Please update your flash player...

A Night Of Star Gazing

Promoter Gary Shaw has three of the brightest young prospects in boxing. Rather than nurse them along with fights against the usual suspects, he has matched them against three other tough young fighters in a Boxing After Dark tripleheader that promises to live up to its name, "Night of the Rising Stars."

James Kirkland, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Alfredo Angulo are not yet widely known by the general boxing public. But amongst insiders, these three have generated considerable buzz. Each one has the potential to be a world champion, and one or more could become superstars in much the same way that young fighters like Marco Antonio Barrera, Arturo Gatti and Fernando Vargas emerged out of the "Dark" and into the light.

"I believe if you fight for Gary Shaw Productions you have to be willing to take the tough fights and prove yourself," Shaw said. "One of the things that has hurt boxing is there have been too many mismatches. These fights are very competitive."

What makes the match-ups so intriguing is that the fighters Shaw's boxers are facing are also young and have solid records. Each opponent knows that a victory over a more celebrated prospect would bump them up to another level. When six hungry fighters square off in the ring, it could make for a sumptuous meal.

Shaw has made a career of taking young boxers and moving them up the ladder to a championship, first as chief operating officer at Main Events, and then with his own company. It is not his usual modus operandi, however, to take fighters like Angulo (12-0, (9 KOs) and Gamboa (9-0, 8 KOs), who have limited professional experience, and put them in so deep so early. And that tells you something right there.

"The fact that Angulo is only 12-0 and I made this match-up gives you some idea of how good I believe he is. I think he may be the surprise of the night," Shaw said.

A junior middleweight, Angulo is facing a tough challenge in the other corner. His opponent, Richard Gutierrez (24-1, 14 KOs), is much more seasoned, and has already been tested by a top pro. Two years ago Gutierrez gave welterweight contender Joshua Clottey all he could handle for 12 rounds before losing a majority decision. This is only Gutierrez's second fight at 154 pounds, and he has said he feels much stronger at this weight.

"I know there are a lot of people who think Gutierrez will win this fight," Shaw said. "But Angulo has a very good pedigree. He was a Mexican Olympian, and has sparred with some of the best fighters in boxing, including Antonio Margarito, Roy Jones Jr. and Ricky Hatton."

Angulo is a very aggressive fighter with power in both hands. He puts together combos that work the body and the head at the same time, and will keep stalking you in the classic Mexican tradition. "He only knows one style, to come at you and throw punches," Shaw said.

Kirkland (21-0, 18 KOs), another 154-pound fighter, is every bit as aggressive as Angulo, maybe more so. "Both of these kids are very explosive fighters," Shaw said. "They fight balls to the wall. They are throwbacks to another era. They come darting out of their corners at the bell."

Kirkland did just that in his last fight and it cost him the first knockdown of his career. Against Allen Conyers last November, Kirkland seemed to run across the canvas at the opening bell and swarmed his opponent, looking for the quick knockout. While generally a compact fighter, when Kirkland thinks he can take an opponent out, he tends to throw wide, looping punches which leave him open for straight shots down the middle. Conyers did just that. Kirkland walked into a left-right combo and hit the canvas.

The 24-year-old southpaw popped right back up, and thirty seconds later he threw a left hand from hell that drove Conyers nearly five feet backwards and halfway through the ropes. Late in the round, Kirkland again went for the kill and this time blasted Conyers with another bomb that left him sticking through the ropes with four seconds to go. Unable to be saved by the bell, Conyers was knocked out and Kirkland remained undefeated.

Kirkland's opponent, Eromosele Albert (21-1, 10 KOs), comes into this fight with little fanfare. But two bouts ago he whipped aging former champion Yori Boy Campas, and then knocked out a decent young prospect named Daniel Edouard, whose only previous loss was to Jermain Taylor in 2005.

"I don't know much about Kirkland's opponent, but people who do have told me they feel comfortable that this will be a real fight," Shaw said.

If you were going to rush a prospect in any single division, junior middleweight would be it. The four currently reigning champions are over 30 years old, including Shaw's own fighter, Vernon Forrest (37); Joachim Alcine (32), Verno Phillips (38) and Sergiy Dzinziruk (32). In between the champions and Shaw's fighters there are no top contenders, and the former junior middleweight champions Ricardo Mayorga, Cory Spinks and Travis Simms are no longer at the top of their game.

"It's exciting for me because I already have the best 154-pound fighter in the world in Vernon Forrest, and now I have two terrific young fighters coming up in the division," Shaw said.

"I know there are a lot of people who think Gutierrez will win this fight," Shaw said. "But Angulo has a very good pedigree. He was a Mexican Olympian, and has sparred with some of the best fighters in boxing, including Antonio Margarito, Roy Jones Jr. and Ricky Hatton."

Gamboa (9-0, 8 KOs) could prove to be the most special fighter of the three. Some have projected him not only as a future champion but a top pound-for-pound ranked boxer.

An Olympic gold medal winner in 2004, Gamboa defected from Cuba two years ago with fellow gold medalists Yan Barthelemy and Odlanier Solis. They were signed by Arena Box Promotions of Germany and all three remain unbeaten.

Gamboa, who Shaw co-promotes with Arena, has been described as an offensive machine. Some have said he may have the fastest hand speed in boxing, on a par with Floyd Mayweather Jr. He has moved to America, like another former Cuban gold medal winner and defector, Joel Casamayor, and has drawn tremendous reviews by those who have seen him.

Except for some flaws in his defense, Gamboa is considered a near perfect fighter. The junior lightweight's reflexives are super quick, he punches with precision and power, and moves around the ring with an ease close to gliding. Gamboa can cut off the ring in an instant and trap his opponent in a corner, and because he is very light on his feet, is hard to be put in a difficult position.

"Gamboa is a thoroughbred," Shaw said. "He has a tremendous pedigree. Although he only has nine fights, he boxes like he has had 100 professional fights. Arena is not looking at him as an amateur. They are treating him like a seasoned pro."

At the time that Gamboa defected, he was considered a lock for another Olympic Gold medal this summer. He is one of the most celebrated in a long line of Cuban amateur champions, winning the Cuban national championship four times, and several international world titles. His first three professional opponents had records of 6-1, 7-0 and 40-11, and he has not faced a boxer with a losing record.

Like Angulo and Kirkland, Gamboa is up against a tough, seasoned opponent in Darling Jimenez (23-2-2, 14 KOs), who has fought most of his bouts at lightweight. In dropping down to junior lightweight, Jimenez could pose size problems for the 5'5" Gamboa, who won his gold medal as a flyweight.

Three fights. Six fighters with a combined record of 110-4-2. Out of this mix should emerge at least one rising star, and that makes this card all the more enticing.

"Gamboa is a thoroughbred," Shaw said. "He has a tremendous pedigree. Although he only has nine fights, he boxes like he has had 100 professional fights. Arena is not looking at him as an amateur. They are treating him like a seasoned pro."

Posted 12:00 AM | May 13, 2008

Yuriorkis Gamboa vs Darling Jiminez

HBO BAD - May 17, 2008

Angulo vs Gutierrez
Kirkland vs Albert

Related Media

` `