Saturday night on Showtime (9:00 pm ET) from Atlanta, we’ll close out the year in US boxing for all intents and purposes with a tripleheader, featuring two big fights at 135 and 175.
In the lightweight main event, Gervonta “Tank” Davis moves up in weight to face veteran Yuriorkis Gamboa, and in the co-feature at light heavyweight, Jean Pascal and Badou Jack look to close the year strong.
Our staff make their predictions.
Jean Pascal vs Badou Jack
Jean Pascal has basically never done anything correctly. He doesn’t play the game exactly like he’s supposed to, he certainly is a fundamentally, technically flawed fighter, and he’s old now. There was serious concern about matching him with Marcus Browne in August, but he sneaked out a technical decision win by dropping Browne three times; he didn’t win any other round, but when you score three knockdowns in eight rounds, guess what? You can win a decision on that.
Badou Jack has never been someone I saw as elite. He wound up making a real good career for himself overall, but I always think back to when he was a prospect and he struggled when he probably shouldn’t have; a draw with Marco Antonio Periban in 2013, a 61-second loss to Derek Edwards in 2014. Again, he came through it all with determination and dedication, but while he had a very good run from 2015 on, he’s also 36 now, and the clock is ticking after his bloody loss to Browne in January.
This is a big fight for both these guys. I don’t really think Pascal should be able to beat Jack; Jack should be able to comfortably outbox him for the most part. But Pascal is such a goddamned weirdo that I’m going to pick him, anyway. One last piss into the wind for the 2019 staff picks from your old pal Scott. Pascal SD-12
Listen, it’s no secret that I wasn’t particularly impressed by the way Jean Pascal won his last fight against Marcus Browne, but he officially took the win anyway, leading him into this matchup against Badou Jack. Pascal, 37, clearly has his best days behind him and isn’t much for winning rounds these days, but he can be dangerous if you take him lightly and let him get off clean punches.
Meanwhile Jack, 36, is also coming off a fight with Browne at the top of the year, where he suffered a horrendous cut that was one of the bloodiest scenes of 2019. Jack says he’s not concerned about any real lasting damage from that cut and I don’t think it’ll wind up being much of a problem. What I am worried about, however, is that this fight could be a bit of a stinker. Neither fighter really pushes the pace in terms of punches thrown and Pascal can be a little wild with his power shots which could initiate a lot of clinching. In the end I think Jack is just a better technical fighter than Pascal, and that’ll make the difference in a fight I see going the distance. Jack UD-12
Patrick L. Stumberg
As someone who’s fond of Pascal for his willingness to call out thing boxing’s powers-that-be would rather brush aside, like Sergey Kovalev’s racism and Marcus Browne’s domestic abuse, I was torn over how to feel about his upset of Browne. On the one hand, there was the basic catharsis of seeing someone I like defeat someone whom I very much do not. On the other, it meant that the past-it Pascal would inevitably wind up fighting another top light heavyweight, one far more likely to repeat Kovalev’s and Dmitry Bivol’s one-sided efforts.
Jack’s far less likely than the likes of Artur Beterbiev to give Pascal a life-changing beating, but he still looks like far more than the 37-year-old can handle. The last vestiges of Pascal’s explosiveness remain in his hands, but he can’t keep up with Jack’s volume and looks unlikely to crack a chin that’s held up brilliantly since his shock loss to Derek Edwards in 2014. Pascal will be in there to win it, which will just make it all the more tragic when his body fails to keep up. “The Ripper” wears him down with activity until the ref sees fit to intervene. Jack TKO-10
It’s the battle of the bloodied Browne bouncebacks – Jack dropped a loss in January while Pascal won a technical decision in August against the same man. Both men are closer to knocking on the door of 40 than 30, but both believe they still have plenty to give in the light-heavyweight division. Despite being just a year older, Pascal feels like the veteran in this fight; Jack has been unfortunate to pick up just one win in his last four fights and looks to have the most left out of the two. Jack is strong, tough and awkward, but Pascal will be relying on clever, powerful counters to change the conversation of the fight. Jack is a bit wilier than Browne and won’t get caught as easily. Jack UD-12
And the staff winner is...
