A generation ago, long layoffs were considered poison to boxers. "To rest is to rust," went the credo. But starting with Sugar Ray Leonard's incredible return against Marvelous Marvin Hagler and continuing with Vitali Klitschko and Floyd Mayweather Jr., that conventional wisdom has been turned on its head.
Former two-belt featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa hopes to emulate their success, for on Saturday he will be fighting for just the second time since September 2011 (and the first time in seven months). The opponent is 28-0 Colombian Darley Perez, whose last fight was a day less than three months ago (W 8 Julio Camano) and who is fighting for the sixth time since September 2011.
Is fresher better or time off mean better timing? The two philosophies will butt heads on Saturday and their respective CompuBox profiles offer these clues as to who might emerge victorious:
The Two Faces of Gamboa: When Gamboa is in an explosive mood, he can be tremendously exciting and statistically productive. Of his 16 knockouts, 13 have come within four rounds and 10 within two. The fire runs extremely hot early and if Perez hopes to take away Gamboa's zero in the loss column he'll have to survive the Cuban's early heat.
In nine CompuBox-tracked blowouts (four rounds or less) Gamboa landed 35% of his total punches and 45% of his power shots. He averaged 47 punches per round, of which 33 (70%) were either hooks, crosses or uppercuts. His best efforts came against Rogers Mtagwa (49% overall, 60% power), Gilberto Luque (61% overall, 69% power), Jorge Solis (40% overall, 45% power) and Whyber Garcia (35% overall, 47% power).
But when Gamboa is forced to go 10 or more rounds, his output rises from 47 to 56.1 punches per round but his accuracy drops dramatically. In five such fights Gamboa landed just 26.4% of his total punches and 36% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. Once Gamboa realizes his opponent is there to stay, his attention shifts to piling up points rather than producing fight-ending pyrotechnics.
Gamboa's most recent effort against Michael Farenas (W 12) was typical of this "face," for he averaged 46.9 punches per round (below the 57.7 junior lightweight average) and landed 28% overall and 38% power. However, his command of pace and range enabled him to out-land the Filipino 156-89 (total), 20-8 (jabs) and 136-81 (power) and limit
Farenas to 32 punches per round and lesser accuracy in all categories (23% overall, 8% jabs, 29% power).
Gamboa is capable of merging the two faces, however. Against recently dethroned WBC featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce de Leon, Gamboa was dynamic on offense (47.4 punches per round, 31% overall accuracy and 42% power marksmanship) while remaining defensively responsible (25% overall, 35% power). The question to be asked Saturday is whether Gamboa will be mature, mercurial -- or both?
Stronger Later: Against Bahodir Mamadjonov (who recently scored an upset ninth round TKO over previous unbeaten Angelo Santana), Perez showed good comeback capacity. Mamadjonov's smart southpaw boxing enabled him to build a lead in the first five rounds (46-36 total, 43-20 power) but in the fight's second half Perez took over by out-landing his rival 72-54 (total) and 57-50 (power) as well as scoring an eighth-round knockdown to earn the split decision victory.
Perez's rally enabled him to cement a 108-100 lead in total connects and close Mamadjonov's power punch lead to 93-77. It also helped mask his percentage deficits of 25%-21% overall and 38%-27% power. Overcoming adversity is one of the major hurdles prospects must clear and while he showed well against his fellow unbeaten prospect, he may have to increase his game another level against a former champion in Gamboa.
Prediction: At 31, Gamboa is no longer a fresh-faced prospect but a fighter either at the top of his physical peak or slightly past it. The 29-year-old Perez may be at the same phase so a true test of each man's skills may unfold. If that's the case, Gamboa has the superior offensive arsenal but his dodgy chin is a formidable wild card.
The guess here is that Gamboa will face some adversity along the way but his undefeated record is proof that he has mastered the bounce-back. Look for another example here as Gamboa will walk out of the ring with the "W" at least and perhaps a "KO."