Fortunes fall quickly in the brutal sport of boxing. There is no better current example than Yuriorkis Gamboa, who faces Jason Sosa this weekend in Madison Square Garden.
A decade ago, Gamboa burst onto the professional scene with the fanfare of a future superstar. The 2004 Olympic gold medalist boasted the top-notch amateur pedigree of an elite Cuban boxer. But beyond that, he had a style that looked ready made for the professional game. He was a devastating counter puncher, with the agility of a cat and hand grenades in both fists.
He nearly shut out Jonathon Victor Barros in 2010 and followed that with another one-sided decision over Orlando Salido. He stopped Jorge Solis in four rounds and earned another blow-out decision over Daniel Ponce De Leon.
Then he lost more than a year to inactivity–the first of two breaks of such length. In June 2014, he finally got the fight that could have made him a true star, facing Terence Crawford. For the first few rounds, his speed gave Crawford fits. But the younger fighter adjusted and put on a clinic, stopping Gamboa in Round 9.
After that, Gamboa fell down to the preliminaries on cards. Last May he was pounded by glorified journeyman Robinson Castellanos. In August he barely escaped with a majority decision against the obscure Alexis Reyes.
This weekend he is being brought in as an opponent for Sosa. Sosa is a tough pressure fighter with a decent resume. He received a draw in December 2015 against Nicholas Walters–I’m on record calling that decision the very worst that I’ve ever seen in person. I thought Sosa lost every round. Last April, Sosa was stopped in nine rounds by Vasyl Lomachenko.
At the Walters fight, I heard another writer sum up Sosa perfectly–he’s the kind of guy you’d look forward to watching fight, even if you don’t think he has much chance to win. But against Gamboa, I do expect him to win. It’s the sort of fight that will keep him high-profile enough for a bigger match up down the road.
If you had told me five years ago that Gamboa was going to become the kind of guy who pads the resume of guys like Sosa, I would have told you that you were out of your mind.