisp combinations against Ponce de Leon but never really looked to finish him off.

"There are two clocks that as a promoter that we always have ticking," duBoef said. "One is the fighter's marketability and one is his ability. So that unbelievable performance with Mtagwa and Solis, we are accomplishing one of those two clocks. I thought Gamboa did a great job with the progress on the ability side [against Ponce de Leon] and I thought he did a good job showing that incredible power and incredible speed. He actually showed some defense here that we have known he has had some issues with. Sometimes he gets too close, gets smothered and gets hit with some counter shots. He's still just a baby, professionally."

That's true. Gamboa is a highly decorated amateur -- he won a gold medal in the 2004 Olympics, among other honors -- but has only been boxing professionally for a little more than four years. Still, with a few improvements and a commitment to seeking a spectacular finish, Gamboa has the potential to mold himself into a Pacquiao-level star.

Since ending a four-year retirement in 2008, Vitali Klitschko hasn't been threatened in many rounds, much less fights. That trend continued on Saturday, when Klitschko (43-2, 40 KOs) brutalized former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titleholder Tomasz Adamek over 10 rounds on his way to defending his WBC heavyweight title.

"I prepared for this fight very well," Klitschko told me on Monday. "I came in a little lighter than usual (243 pounds) because I wanted to have a little more speed. I knew I could knock him out but I wanted to be ready to keep up with him for all 12 rounds."

The only drama in the fight came in the eighth round, when Klitschko, 40, lost his footing and fell to the canvas. It was an awkward looking fall; initially it appeared one of his knees gave out. Klitschko said it was his ankle, not the knee, which twisted, causing him to momentarily lose his balance. "Give credit to the referee for seeing that it was not a punch," Klitschko said. "That was a big, loud crowd. I was worried he was going to think it was a punch."

Outside of his brother, IBF/WBO/WBA champion Wladimir -- whom Vitali will never, ever fight -- Klitschko is peerless. Adamek was widely regarded as the world's No. 3 heavyweight, having gone a perfect 6-0 since moving up in 2009. But Klitschko used his stinging jab to keep Adamek from getting inside and punished him with thudding right hands. According to CompuBox, Klitschko landed 230 of his 608 punches (38 percent) compared to 89 of 301 for Adamek.

"He's a strong man," Klitschko said. "I hit him hard with the right hand and the right cross. But he wasn't groggy at all after 10 rounds. So it became all about hitting him a lot and destroying his mind."

Can anyone be competitive against Klitschko? It's unlikely, a fact that doesn't sit well with Klitschko. "I don't fight for myself, I fought for the audience," Klitschko said. "I need a good fight. I will be happy to fight against any fighter. I want a big, explosive fight for all boxing fans."

Klitschko says he is looking at three possible opponents for his next fight: Alexander Povetkin, Nikolai Valuev and David Haye. It is Haye, who was blown out by Wladimir in July and who has taunted both brothers for more than two years, that Vitali is especially interested in.

"My brother beat him but he has excuses," Klitschko said. "I want to knock him out. He attacked me personally with his words. That's why I want to fight him and why I want to stop him. I want to knock him out and destroy him."

Helenius, 27, has started to generate some pretty good buzz. Physically, Helenius (16-0, 11 KOs) has all the tools to be an elite heavyweight: He's big (6-6) with concussive power and a killer instinct that emerges when he has an opponent hurt. When he smells blood -- as he has in his last two fights against former titleholders Samuel Peter and Sergei Liakhovich -- Helenius attacks relentlessly.

"I don't know where it comes from," Helenius said this week. "It's just that focus that I have to be better than your opponent. When I see him staggering and I think I can end it, I'm going for it. There is nothing else in my mind except putting the guy down."

This early success has come as a surprise to Helenius. "In my mind, I never thought I would be a world champion," he said. "When I turned pro, I said, 'Let's do this 100 percent and see where I land'. My last fights though, more and more I think I can be a world champion."

Part of his success, Helenius said, can be attributed to his skills being more suited for the professional style. The Finnish fighter was a solid amateur ("I was really skinny," he said.) but his performances as a pro have been considerably better.

"The smaller gloves, the better tape and no headgear have really helped me," said Helenius, who credits his experience competing in the shot put as a teenager for his power. "Everything about being a pro is better."

