Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 11:41 p.m.
Yuriorkis Gamboa entered Friday’s featherweight fight against Roger Gonzalez with a reputation as a fast-rising star with big-time knockout potential. Gamboa’s previous two fights had ended with knockouts in the first and second rounds and many expected him to make quick work of his latest opponent.
But an early knockout didn’t come.
Gamboa, an Olympic gold-medal boxer, soon found himself in the final round of the 10-round bout in front of 4,000 fans at the Worlds Collide event at the Star of the Desert Arena in Primm, facing an upright and punchy opponent.
“I knew I would take my time,” Gamboa said through a translator after the fight. “And I knew I would close the show.”
A showstopper it was, as Gamboa pinned Gonzalez against the ropes and landed a series of ferocious punches that led referee Robert Byrd to award Gamboa yet another knockout as he closed out the battle.
“The knockout takes care of itself,” Gamboa said after the bout, which was televised as part of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights.”
Although Gonzalez never hit the mat, the flurry of punches from Gamboa (13-0, 11 KOs) in the last round sealed the deal. Despite Gonzalez’s best efforts, Gamboa controlled the fight, winning all but one round. His only loss came in the second after Gonzalez caught him off guard with a right-hand and knocked him to the canvas. Unfazed, Gamboa popped up quickly and came back with increased intensity and control, which would last him the rest of the fight.
Gonzalez (27-3, 18 KOs) is a veteran boxer and proved a good match for Gamboa, who has his sights set on a world title. With quick hands and a powerful knockout punch, Gamboa brings a whirlwind of excitement to the ring. But critics have questioned his ability to compete against the world’s best fighters because he has, on occasion, demonstrated defensive lapses: In three of his last four fights, he’s been knocked down.
“Everybody expects me to knock people out early,” Gamboa said. “I wanted to show the world I could do everything … I could box inside, outside, and that’s what the pro business is about.”
After winning the gold medal for Cuba in 2004, Gamboa defected to the United States and now trains in Miami.
“I was very happy to have all the people here backing me up,” Gamboa said. “It was a very emotional night.”
Buffalo Bill’s Casino has been kind to Gamboa, as he has won his past three events -- including one against Dominican boxer Darling Jiminez -- at Star of the Desert Arena. In a fight there last year against Al Seeger, Gamboa delivered a powerful right-hand that knocked out Seeger in the first round for one of the best knockouts of 2008.
Gamboa will return to Primm in April, hoping to keep his win streak alive when he takes on a yet-to-be-determined opponent.
Undercard -- In the night’s co-feature, Odlanier Solis (13-0, 9 KOs) defeated Kevin Burnett (13-2, 8 KOs) in a heavyweight fight when referee Jay Nady stopped the fight in the eighth round.
Burnett started to stumble as Solis unleashed a battery of punches to his head. Burnett never fell to the canvas, but he appeared disoriented after taking the blows.
Few expected Burnett to last beyond the first couple of rounds, but he withstood a good number of shots from Solis to take the fight into the later rounds. According to the judge’s scorecards, Solis was winning the fight when it was called.
Burnett had a distinct size advantage, but he could not match his opponent’s speed. Solis won a gold medal in the heavyweight division in 2004.
For middleweights, Erislandy Lara (3-0, 2 KOs) knocked out Rodrigo Aguiar (5-4, 3 KOs) at 2:59 in the first round of a scheduled four-round bout.