Great rounds occasionally come about rather innocuously. Alternatively, they can be the result of a long-rumbling storm, slowly brewing throughout a fight. Either way, when they arrive, there is little else as uplifting to be found in sport.
Terence Crawford and Yuriorkis Gamboa entered the ring this year with identical (23-0/16KO) records, and with their unbeaten status on the line, they gave us an absorbing yet skillful clash. By the ninth round of their bout, Gamboa had gained and lost a decisive early edge, got hurt and been knocked down twice.
Crawford was in the ascendancy in front of an electric homecrowd. What followed were the three most definitive minutes in the careers of both men, and the best round of boxing in 2014.
Terence Crawford vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa Round 9
Crawford had knocked Gamboa down for a second time in the fight in the 8th round, and had staggered him towards the end of that same round. The Cuban was running out of answers but he still had his pride, and his power, if not all of his faculties.
Crawford began assertively, tagging Gamboa as he came in with wild swings. As the American caught him with clean blows, he prepared himself to go in for the finish. Just as the fight appeared to be swinging decisively in Crawford’s favor once and for all, however, Gamboa landed a sweet straight right.
The shot was perfectly timed and thrown, in contrast to most of Gamboa’s work in the preceding minutes. Crawford sagged slightly, his legs offering a telling sign of the pain he had temporarily absorbed. Now it was Gamboa’s turn. He steadied himself and lunged forward.
Gamboa was once more on the front foot, hands down but aggressively poised. Crawford sought shelter on the ropes as he recovered his senses. Gamboa cheekily swung a tired left hook as Crawford turned his back and was duly warned by the referee. Crawford, switching southpaw as he had done often, caught Gamboa coming in with short right hooks.
Sensing his opponent was hurt, Crawford threw his hands up, beckoning Gamboa to trade with him. He knew victory was in sight. Two sharp left hooks deposited Gamboa on the canvas. With any semblance of his early lead destroyed, the Cuban summoned all his heart and energy for one last flurry. If this was it, he was going down swinging. Unbeaten records don’t protect themselves.
As had been the case throughout the contest, however, Crawford’s timing and accuracy beat Gamboa’s speed and power. A beautifully placed right uppercut rattled Gamboa’s jaw, and he went down again, for the final time.
The crowd roared, Crawford was held aloft. Gamboa stoutly got up, poker-face intact, but to no avail. This victory belonged to the home-town boy – to Crawford and to Omaha. Boxing had a new star.
Francisco Rodriguez and Katsunari Takayama gave a stunning show of grit in the final round of their sensational minimumweight clash – our fight of the year.
Lucas Matthyse felled John Molina in the tenth of a back-and-forth battle, which he would win by stoppage in the next round.
Robert Guerrero and Yoshihiro Kamegai shared a violent evening together in June. Each round was good, but the twelfth and final one was a perfect ending.