Still, Helenius knows his limitations. He starts fights slow. He doesn't use his jab enough. His conditioning needs work. Most of these things will develop in time. His promoter, Sauerland Event, understands this, which is why they have been bringing Helenius along slowly. While his recent opponents have brought a former titleholders cache, all of them are well past their prime. Sauerland will be looking for a similar opponent -- Shannon Briggs comes to mind -- for Helenius's next fight, which will take place before the end of the year.

"I think the main reason I start slow is that I don't trust myself with what I'm doing yet," Helenius said. "I don't believe in myself, so I wait to see what the other guy is going to do. But I'm getting more confidence and I'm improving. That's a big thing, improving every single day."

As for the Klitschko's, Helenius says he hopes to face one -- or both -- someday. "I'm excited if those fights come," he said. "I want to be at the top and if they are at the top I'm going to have to put them out."

We are tired of Victor Ortiz story about his struggles. Its Boring now. Blacks go through life struggles all the time and always RISE.-- Floyd Mayweather (@Floyd Mayweather), responding to 24/7's saturating coverage of Victor Ortiz's back story.

If I am given a rematch against Wladimir - which I do not believe I will - or Vitali will fight me, I will postpone my retirement for six months.-- Former heavyweight titleholder David Haye, who had previously vowed to retire when he turns 31 on Oct. 13.

Five young fighters HBO, Showtime and Epix should get behind:

Robert Helenius, heavyweight: A Klitschko-sized heavyweight with good skills and better punching power? Talk about no-brainers.

Gary Russell Jr., featherweight: Bob Arum called Russell "another Al Haymon creation." If that's true, the lightning fast Russell is a pretty good creation.

Marius Wach, heavyweight: Another big, rangy heavyweight with power -- witness Wach's one-punch knockout of Kevin McBride -- who could be a candidate to face one of the Klitschkos next year.

Tyson Fury, heavyweight: Like Wach, but better.

Mikey Garcia, featherweight: The younger brother of trainers Robert and Danny Garcia, Mikey is another up-and-coming featherweight in a loaded division.

10. When Golden Boy Promotions bought Ring Magazine for a reported $7 million in 2007, it promised to preserve the integrity of the boxing bible by staying out of editorial decisions. Last week, the company reportedly fired several members of upper management -- including Editor-in-chief Nigel Collins -- and plans to move the offices of the company to California. It is going to be difficult for them to continue to maintain that the magazine is operating as an independent entity.

9. So Chad Dawson brought back John Scully and brought in Winky Wright to replace Emanuel Steward. It must be Bernard Hopkins's birthday.

8. Erik Morales vs. Pablo Cesar Cano for the WBC junior welterweight title Tim Bradley won fair and square. Shame on the WBC.

7. On Friday night, light heavyweight prospect -- and Notre Dame alum -- Mike Lee will hold the first boxing match on campus. Organizers are expecting a crowd of around 10,000. And here's the kicker: Lee and Top Rank will donate the profits -- a $100,000 minimum -- to the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation and the Robinson Community Learning Center. NBC will be on hand to film Lee's fight and will show highlights during the Notre Dame-Michigan State game the next day.

6. Speaking of Lee, I'm still waiting for a response to my challenge: if Boston College (my alma mater) beats Notre Dame on Nov. 19, Lee has to wear a bright gold Super Fan shirt to the final press conference before his fight on the undercard of the Dec. 3 show headlined by Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito. If Notre Dame wins, I'll wear a shirt of his choice to the fight. Step up, Mike.

5. I never, not for a second, believed Arturo Gatti committed suicide. So it didn't surprise me when the results of an exhaustive investigation paid for by Gatti's former manager, Pat Lynch, produced evidence that Gatti was, in fact, murdered. Here is hoping the Brazilian authorities don't sweep this under the rug.

4. James Toney vs. Denis Lebedev? Ugh.

3. Zab Judah, last seen putting up little resistance in a 140-pound unification fight against Amir Khan, told me last week he planned to continue fighting. His target: Oscar De La Hoya.

2. Condolences to Bob Arum, who lost his sister, Sari Rosenbaum, after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Sari was 76.

1. Don't forget to check out this week's Sports Illustrated for our package previewing the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz megafight. (I discuss it in this week's Inside Sports Illustrated podcast.) And there will be plenty of original content on SI.com all week leading up to the fight.