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article imageThe Cyclone Of Guantanamo: Yuriorkis Gamboa Special

By Oliver Iglesias     Oct 9, 2009 in Sports
As he entered the WaMu Theater Lobby at the Madison Square Garden for the final press conference on Oct. 7, a young fighter exuded exuberance and confidence as he and his Team were greeted by members of the media.
No, he is not Puerto Rican Juan Manuel Lopez, the main event fighter who will be battling Rogers Mtagwa of Philadelphia for the former’s WBO super-bantamweight title on Saturday, 10 October 2009.
He is none other than the current WBA interim featherweight champion who will be co-featured against Panama’s Whyber Garcia (22-6, 15 KO).
His name: Yuriorkis “El Ciclon de Guantanamo” Gamboa of Cuba.
His record: 15-0, 13 KOs.
The road to glory continues to be an uphill battle for Yuriorkis, fondly called “Yuri” by his peers.
Just who is Yuriorkis Gamboa?
Born on 23 December 1981 and embraced by a strong amateur boxing background, he was the gold medal winner in the 2004 Olympic flyweight class in Athens, Greece several months after being crowned the 2003 Pan American Games champion of the same division.
Gamboa says through an interpreter, “I’ve got two brothers and two sisters. My parents don’t work. My dad is a former fighter, he was on the Cuban team. His name is Carlos Gamboa. My mom is a homemaker. "[Note: Yuriorkis’ mother and siblings still live in Cuba]
Yuri and Odlanier joke around
Yuri and Odlanier joke around
Oliver Iglesias
“I’ve been going to the gym ever since I was a little boy watching my dad train. I started boxing when I was seven years old. I had 245 amateur fights, with 15 losses."
“I knew Joel Casamayor in Guantanamo. He used to train with my dad on the national team. My house in Guantanamo was exactly eight blocks away from the house where Casamayor was born and raised," he continued.
“I lived in the camp for the Cuban National Team. It’s called ‘La Finca’ – that means ‘The Farm.’ They had a Farm in Guantanamo for that province, and when I made the National Team, I went to La Finca in Havana. I moved there when I was 17 and lived there until 2006. You live there all year and get one week off – from Christmas to New Year’s Day."
Yuri Gamboa
Yuri Gamboa
Oliver Iglesias
“I’m married. My wife’s name is Dunia and we have one daughter. Her name is Brenda. She’s three years old. They live with me in Miami. I sold my Olympic gold medal to pay for my daughter’s first birthday party in Cuba. I sold it for $1,500 U.S.”
Gamboa’s story reflects the reality for some outstanding Cuban amateur boxers who, despite securing numerous medals and achievements for their island-nation for several years, still long to afford their respective families better lives in the end.
In 2007, Yuriorkis defected from the Cuban National Team with teammates Odlanier Solis (who is also fighting in one of the undercards against Monte Barrett) and Yan Barthelemy (who, along with his Team, personally went their way to lend moral support to Yuri and Odlanier during the weigh-in on October 9th, plus the chance to see their respective fights Saturday night).
Gamboa with Cuban heavyweight Odlanier Solis
Gamboa with Cuban heavyweight Odlanier Solis
Oliver Iglesias
They were then training in Venezuela for the Pan American Games when they left their hotel and crossed into Colombia. Once they reached their destination, they were fortunate to find the Hamburg, Germany-based Arena-Box Promotions which eventually afforded each one of them a seven-figure, three-year contract with an option for two more years.
From thereon, Yuriorkis was based in Germany for the first six months of his pro career. By the end of October 2009, his pro career should have spanned 2 ½ years.
His first fight on US soil was on 30 October 2007 in Hollywood, Florida when he secured a TKO win against Adailton De Jesus in the 6th Round.
He has been piling up mostly knockout wins thereafter.
Bob Arum introduces the fighters
Bob Arum introduces the fighters
Oliver Iglesias
Yuriorkis’ present trainer is Ismael Salas. Now 52 years old, Salas is also a native of Guantanamo, Cuba in the easternmost province of the country and was hired as Yuriorkis’ head trainer before the Al Seeger fight in July 2008.
Salas said, “The most important thing in professional is mental, and I have seen good improvement in Gamboa. For some reason, many Cubans are not ready to being exposed in professional boxing. All Cuban boxing is amateur, the system, the background, they’re always thinking the amateur way."
“Gamboa’s improving a lot, he’s much more professional thinking. He takes care of himself much better. We’re working to improve technically. We have been doing many drills to help him get better.”
“Gamboa is a special one. I tell you what – in boxing, you have some with a very good style who can move, who can punch, but sometimes they don’t have the hard punch. Sometimes you can find hard puncher, but no good style. Gamboa is a combination of the good style and the hard punch. Gamboa is a real special one - he is one of the best I’ve trained.”
Regarding his nickname, Yuriorkis said through an interpreter, “The Cuban sportscasters put that on me because I just go in like a cyclone, like the Tasmanian Devil, and tear everything that gets in my way.”
Overall, Gamboa adopts an aggressive fighting style, has good skills, tremendous speed and good lateral movement. He has good punching power in both hands, physically strong, has good natural athletic ability and an impressive amateur background which serves as a springboard to big pro fights.
In 17 April 2009, he stopped Jose “Cheo” Rojas in the 10th round for the WBA interim featherweight (126 lbs) belt.
After the fight, he said, “This was a good fight and I am happy. Rojas took a lot of punches, but I felt good. I am ready for any of the top featherweights in the world. It is always good to put on a show for the fans. I think the fans are going to be hearing and seeing a lot from good Cuban boxers from now on.”
While waiting for the cue to come up the stage for the Lopez-Mtagwa presscon, Gamboa calmly stood on one corner. With the obvious language barrier as most press people usually encounter with Spanish-speaking boxers, this author took his chance.
Yuriorkis Gamboa at WaMu Theater  MSG
Yuriorkis Gamboa at WaMu Theater, MSG
Oliver Iglesias
Armed with few Spanish lines, I greeted him and told him that his exciting and explosive style of fighting would endear him to more fans, especially Filipinos.
"Usted es un luchador explosivo, los Filipinos les gustará usted (You are an explosive fighter, Filipinos will like you). Soy del país de Manny Pacquiao, las Filipinas (I am from the country of Manny Pacquiao, the Philippines)."
“Si, si, Manny Pacquiao! (Yes, yes, Manny Pacquiao!),” he exclaimed and flashing a sheepish grin, Yuriorkis graciously extended his right hand for a handshake.
As a parting shot before an event organizer whisked him off to the main podium for the start of the presscon, I chimed in the last time “Buena suerte Senor en su primera lucha en Jardín de Madison (Good luck Señor on your first fight at Madison Garden). He simply replied in mixed Spanish and English: “Gracias Señor, thank you”.
True indeed, this fighter will be the man to watch in the big fights of 2010 and beyond.
UPDATE:
In a short interview with Top Rank honcho Bob Arum just before the weigh-in at 2PM today, 9 October, at WaMu Theater, he told this author that assuming Juanma Lopez and Yuri Gamboa both win tomorrow night, he is planning a January 2010 card in Puerto Rico with two probable exciting match-ups –-Juanma Lopez-Celestino Caballero and Yuriorkis Gamboa-Bernabe Concepcion. The winners will then box off at the Madison Square Garden in June.
The author informed Mr. Arum of the recent floods and landslides in Northern Luzon and requested updates on Manny Pacquiao’s training in Baguio City.
“I spoke to them last night, US time (Friday morning in the Philippines), they said the rain was stopping and he was getting good training but he couldn’t go out and run so he is using a treadmill. Manny will be okay, " Arum said.
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