Yuriorkis Gamboa returns to HBO this Saturday night.
Time to make the donuts and take a look at Saturday night's HBO card, a featherweight double-header which may or may not have some built-in storyline between the two fights.
Main Event: Featherweights, 12 Rounds
Yuriorkis Gamboa (19-0, 15 KO) v. Jorge Solis (40-2-2, 29 KO)
TV: HBO, 9:45 pm EDT, Saturday
Forgive me, boxing diehards, for I am about to sin.
Yuriorkis Gamboa doesn't excite me.
I know, Max. I know. Maybe the hype started too early. Maybe it's that I've seen just about every fight of his pro career, as the Cuban dynamo has been regularly featured on U.S. broadcasts basically since he turned professional in 2007.
Actually, it's something I think is a bit more substantial than that. It's that I've seen Gamboa too many times go on autopilot and coast through a fight, seemingly because he knows he can't lose, and if the possibility of losing does start to come into play, he can always turn up the heat and just Yuriorkis Gamboa all over the hapless foe across from him.
I've seen it against Orlando Salido and Jonathan Victor Barros in Gamboa's last two bouts. He won both fights by decision, and there was no question that he won, but he fought almost bored both times. Is there a lack of killer instinct in Gamboa, or is it just something he turns on when he doesn't feel like dragging out a fight? Salido and Barros are both fine fighters, don't get me wrong, but Gamboa seemed to almost toy with them, like he didn't feel like being there, but if he was going to have to be there, he was at least going to take it easy. I've also seen Gamboa coast against Jose Rojas and Roger Gonzalez, though he did put both of them away.
I understand the Gamboa love. I do. Maybe not the Max Kellerman-level Gamboa love, because listening to Kellerman call Gamboa's fights is sort of like listening to a father gush over his high school star athlete son. But I get why people love Gamboa. At times, he's a destructive force in the ring. He has unbelievable natural athleticism and ability, and he combines that with a strong boxing IQ. It's rare you get both. He has also adapted beautifully to the pro game, which some of his Cuban counterparts fail to do after they've had the amateur system drilled into their brains for so long.
But it's just not there for me. I want it to be, believe me. I want to rave over everything Yuriorkis Gamboa does, praise him as though he hung the moon in the sky, and eagerly anticipate his great fights. But he seems a little too content to me. He's 29 years old and in what should be the prime of his career. Instead of demanding the biggest fights, he shrugs and accepts the Salidos of the world as his opposition, with nobody believing that the rugged Mexican really had any realistic hope of winning.
The same goes for another tough Mexican opponent on Saturday. Jorge Solis is the bigger and older brother of longtime junior flyweight contender Ulises "Archie" Solis, and while he's had his success in the ring as evidenced by his 40-2-2 record, a lot of it is kind of a mirage. He turned pro in 1998 as a flyweight, and has bounced between featherweight and super featherweight for the significant portion of his career. His best wins are of the "pretty good" variety: Cristobal Cruz, Mickey Roman, Likar Ramos, Mario Santiago. His two losses have come against Cruz in a wild 2009 rematch, and in 2007 when he filled a role as a stay-busy opponent for Manny Pacquiao, who wiped him out in the eighth round.
Solis is a good fighter. So was Salido, so was Barros. I hope a different fate awaits Solis, though. I hope we see the Yuriorkis Gamboa that got everyone excited in the first place, and not the guy just there to get his W and await the next fight. And I hope Max Kellerman brings two pair of pants. Gamboa TKO-9
Co-Feature: Featherweights, 10 Rounds
Mikey Garcia (24-0, 20 KO) v. Matt Remillard (23-0, 13 KO)
TV: HBO, 9:45 pm EDT, Saturday
Here's the fight I'm really tuning in to see. I'm all but sure of at least the victor in the main event, but this one's a very good test for a couple of late stage prospects as they get ready to either sink or swim in the big leagues. Garcia, 23, is one of my favorite young fighters right now. The little brother of increasingly visible trainer Robert Garcia, Mikey took on gatekeepers Tomas Villa (TKO-1) and Pedro Navarrete (UD-8) in April and May of 2010, then moved up to face Cornelius Lock (TKO-11) in August. His TV breakout came on the undercard of the Soto-Antillon barnburner in December, when he shredded tricky and frustrating Canadian Olivier Lontchi, knocking him out in the fifth round.
The Lontchi fight showed Garcia at a to-date career best. He was just locked in offensively, took what Lontchi gave him, and made the most of it repeatedly. It was a really impressive performance for a young fighter against a savvy and in many ways downright annoying opponent. Lontchi is no great shakes, but his skill set is built to bother prospects, and Garcia just took him apart, doing far better than Juan Manuel Lopez did in 2009 against Lontchi.
24-year-old Remillard had some promotional issues late last year which prevented a fight with Celestino Caballero, but those are settled now as he's with Top Rank, and here we are with him taking a big risk against Garcia. That tells me that Remillard is serious about moving up right now. He was willing to fight Caballero, which is more than a lot of guys can say even now, and is willing to test his mettle against Garcia, in a fight where Remillard will be considered the clear underdog.
The Connecticut native has not faced the same level of competition that Garcia has, though. Nicknamed "Sharp Shooter," the best win on his sheet might be veteran Mauricio Pastrana, which was a six-round decision win back in 2008, long after Pastrana was a contender. I don't mean this to offend any of our readers in the northeastern United States, but I think it's fair to say that the prospects out of that region in recent years often don't hold up to scrutiny once the time has come to find out what's what and stop feeding on the chum. Is Remillard another overhyped-via-moderate hype New Englander, or is he the real deal?
My guess, and I hate to say it, is the former. I've seen more Garcia than I have Remillard, and I admire Remillard's obvious balls in taking a good fight after being denied a good fight he wanted to take a few months ago. But I just see Garcia largely dominating this fight and outclassing Remillard. We're not in Uncasville anymore, Toto. Garcia TKO-7