Luevano-Lopez, Gamboa-Mtagwa headed to Madison Square Garden

Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa will take their doubleheader to Madison Square Garden in January. It could be the final step before a meeting between the two young stars. (Photo by Chris Farina / Top Rank)

Bob Arum told Primera Hora (link in Spanish) that although previous talks had the January 23 HBO card featuring Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa based in Lopez's native Puerto Rico, the card is now headed to Madison Square Garden in New York City. He doesn't indicate whether it will be at the main arena or the WaMu Theater, where the October 10 Lopez/Gamboa PPV card was held.

A quick look at the New York Knicks schedule tells me the Knicks are off that night, but do play at 1pm the following afternoon at MSG. There's nothing at all scheduled on January 23 at MSG or the other venues connected to the arena, in fact. Still, I'd expect WaMu first.

It also looks like the card is pretty much set with Lopez (27-0, 24 KO) moving up to 126 pounds to take on WBO titlist Steven Luevano (37-1-1, 15 KO). Gamboa (16-0, 14 KO) is slated to face the man who gave Lopez his Fight of the Year candidate test in October, Rogers Mtagwa (26-13-2, 18 KO).

Should Gamboa demolish Mtagwa within the first five rounds and Lopez win against Luevano, it probably sets up a summer showdown between the two young KO artists. I also expect we'll be inundated with, "Look how easily Gamboa beat Mtagwa, and how much trouble Lopez had! That means Gamboa will destroy Lopez!"

I don't really see it that way. I'll say right now I already figure Gamboa will get Mtagwa out of there within five or six rounds. He's much better in a back-and-forth firefight than is Lopez, and Mtagwa's wildness will be countered by Gamboa's own free-swinging ways. It's what Gamboa is really great at, letting his hands go, throwing from all over, and showing off his incredible handspeed. As good as Lopez is, he's a bit more straightforward than that, and not as fast as Gamboa. I think the style matchup against Lopez helped Mtagwa. I think the style matchup against Gamboa puts Mtagwa in an unwinnable fight. Even if he manages to knock Gamboa down, he won't be the first to do that, and I don't think he's got the one-shot pop to knock him out.

But I also don't want to overlook Luevano against Lopez. Luevano's methodical, well-disciplined style could give Lopez fits if JuanMa is out there trying to be flashy and impressive after a win over Mtagwa that raised some questions about him for the first time.

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