Juanma Lopez vs Yoriorkis Gamboa: The Show Must (Will) Go On!
By Joseph “The Mad Boxing Genius” Torres (March 20, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Juanma Juan Manuel Lopez
Just days before Juan Manuel Lopez was set to defend his WBO featherweight championship against Orlando Salido, the panel on Zutes Boxing Talk’s internet radio show was deep in conversation about the upcoming bout.  However, you cannot mention Juan Manuel Lopez without mentioning Yuriorkis Gamboa and vice versa.  The panel eventually was lead into a discussion about the future fight between “Juanma” and “El Ciclon”.

Since signing both of these featherweight warriors to a promotional contract, promoter Bob Arum has been building these two men up in every possible way so they could eventually collide in a super fight that would make major dollars and make history as well.  The plan was to have both men clear out the division together, afterward pit the two undefeated world champions against one another.  In Bob’s eyes, this would maximize attention and profits and for the most part, he was right.  Going into the Salido fight, the super fight with Gamboa was looming close.  After Juanma was to dispose of Salido, Juanma and Gamboa would compete one more time in separate bouts then take each other on in one of the biggest fights that can be made in boxing today. 

However, Alec Kohut, writer for Maxboxing.com and one of the panel members on the Zutes Boxing Talk that night made a valid point.  There was no need to continue the build up for this mega-fight.  The ones who care about this fight and will pay to see it have been salivating for it for years.  The only way you can make it any bigger than it already is, is to peak the interest of the casual and non-boxing fans.  And since Juanma and Gamboa only appeared on subscription television stations (HBO and Showtime) or PPV events, grabbing that particular market was an exercise in futility.

Bob Arum had the right theory to make the fight between these two champions a sensational one but there have been concerns that the fight wouldn’t come off because of recent performances by both men.  Yuriorkis Gamboa was always known to be a somewhat reckless fighter.  His style was much like “Prince” Naseem Hamed where he would do everything wrong but because of his superior athletic ability he was able to get away with his undisciplined style.  However, the general consensus is that once he fought someone who was poised and had a jab, a real pro, he would be exposed.  If the featherweight division is anything, it’s a division with a lot of seasoned, world class professionals. 

Juanma too was raising some questions about his chin and his stamina.  The Rogers Mtwaga fight was probably the best example of his vulnerability as he barely hung on to take a decision.  Even in his most dominant wins (Bernabe Conception TKO 2 and Gerry Penalosa RTD 10), Juanma still gave his fans some nervous moments and the critics something to write about.  As Bob Arum continued to gamble on wiping out the division to make one of the biggest fights in boxing today, many were afraid that their flaws would catch up to one or both of these men, derailing a mega-fight that fans could get excited about and deserved.

Last Saturday night, Bob Arum rolled the dice once again but this time it turned up snake eyes.  Juanma lost his undefeated record along with his championship by 8th round TKO.  Not many were anticipating the upset since Orlando Salido, although a worthy opponent came into the fight with a lot of wars under his belt, long in the tooth and a loss by the hands of Gamboa, whom many believe would succumb to the skills and maturity of Juanma.

The fight against Salido didn’t need to happen much like Gamboa’s last fight against Jorge Solis.  In fact, this mega-fight could have realistically been made after the Rogers Mtwaga debacle.  The buzz for Juanma vs. Gamboa was already there even going into the Mtwaga fight.  Right after that fight, the powers that be (Bob Arum) should have known they were tempting faith.  On Saturday night, faith didn’t just knock on the door… it blew the door right off the hinges.  If or when Juanma and Gamboa meet in the ring, no longer will both fighters be undefeated.  No longer will both fighters have the aura of invincibility with just a hint of imperfection.  No matter how hard they try, this fight will no longer capture the imagination of the fans like it once did.  But let’s call a spade a spade.  This isn’t about making history, it’s about making money.  So if or when they do meet, regardless if it has the same mystique it once did (it won’t), the fight between Juan Manuel Lopez vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa will go on!

Yes, there have been many fights in the history of boxing that never got made because one fighter didn’t live up to his end of the bargain.  But we’re talking about Bob Arum, we’re talking about a new age in boxing and we’re talking about fans who are starving for a mega-fight, especially since the on again off again fight of a Klitschko vs. David Haye and the Floyd Mayweather Jr/Manny Pacquiao embarrassment.

Who among us remember the Johnny Tapia/Danny Romero rivalry?  This fight really was the fight of all fights.  Both men were top performers at the time and you couldn’t find a better storyline in boxing if you tried.  Both men hailed from the same town of Albuquerque, New Mexico and literally had the town divided. Both men had a legitimate beef with one another stemming from when Johnny trained with Danny’s father that ended badly and became bitter.  Oh yeah… both men were undefeated world champions, that was until Danny Romero loss to journeyman Willie Salazar.

In a tune-up bout, Danny Romero was stopped in the 7th round by journeyman Willie Salazar.  It took two years and five fights for Danny to get back to a point where a showdown between him and Johnny Tapia would regain a little bit of the lustre it had lost because of the Salazar defeat.  The anticipation was never the same for boxing fans outside of Albuquerque when they finally met up but it did eventually make it to the big stage.

Another fight that comes to mind is the matchup between Floyd Mayweather Jr and Zab Judah.   Zab Judah was primed and ready to take on Floyd Mayweather Jr in a major attraction.  Zab decided to defend one of his welterweight straps to lowly regarded Carlos Baldomir.  Zab had been plagued with accusations of immaturity and a lack of discipline throughout his career.  But, in recent fights leading up to the Baldomir bout, it looked as if he was finally stepping up and ready to become the superstar we knew he could be.  Unfortunately, he took the man the call “Tata” for granted and lost a decision.  But that did not stop the fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr going through.  Promoters chalked it up to looking pass Baldomir but that had no reflection on Zab’s talent and would be taking Floyd very seriously.

The Juanma/Gamboa showdown will not happen next like Mayweather/Judah but it will not take two years to make like Tapia/Romero.  The fact that Juanma lost his undefeated record was a big hit but the spin it’ll take is that the fight was stopped prematurely.  Once Juanma gets another two or three solid victories under his belt which may include a rematch against Orlando Salido, they’ll chalk up the loss to Salido as a premature stoppage and that Juanma is now a more mature fighter because of that experience.  He’ll be hailed as an even “bigger threat” to Gamboa than before because of the loss. 

’ll be true, maybe not.  And you also can’t factor out that a lot can happen in two or three comeback fights for Juanma - Gamboa could suffer his first loss in the meantime.  But for now, Bob Arum will take his beats and be condemned as another greedy promoter that waited too long for the perfect situation to maximize profitability and ruined one of the biggest fights in boxing.  But if greed is what derailed the one of the biggest fights in boxing, you better believe it’ll be greed that gets it back on track!.

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