Badou Jack (3-1)!
Gervonta Davis vs Yuriorkis Gamboa
As soon as Yuriorkis Gamboa smashed a stuck-in-molasses Rocky Martinez in July, I knew for sure PBC were going to make this fight, and I wasn’t happy. I’m still not. This is an awful, cynical matchup from the standpoint of offering premium cable fans a competitive main event. Gamboa’s 38 years old. He’s won four in a row yes, but:
- The win over Alexis Reyes in Mexico in 2017 was a debatable majority decision where Gamboa had a bunch of points deducted.
- The win over Jason Sosa in 2017 was a poorly-scored majority decision that Sosa should’ve taken.
- The wins over Miguel Beltran Jr and Rocky Martinez were wins over washed opposition.
- His last loss, to Robinson Castellanos in 2017, was a conclusive beatdown. Castellanos beat the shit out of Gamboa tot he point it really looked like Gamboa probably shouldn’t be fighting anymore.
It’s been since 2013 that Gamboa scored a good, legit win over a good, legit opponent (Darleys Perez). Davis is young, fast, powerful, and a finisher. Gamboa is a name scalp for a guy who wants to be a pay-per-view headliner but has avoided serious threats, either by his own design or someone else’s. I think this has a solid chance of being “fun” in that Gamboa still has some hand speed and some pop, but I think Davis short circuits him pretty early. Davis TKO-3
38-year-old Cuban fighter Yuriorkis Gamboa was once a dynamo in the ring, but that was many years ago, and as a featherweight. As a lightweight Gamboa is now an old, undersized veteran who just doesn’t have the frame for many favorable matchups in the division. In fact, as I remember, my first ever article for BLH was a piece describing why Terence Crawford was such a poor matchup for Gamboa back in 2014. The thing is, in this particular fight the measurables between Gamboa and Davis are roughly on par, but it’s clear that Gamboa has faded mightily while Davis at 25 is still ascending.
When it’s all said and done, I’ll give Gamboa a little credit for having really good craft and experience, but physically I just don’t think he can stand up to the firepower of Davis - particularly because Davis can at least match, if not surpass him in the speed department. Davis is extremely sharp with his counter punches and I don’t think it’s very long before he starts inflicting serious damage on Gamboa. I expect Davis to start breaking down Gamboa early and make a short night of it. Davis TKO-4
Patrick L. Stumberg
On any given day, I can generally remember about 30% of my responsibilities, which leads to some very unproductive grocery runs. I can, however, still remember the 2011 incarnation of Yuriorkis Gamboa humiliating Jorge Solis. He made Solis, a 45-fight veteran, look like a kid who got his first set of boxing gloves for Christmas and tried to pick a fight at the local gym. That Gamboa would give the modern incarnation of Davis a tossup fight; despite Gamboa’s battle with Terence Crawford clearly showing that 135 pounds a step too far, “El Ciclon’s” speed was a sight to behold and Davis had underperformed in the past.
I’ll admit that I underestimated Gamboa the last time he showed up in our staff picks, but I’m still comfortable saying that this version of him is doomed. He’s always been defensively vulnerable and prone to getting dropped; age and wear have robbed him of the speed that let him make up for it and he doesn’t have equalizing power against men of this size, or at least ones who aren’t completely shot. Davis trucks him in a firefight. Davis TKO-3
Despite notching up four wins on the spin, Gamboa looks way out of his depth taking on “Tank” at lightweight. Davis’ aggression and power will prove hellish for the Cuban to negate, with 38-year-old used to tasting the canvas with real consistency throughout his career. His whiskers have proven suspect against guys who you wouldn’t necessarily call “big punchers” – the problem on Saturday is that Davis is just that. Davis has demolished 21 of his 22 opponents without really being tested and it’s hard to imagine Saturday not following suit. Davis KO-4