Terence Crawford vs. Yuriorkis Gamboa preview & prediction

Credit: Chris Farina - Top Rank

Fight Pick & Preview – Crawford vs. Gamboa:

On June 28 in Omaha, Nebraska, hometown hero Terence Crawford will take on Yuriorkis Gamboa is what looks to be the biggest fight of 2014 at 135 pounds. In a numerical anomaly, both fighters have exactly the same record at 23-0 (16 KOs). A win in this fight would instantly restore credibility to the dormant career of Gamboa. If Crawford were able to pull it off, it would nudge him ever closer to the top tier of the sport.

  • Date: June 28, 2014
  • Site: CenturyLink Center, Omaha, Nebraska
  • Weight Class: Lightweights: 12 Rounds

Terence Crawford, 23-0 (16 KOs), Omaha, Nebraska
vs.
Yuriorkis Gamboa, 23-0 (16 KOs), Miami, Florida

There is no denying the absurdity of Gamboa’s career at this point. The 32-year old has fought twice since 2011, precisely at a time where he should have been accelerating. One can’t question the track record, talent, and explosive potential of the former Olympic gold medal winner. But you have to wonder what lies beneath the surface.

Did Gamboa let himself go as he tasted the good life after defecting from Cuba? Some of the reports out of Miami haven’t been too promising. For him to only be able to claim a pair of decisions over the somewhat anonymous duo of Darleys Perez and Michael Farenas as his workload since 2011 is at best preposterous and, at worst, a sign that Gamboa has really slacked off. He will need to be at his best here.

Crawford may not have the overall athleticism and explosiveness of Gamboa, but he’s been active, is more of a committed professional, and has several physical attributes in his corner. Crawford is a career lightweight, with Gamboa having only his 2nd bout at 135 pounds after moving up from 126. Gamboa is 6 years older at 32 and is rather short for the weight at 5’5.” He will be giving away 3 inches in height and 5 in reach to Crawford.

This is a tough fight to break down. From purely an ability standpoint, the nod goes to Gamboa. From a sort of informal, naked-eye vantage point, he just seems like a better fighter. He’s faster, hits harder, and can do the more eye-catching work. And maybe the recent inactivity isn’t that big of a deal, being that with his extensive amateur background, the layoffs may not have been the worst thing. It’s not like he’s going to forget how to fight suddenly. He’s been doing this at a high level since he was a kid.

But other than offensive talent and experience, a lot of the checkmarks go into Crawford’s column. He seems to be a slightly more “together” fighter. His all-around game is better–especially defensively. Without saying he’s more durable than Gamboa, he’s at least more defensively responsible than the Cuban. And his entrance into the world-class waters was a stiff one, as he maturely marched into Glasgow to soundly defeat hometown hero Ricky Burns in his last fight. That’s just what he needed before taking what appears to be a measured step up against a more-robust package of skills in Gamboa.

Gamboa has been dropped a handful of times–by fighters who were several levels beneath him in terms of overall merit. He is vulnerable when he tries to be an assassin, rushing in with his chin hanging out in the air. But when he employs more of a moving style, he can really look good, like he did in wipeouts of Orlando Salido and Daniel Ponce De Leon. Those fighters are smaller than the spidery Crawford and more aggressive by nature. Gamboa may be put in a spot where he needs to apply pressure, which could suit Crawford well.

Offensively, Crawford is very talented. He can throw combinations rapidly and hits pretty hard to the head and body. Gamboa, however, has some of the best hands in the sport. He’s deadly-fast and his punches detonate with devastating impact. While he is less prudent that Crawford, he is infinitely more experienced, having fought a higher level of competition in both the amateurs and pros.

Gamboa vs. Crawford Prediction

I see a very close fight. When Gamboa moves and fires rapid and sudden shots, he will be in control. But the talent of Crawford and Gamboa’s lack of consistency will give way to other moments where the Nebraskan’s craft, size, and combinations win the day. Gamboa hasn’t appeared to bring his power up to 135, though he is still a good puncher.

Crawford’s greater polish, a result of being active, will serve him well in this fight, as will being at home. Crawford may have to rise from a knockdown, but I see him edging a close one.

Prediction: Terence Crawford by split 12-round decision.

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