By Sean Crose
Terrence Crawford had everything going his way stepping into the ring to face Yuriorkis Gamboa for the WBO lightweight title on Saturday night. He was the champion. He was the favorite. And, yup, he was fighting in his home town of Omaha, Nebraska.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
The crowd at the Century Link Center was nothing short of electric. With the applause Crawford got upon his introduction, you’d have thought the Cornhuskers had just taken the national title. As for Crawford himself, the champion looked cool as ice. His opponent, Gamboa, looked determined.
Gamboa caught his man in the first minute of the fight as both men circled each other and exchanged jabs in the center of the ring. He also threw the harder punches and carried the round. Gamboa’s lunging straight shots also gave the Cuban immigrant the second round, as well. It was close, but Gamboa seemed to be beating his man to the punch.
Crawford appeared to be breathing with a bit of effort before the start of the fourth. It was clear the man was most definitely not in the ring with Ricky Burns (who had lost again at home in Scotland on Friday, thank you very much). He was in with an Olympic champion, a fencer who possessed power in his punches.
Crawford was game, though. He tagged Gamboa hard in the fourth and looked as if he might be starting to control the tempo at the end of the round. Still, by the fifth, Gamboa was in control again. There was something about Gamboa, something about the way he kept that left of his extended, which clearly was keeping Crawford off his game.
Until, of course, Crawford dropped Gamboa. Bravely, Gamboa subsequently got up and started to brawl. The chess match between two master strategists had suddenly turned into a slug fest – with Crawford getting the better of his foe. By the end of the fifth it was clear 2014 was being treated to yet another great fight.
As if that weren’t surprising enough, the war continued at the start of the sixth. It looked like Crawford knew he would have to beat the Cuban up in order to win. And, in truth, it was clear Crawford COULD beat Gamboa up. Whenever they went for blood, Crawford ended up winning the exchanges. And so they swung away throughout the sixth, looking like a modern day version of Leonard and Hearns.
By the midway point of the fight, Crawford was smiling. As for Gamboa, he was looking beat up in his corner. Then again, Crawford got off his stool breathing heavily once more. It had become a thrilling match, one where it was almost impossible to tell how it would all turn out.
Things slowed down in the seventh and, once again, Gamboa seemed to take control. He continued to control the fight through the eighth – until he moved in for the kill and ended up being dropped by Crawford a second time. Gamboa got up and an all out war erupted once more, with Gamboa getting absolutely rocked yet again by the defending champion. The fact that Gamboa stayed up after that one is a credit to his stamina.
One got the feeling that if Gamboa stopped getting it in his head that he was hurting Crawford, then he might actually win the fight. Gamboa proved to be a warrior, though – and warriors go to war. During the last part of the ninth, then, Crawford chopped Gamboa down like a tree. Yet somehow, some way, Gamboa got up again.
And then he went down again.
And that was the end of that.
What a fight.