Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa look sensational in New York title fights
Juan Manuel Lopez (28-0, 25 ko´s) ripped the WBO featherweight crown from the head of defending champion Steven Luevano in a fearsome display before 5,142 fans at the Theater in New York´s legendary Madison Square Garden late on Saturday night.
On the undercard, Miami based Cuban exile Yuriorkis Gamboa (17-0, 15 ko´s) looked ominous as he blew away Philadelphia based hard man Rogers Mtagwa in just two rounds.
Boxing aficionados can now look forward to a mouthwatering clash between these two, but may have to wait until 2011 to see it. Bob Arum, who handles both fighters, will try and keep them apart for as long as possible to generate maximum interest when they do meet, but he believes when it happens it will be the biggest fight in featherweight history. Both boxers will be back in action soon. Arum plans to have both men top separate bills in Miami and Puerto Rico on the same night, with both bouts broadcast on HBO.
Lopez was moving up in weight after five successful defenses of the WBO super-bantamweight title. Defending champion 28 year old Californian Steven Luevano came into the ring with an impressive 37-1-1 record, with just one decision loss way back in 2005. Many experts believed Luevano, who was making the fifth defense of his crown, could make life difficult for Lopez with his skillful boxing and slik counter-punching.
But right from the get-go “Juanma” dominated proceedings with aggressive technical boxing behind a hard southpaw right jab. This writer had given Luevano a slight edge over Lopez in boxing skills, but on the night Lopez was just too strong for him. In the seventh a vicious left hook followed by a picture perfect right uppercut dropped Luevano heavily. He was on his feet by the count of ten but the referee wisely waved the bout off.
Lopez had said before the fight that he wanted to emulate his idol, fellow Puerto Rican Felix Trinidad as a multi-weight world champion. Trinidad won world titles at welter, junior-middle and middleweight.
After the win, an ecstatic Lopez gave credit to his opponent.
“I dream of being a world champion in four divisions. This is the second one. I’m very happy I gave the crowd a great fight. It was a tough fight. He’s an intelligent fighter. It wasn’t one of the toughest, but it was a little uncomfortable, because he is difficult.” said Lopez.
“I’m still a work in progress. I’m going to learn a lot. I’m getting better all the time. I knew I had to do better than I did last time here (against Mtagwa). I had to be smart. The four pounds was a big difference, moving up to 126. I knew I had to be smart and be patient, and that’s what I was.”
If the 26 year old Lopez considers himself still a work in progress, the finished article is going to something to see.
In Lopez´ final defense of his WBO super-bantamweight title he was pushed to the limit by Tanzanian born, Philadelphia based Rogers Mtagwa (26-14-2, 18 ko´s). Lopez was on the verge of being stopped in the 11th and 12th rounds of a wild brawl that the Puerto Rican only just edged by a majority decision.
30 year old Mtagwa drew rave reviews for his astonishing display of supreme fitness and unquestionable courage after the Lopez fight, and was a deserving challenger for Yuriorkis Gamboa´s WBA featherweight crown.
The danger for Mtagwa was always going to be that the Cuban basically does the same things in the ring as Mtagwa; but he´s just a whole lot better.
The 28 year old Gamboa, a Gold Medalist in the 2004 Olympics is, younger, faster, more technically skilled and much more powerful than Mtagwa.
This writer thought that Mtagwa´s style was made for Gamboa, and the Cuban would win by a KO inside four rounds. This writer was wrong; he needed just two.
Gamboa likes to come out of the blocks like a 100 meters sprinter, and Mtagwa was in trouble from the very first exchange. Every blow Gamboa landed rocked Mtagwa to his boots. A left hook floored Mtagwa late in the first round, but the bell saved the Tanzanian from further punishment. Gamboa continued his assault in the second, flooring Mtagwa twice more with devastating combinations that forced the referee to stop the one-sided slaughter at 2:35 of the round.
After the bout Gamboa was loathe to draw comparisons between his performance against Mtagwa and that of Juan Manuel Lopez last year.
“I hope that with this performance that nobody compares me to Juanma. He’s Juanma. I am Yuriorkis Gamboa,” he said. “We are two different boxers. You can’t compare. I am here to demonstrate my skills. I am here to face anyone and beat anyone in my division.
“You have to look and see that we were in different weight divisions when each fought Mtagwa. I don’t think you can get anything from seeing me and Mtagwa and him and Mtagwa.”
If possible, the most excited man on the night was 78 year old Bob Arum who promotes both Lopez and Gamboa.
An elated Arum said;
“I’ve got two horses and I want them to wipe out everybody in the featherweight division and when they finally meet, people will go crazy. We’ll have just cleaned up all the featherweights and then when everyone is panting about seeing these guys fight each other, I’ll do a big, big blowout kind of show,” Arum said.
“I promote both of them. I owe it to both of them to make them the biggest amount of money they can make. I’m not going to rush it. I can build it like a son of a gun. Then in the summer of 2011, with all the Cubans and all the Puerto Ricans, we’ll talk to New York Giants owner Steve Tisch about putting it in the new Meadowlands Stadium. It’s a great fight, but it’s got to be the kind of fight where, even though they are only 126 pounders, they will make a s—load of money.”
The problem for Arum will be keeping these two apart. 30 year old Chris John, the undefeated Indonesian who holds something called the WBA Super World Featherweight title was until recently regarded as ´the man` in the featherweight division, but upon last nights evidence he would be a big underdog against either Lopez or Gamboa. John has been on the slide in recent fights and is unlikely to want any part of either of those two.
If both men win their next bouts as impressively as they did last night, the clammer to put them in the same ring will be too much for Arum to resist. Look for Lopez and Gamboa to go head to head in late 2010.