When Yuriorkis Gamboa steps into the ring on Dec. 28 in Atlanta to face Gervonta “Tank” Davis in a Showtime main event, he’s going to be an underdog.
Gamboa (30-2, 18 KO) is 37 years old. The fight’s at lightweight, where Gamboa is small. And he doesn’t have a really notable win in years.
What was once thought to be one of the brightest rising stars in boxing has seen his career flounder over the last eight years due to some questionable business decisions. He won titles at featherweight and showcased electric skills from 2007-11, but that now seems like a long time ago — because it is.
But Gamboa will take another shot in under two weeks, perhaps the last time he’ll get a chance on this level, and he’s looking to take advantage.
“I feel great that that I have this opportunity to prove in the ring what I can do. This is a fight that can get me back to the very top of the sport,” he said from his Miami media workout.
“After I signed my contract and I beat Roman Martinez in July, there were a number of names that came up as possible opponents that I could face in my second fight. One name that came up was Davis, so I took the challenge.”
Davis (22-0, 21 KO) has twice won titles at 130 pounds, losing one on the scales in 2017, and has pretty much trucked everyone he’s faced to date. But his matchmaking for the last couple of years has been intensely criticized, and Gamboa believes he’s faced the better opposition, giving him an advantage.
“Obviously I have a huge edge in experience and I think the quality of opponents I’ve faced, versus his opponents, gives me another edge,” he said. “Plus, the preparation I put into this fight. I really don’t see anyone outworking me. The work that I put into this fight gives me a big advantage.”
The 25-year-old “Tank,” a southpaw from Baltimore, has been noted for his power, and the KO percentage obviously backs it up. Gamboa, though, says he’s not concerned with it, even though he’s had problems taking power shots in his career.
“What power does he have that I haven’t faced?” Gamboa asked. “Without question this is going to be a great fight. There are going to be great moments of battle and a war, but at the same time, a lot of intelligence will be shown in the ring. So it’s a formula for a great fight and I think the fans are going to be pleased.”
The two shared a bill on July 27 in Baltimore, where Davis ran through mandatory WBA 130-pound challenger Ricardo Nunez inside of two rounds, while Gamboa did much the same to fellow faded ex-titleholder Roman “Rocky” Martinez, stopping Martinez in two.
Gamboa says he wasn’t scouting, though, as he was not concerned with Davis at the time.
“I didn’t see Gervonta’s last fight on July 27,” Gamboa stated. “I didn’t care to watch. I went to my dressing room, I waited to get paid, and then I went to my hotel. I didn’t bother to watch it.”
Assistant trainer Stacey McKinley believes his guy has the ingredients to surprise the boxing public.
“We know ‘Tank’ is a big puncher, but experience is going to take its course,” McKinley said. “He’s never been past the sixth round before. And his trainer has never been past the sixth round before. So when you start talking about round eight, round nine, round 10, round 12, you’re in new territory.
“It’s like Sugar Ray Leonard told Tommy Hearns: ‘I’m going to take you out to deep water, and I’m going to drown you.’ So this is what we expect to do, take him into deep water and drown him.”
McKinley says that the team has been changing things up the last few weeks, and that he believes Yuriorkis is still “very versatile” in what he can do in the squared circle. He also says we should not underestimate Gamboa’s power and his ability to deliver power shots.
“He jumped up two weight classes (to fight Terence Crawford),” McKinley said. “Terence Crawford is a big guy. You’ve got a guy like Terence Crawford who says (Gamboa) can punch, then you have to take his word as gospel. What makes him a good puncher is that he knows how to create his shots. He knows where to hit you and he doesn’t waste punches. So you get him in the right spot and hit the pressure points, then it’s a lot different than just getting hit anywhere and it’s more devastating.”
Davis vs Gamboa will be for the vacant WBA lightweight title, and Jean Pascal will face Badou Jack in a meaningful light heavyweight showdown in the co-feature on Dec. 28, live on Showtime.