Tonight on HBO, Terence Crawford returns home to defend his WBO lightweight title against Yuriorkis Gamboa in the main event in Omaha, with Matt Korobov taking on Jose Uzcategui in a potentially intriguing middleweight co-feature. If you're on the fence about tuning in, let's see about convincing you to join us this evening.
ONE OF US ONE OF US
Didn't work? OK, here are some reasons to watch.
1. Sink or swim for Yuriorkis Gamboa
Yuriorkis Gamboa started his pro career in 2007, and since day one, big things have been expected of the Cuban phenom, an amateur star whose skills figured to be fit for the pro game. It's been a mixed bag. Gamboa (23-0, 16 KO) is a former world champion at 126 pounds and has won highly illegitimate interim belts at 130 and 135, which makes him a three-weight world champion if you want to be very generous, or if you're trying to promote him. But he's also had a stop-and-go sort of run lately, fighting just twice since 2011 after promotional issues at Top Rank. He bailed on a scheduled fight against Brandon Rios at lightweight in 2012, no-showing a Miami press conference for the bout.
After that, Gamboa thought he was signing with Floyd Mayweather and 50 Cent, but it turned out he was only signing with 50, as "The Money Team" kind of left him high and dry. You may recall that it was the Mayweather camp that was blamed by Top Rank for infiltrating his mind and causing the problems there. So what has he gotten out of that? This is his third fight with 50's SMS Promotions, and the second time he's wound up right back on a Top Rank card, because Mr. Cent doesn't have a lot of juice and can't secure major fights by himself. It feels like Gamboa has faded, but in reality, it's just that his career has lost all momentum. Top Rank was pretty happy to sign him up to face their unbeaten titleholder for this fight, and by rule promoters don't take risks on the fighters they don't promote if they can help it, and they could easily have had Crawford fight someone else. This isn't a mandatory or anything. That means Top Rank has to be confident that Crawford will hand Gamboa his first loss, but let's not forget that Yuriorkis has rare natural talent, either.
2. Terence Crawford: World's best lightweight?
Apart from his good boxing skills, tricky southpaw stance, and home field advantage in Omaha, Terence Crawford might have another key attribute going for him, and that's size. The unbeaten 26-year-old may be the world's best lightweight (it's him or Miguel Vazquez), and after a pretty thorough defeat of Ricky Burns, Crawford's argument is strong. Gamboa didn't look great at 130 against Michael Farenas or at 135 against Darleys Perez, and he also hasn't fought in a year. Crawford, a natural lightweight, has a lot of advantages on paper.
3. Middleweight Mystery!
The HBO-televised co-feature will see unbeaten middleweights Matt Korobov (23-0, 14 KO) and Jose Uzcategui (22-0, 18 KO) square off in a 10 round fight for a minor WBO title, and more importantly, WBO rankings positioning. Korobov, 31, turned pro in 2008 and was expected to make it to the relevant fights pretty quickly. He has not, as his career has stalled at the middle tier, with a lot of wins over the likes of Ossie Duran, Derek Edwards, Grady Brewer, Milton Nunez, Derrick Findley, Michael Walker, etc. He's a talented fighter, but he's been in a holding pattern for a long time, so it's hard to know what to expect of him going forward.
Uzcategui, 23, is a largely unknown Venezuelan fighter based in Mexico. His last fight was a KO-6 win over veteran David "The Destroyer" Lopez, who's about on par with the guys listed above that have populated Korobov's sheet. I really don't know what to expect of this fight, but both guys have records indicating they can punch, and it's a huge chance for each man to shine on HBO and get into the title race at 160 pounds. The division is in a spot of upheaval at the moment, and there are going to be openings for new fighters to become stars.
4. Local crowds produce atmosphere
A lot of notable fights are held in places like Las Vegas, Atlantic City, or California casinos simply because those places offer money that isn't available elsewhere. It's a reality of the sport that money will always rule the day, and with boxing still deeply troubled and barely holding on above the flood waters of irrelevance, there aren't a lot of fights that happen in hometowns, even great fight cities like Philadelphia or Chicago. New York has recently seen a turnaround thanks to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Golden Boy's deal there, but a world title fight in Omaha, Nebraska, is a rare thing indeed, and Crawford getting a homecoming for his first title defense is worth noting. The fact that neither Crawford nor Gamboa have fan bases at all on the coasts or in Vegas makes this viable, but it's unlikely that Omaha will become a regular site for Crawford, simply because they might not be able to make a lot of money there.
That said, local fight crowds that care about the fights are awesome. Remember in recent years, before he flamed out, how Fernando Guerrero made Salisbury, Maryland, one of the best little fight cities in the States? If the Nebraskans are pumped up to see their guy come home as world champion, there could be a lot of passion in the building, which for viewers at home beats the living crap out of another library crowd at the Morongo Casino Resort.
5. Top Rank's light show
It's incredible. Will it make the trip to Omaha? Can Omaha HANDLE IT?