Top Rank promoter Bob Arum has two premier featherweights in WBA-IBF champion Yuriorkis Gamboa and WBO champion Juan Manuel Lopez. Saturday night Gamboa faces Jorge Solis the interim junior lightweight champion on HBO at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall from Atlantic City N.J.
A significant fight in many ways for Gamboa, the undefeated four-time Cuban National Champion at 19-0 who is quickly gaining popularity as one of the prominent champions among Latino boxing fans. And for Arum, who has milked an opportunity for an inevitable meeting between Gamboa and Lopez, there should no longer be any hesitation about booking a date for the fight if Gamboa previails.
Though the fight with Solis will be a tough test for Gamboa, he is not thinking ahead. It is almost like the strategy of another Arum fighter, welterweight champ Miguel Cotto, who puts the next fight in the hands of his promoter. However, be assured the question will come up in the ring Saturday night if indeed Gamboa gets a win and remains undefeated against an opponent like Solis who has a height advantage.
“I just think that JuanMa’s one of the champions in my division among others,” said Gamboa when asked about an eventual clash with Lopez. The talk about this fight has been on the agenda for two years. Arum had Gamboa and Lopez fighting in separate bouts at Madison Square Garden in 2009 which also led to the speculation.
And perhaps fight fans will eventually get to see this happen. The featherweight division, possibly one of the most exciting and promising in the sport, though not as noticeable as some of the other weight classes, can gain immediate attention with a Gamboa-Lopez fight.
“They have created this expectation about a fight that has not happened after a year of talking about it says,” Gamboa. “What I want to do is tend, to my business and keep collecting belts, hope that it happens and if it doesn’t I just move on.”
But there are really are not may other options for Gamboa, especially when it comes to a big fight. On the horizon could be Chris John, or some of the not so well known featherweight fighters in Asia. Top Rank does not see a market for any of the Asian featherweight to come over here and fight Gamboa.
Todd duBoef, right hand man to Arum, and expected to take over the company when Arum retires, won’t rule out the Gamboa-Lopez meeting. It just may not be the right time even if a boxing fan savors such a contest. “I wouldn’t say that it’s not on the radar,” said duBoef on Thursday.
“I would say that the business models around the two of them are separate and I think there is time to build the fight into a really big fight and the time both fighters will benefit from. How the fight happens so that we maximize the interest.”
duBoef made reference to the recent fight between Timothy Bradley and Devon Alexander and how that may have occurred earlier than expected. In other words continue to have Lopez and Gamboa catch interest of the fans and as he says, “build up the marketability of both fighters.”
But you talk to fight fans and they are tired of waiting. They want Gamboa and Lopez to finally trade punches and determine who indeed could be the best featherweight. New York exposure was a start, and Gamboa said about the Garden experience: “it was a wonderful opportunity for me to fight and walk through those doors at the Garden. Great champions have fought in front of huge audiences and it was the most exciting moment of my professional career.”
And with an increasing amount of boxing fans of Latino descent, would it not make sense to have a popular champion from Cuba opposing an increasing popular champion from Puerto Rico? It seems Top Rank has another strategy when it comes to Gamboa and gearing him more to the Cuban community.
“I don’t think you can segment the Latino community into a Cotto or a (Eric) Morales community,” says duBoef who obviously studies the demographics. “About 62% of the Latin community in the USA is of Mexican descent, a number which is drawn from percentage of American households. Americans have always embraced Cuban fighters, which is why we felt it was important he fight the Mexican fighters
deBoef was referring to Gamboa previously defeating Orlando Salido who challenges Lopez on April 16th and now his fight with Solis. “It’s difficult but we are trying to position him as an overall fighter such as Duran (Roberto), even though he came from Panama, so I wouldn’t put him into a segment such as a Cotto or Lopez based segment. There are good Cuban communities in New Jersey and New York.”
Regardless, the “Featherweight Fury” card promises to be a good one. Undefeated NABF and NABO featherweight champion Matt Ramillard opposes top rated Mikey Garcia and Tom Kennedy of Philadelphia defends the USBA junior flyweight title against Jorge Diaz, a few of the promising featherweights that make the division interesting.
And Baltimore Ravens safety Tommy Zbikowski ,(2-0) the heavyweight is in his second fight in three weeks as the NFL lockout continues. But all eyes will be on Gamboa who could get his eventual meeting with Lopez.
That is the fight fans anticipate, but talking about it has become old news.