Yuriorkis Gamboa: No vale la pena evitar la pelea
What you’re hearing from Yuriorkis isn’t silence.
After all, El Ciclon de Guantanamo has already spoken through interpreters to Ring magazine, explaining that he’s skipping everything connected with his proposed April 14 showdown with Brandon Rios — possibly even the fight itself — until he’s happy with his contract.
Instead, it’s the sound a window of opportunity makes as it slides shut.
Or of a man putting a lighter to a promising career.
April 14 Gamboa and Rios were supposed to face off in the most intriguing non Pacquiao/Mayweather matchup boxing could offer, a showdown between undefeated action fighters more interested in defending their records than protecting them. On paper, the pair were capable of producing the type of instant classic that could make superstars of them both.
If Gamboa thinks abstaining from the fight can force his promoter, Top Rank, to improve his contract I admire his commitment to getting paid. This is professional boxing, and for the risks fighters take I believe strongly they should squeeze every penny they can out of every available revenue stream.
And if Gamboa thinks staying on the sideline will compel Top Rank to emancipate him from an unfair deal, I applaud his ambition. This is professional boxing, and if more fighters stood up to more promoters maybe the standard 33 percent promoter’s cut wouldn’t be so standard.
But if Gamboa and the people advising him are committed to this power play they should think again. Because this is pro boxing, and if this move backfires Gamboa may never sniff a fight of this stature again.
His entire team needs to ask themselves if the payoff justifies the gamble.
Toss aside egos and pride and they’ll reach the same conclusion Cuban crooner Issac Delgado did when he tried to delude himself about missing a lost love.
No Vale La Pena.
It’s not worth it.
Partly because the next promoter to give a star fighter an “amicable” release from a big-money contract will be the first. And Top Rank doesn’t seem inclined to make that happen, pointing out to reporters that two years remain on their contract with Gamboa.
“He can’t fight for anyone else,” Top Rank spokesperson Lee Samuels told USA Today earlier this week.
So if Gamboa doesn’t want to fight for Top Rank, he just won’t fight.
Gamboa’s good friend and alleged adviser Floyd Mayweather can benefit from long layoffs because he already has casual sports fans in the habit of buying his fights on pay per view. His semi-retirements drag on, anticipation builds and in the end Mayweather cashes in. These are the benefits of mainstream fame.
But Gamboa? Aside from boxing addicts, most sports fans can recognize his face any more than they can pronounce his name. Two years is just long enough for the rest of us to forget him.
It’s also an eternity for a fighter who’s already 30 years old, and who relies as heavily on his reflexes as Gamboa does. Boxing is a game of millimetres and milliseconds, and punches you evade at 30 can graze you at 32. The shots that graze turn in to ones that stun, and punches that stun at can turn out the lights when you’re two years older and a hair slower than when you began your layoff.
As we’ve discussed before, there’s a reason Time is undefeated in the prize ring.
You’d like the people advising Gamboa to remind him of all this. Instead they’re telling him an extended holdout will get him the contract he wants.
Which assumes he has leverage.
Which you only acquire by winning big fights, building a following and collecting the paydays that come your way when you have a massive fan base and a string of big wins to your credit.
Defeating Rios would have been a start.
So instead of following Mayweather’s (rumoured) advice maybe Gamboa should follow Money’s example.
That Mayweather hated turning over a third of each payday to a promoter was never a secret, but did he protest by skulking out of the Zab Judah fight? Or did he swallow his gargantuan pride, complete his contract with Arum and take advantage of free agency to build the “Money” Mayweather and promotional platform that has made him the wealthiest fighter in the sport?
It didn’t matter if the split was amicable or acrimonious because it was complete and legal, and gave Mayweather a chance to build the type of veto power Gamboa is attempting to exercise here.
I understand if ceding control to a promoter chafes Gamboa more than it does other fighters. He grew up in in communist Cuba, risking his health in the ring to glorify La Revolucion, and now he risks his life in the ring to enrich Top Rank and Ahmet Ohner. Same poop, shinier stall. He could have stayed in Cuba for that. At least he’d be closer to his family.
But if he wanted to butt heads with boxing bureaucracy, stand on the sidelines while lesser fighters grab glory, and wonder what he could have achieved if given the chance, he didn’t need to leave Cuba for that either.
The Rios fight is still available. Tuesday afternoon Top Rank’s Todd duBoef outlined plans to proceed with the bout, and added a $100,000 bonus for the winner.
That’s pocket change for Mayweather but a significant raise for a fighter at Gamboa’s level.
Promising enough to headline the HBO shows that turn champions into stars, but nowhere near powerful enough to dream of flexing his muscle outside the ring.
At least not without regretting it later.
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