Saturday night at the Palm Casino Resort, two rising stars in the feather and lightweight divisions, Brandon Rios, 25-0-1 (17), and Yuriorkis Gamboa, 19-0 (15) put on a show. Gamboa, that flashy little Cuban swordsman, sliced and diced and parried and poked at former IBF lightweight title holder Orlando Salido, who gave a game effort despite losing the title after gaining more than the ten pounds allowed after weigh in.
The fight started off looking like a speed mismatch- which it was- for the most part. Gamboa moved and darted in and out with big flashy shots that seemed to bother Salido early. Salido did some nice body work inside and, at times, seemed to neutralize Gamboa a bit with his rangy jab.
By round five, it had become more than a little bit of an inside fight. Salido pounded to the body when he could and Gamboa seemed content to trade inside a bit, walk away and dart in with a shot.
In the eighth, Gamboa seemed to be picking up interest in trying to stop Salido but got overexcited and ate a Salido counter right that looped in the air and crashed into his jaw. Gamboa thought about it a second and hit the deck. Salido saw his chance and dug in with hard shots in to the temple and body in close.
A fight had gone from on its way to a silent agreement to an “anything can happen late” situation with an awkward veteran.
In round ten, Gamboa landed a combination that ended in a late hook that shook Salido’s world. For a moment, it appeared he would not see the final bell.
Salido pressed forward and by the 12th round, he was still losing on all cards but had built a little momentum in the fight despite a deep gash from a clash of heads in the 11th.
The 12th heat was a wild one. Salido was fading a bit. Gamboa began to step back to get space and let his hands go to finish the fight. A left caught Salido and he went down though it appeared he may have slipped. Gamboa followed up and hurt Salido, who tumbled to the canvas awkwardly. Gamboa, for whatever reason, leapt forward and hit the back of his head.
Referee Joe Cortez took two points immediately for the infraction and the round resumed after a bit of rest of the fallen and fouled Salido.
The round ended without much more drama and Gamboa earned his 19th victory by scores of 116-109, 115-109 and 114-109. It was a much-needed character builder for Gamboa, who moves ever closer to facing off with Puerto Rican rival-to-be Juan Manuel Lopez. At under 20 fights to his credit, Gamboa discovered that Salido was the perfect man to teach him things you only learn in the ring.
For Salido, now 34-11-2 (22), perhaps he can work toward a title again but it’s doubtful considering the crop of fighters populating the 122-135-pound waters.
In the co-feature, Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios squared off against Anthony Peterson in an undefeated contender showdown for a shot at the WBA title held by Juan Manuel Marquez, who takes on Michael Katsidis in November. It was a fight to remember. Two men- Peterson. age 25, Rios newly-married at 24- in their primes of life. One man goes on. One man goes home.
From the start, Rios pressed the action, sliding low on the canvas while shooting a jab to the chest. He reminded one of the great Jose Luis Castillo. Long arms, smooth-shooting uppercuts that can rock your world from either side with more of a defensive nose than you’d think, at first glance.
On paper, Anthony Peterson should be a boxer/puncher. He has speed and length on his side with a 74” to 70” reach advantage. For one round, Peterson seemed to do what he needed to: jab, jab, right hand, left hook, rinse, repeat. Rios laid some ground work body shots and the jab but not a lot else.
That changed in the second round. Rios stepped it up quick as if he’d surveyed the land, saw that the coast was clear and went for it. Peterson obliged and they went straight into the phone booth, closed the door and beat the hell out of each other.
Peterson would rip into Rios’ body with a triple left hook. Rios would answer with some uppercut love followed by a brutal right hand and a left that didn’t find its way home until later in the fight. This was quality stuff at close quarters. Absolutely the wrong fight and pace for a speedier guy like Peterson, who doesn’t have to stand and trade.
The third round saw Peterson get pounded to the head and body by Rios, who was able to wade and weave inside behind a jab with zero resistance by Peterson. The range game and the speed game had either been nullified by Rios or ignored by Peterson but it didn’t matter. Rios was inside and knocking on Peterson’s door every chance he got. He took some hellacious shots early but showed a great chin and durability in doing so.
By the fifth, Rios was in control. Peterson’s will was still strong but he was a little spent and you could see it. Peterson had landed a Sunday punch here and there yet Rios set up a permanent home in his grill and played chin music up the pipe and tickled his ribs once or twice. Peterson attacked with a double left hook to the head and body combo but in the middle of it, he was countered by a deadeye left hook shot from Rios. It was a “Wait a minute” punch that had Peterson take a seat and think about things. Luckily, the round ended and he was able to wobble back to his corner and think about the first time he had ever been knocked down since the day he started fighting.
Peterson came out aggressive in the sixth and Rios responded. This was a war of attrition that Rios was winning. Early on in the round, Peterson landed a low-blow combo on Rios, who took it like a champ and just answered back with one of his own. Peterson then landed a really bad low-blow that doubled Rios over. He took near a minute to recover and Peterson lost a point. After the mini-break Rios pursued Peterson, who landed another bad low-blow. Rios was pissed and hurt. Referee Russell Mora took yet another point from Peterson but it was clear that any momentum Rios built fell away somewhere around the fourth time he had been hit in his special place, as the replays later showed. Soon after, the round thankfully ended.
In Rios’ corner, his trainer warned him, “Don’t lose your head.” Rios simmered but seemed to take the advice to heart.
The crowd groaned at the replay of the low-blow festival that was the sixth round.
The seventh began with Peterson going right at Rios, who was a bit stiff-legged. He seemed a little sapped until midway through when he began to find a groove. Peterson started fast, looking to get back into the fight. The problem was he was still not using the jab and moving into that phone booth region.
Rios ripped off a long series of one-twos when a low-blow by Peterson near the bell prompted the no-nonsense ref Mora to end the matter on a Peterson disqualification.
Rios screamed in joy and gave out a war cry call to his fans. He had been the underdog going into the ring. He left it a relentless problem for everyone in the lightweight division.
Peterson’s head hung low as he stood in the corner, a picture of “What happened?”
“I have to go back and make a better assessment of the tape,” was his answer. Perhaps. Anthony Peterson, now 30-1 (20), is a quality guy.
“He is very quick talented guy but I have to say I didn’t feel the power that much. So once I didn’t feel the power, I was like, sh*t, I might as well go full blast. Go balls out,” Rios said afterward, no pun intended.
Of the low-blows and why he didn’t complain to the ref but rather took matters into his own hands, Rios said, “You know, it’s not my job. It’s part of boxing. That’s why there’s a third man in the ring. It’s his job to figure out what to do. It’s my job just to fight and that’s what I do.”
“Now everybody, you know who “Bam Bam” Rios is,” he declared. Rios is in line for a championship opportunity but more importantly, we are in line for more Brandon Rios fights.