Lopez-Gamboa bout could be 2010's top fight

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Anyone who saw Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez put on three of the best bouts of this, or any, lifetime has to be dying to see Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa share a ring together.

Promoter Bob Arum said if all goes well, the bout will occur at Madison Square Garden in June on the eve of New York's Puerto Rican Day parade, a night on which welterweight champion Miguel Cotto has historically fought.

Gamboa and Lopez will share a pay-per-view card at the Garden on Oct. 10. Lopez will defend his World Boxing Organization super bantamweight title against Rogers Mtgawa, while Gamboa will put his World Boxing Association interim featherweight belt on the line against Whyber Garcia. Promoter Bob Arum said if both men win, they'll fight on the same "HBO Boxing After Dark" card in January, with Lopez potentially meeting Celestino Caballero in a super bantamweight unification bout.

If they win on that card, Arum said Lopez and Gamboa would then fight in June in the Garden in what going in would be the favorite for 2010 Fight of the Year.

"We're listening to the people, and this is the kind of fight people want to see," said Arum, who conceded the bout has potential to be similar to the slugfest that the first match between the late Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo became. "I think these guys are better boxers than Corrales and Castillo, so I don't think it will be as mindless as that fight was. And when I say mindless, I mean it in a good way. They just stood there beating the [expletive] out of each other.

"I think JuanMa and Gamboa are going to go at it hard because that's how they fight, but I think there will be more boxing skill involved."

Lopez is a big slugger but has shown the ability to box. But Gamboa, a 2004 Olympic gold medalist for Cuba, has all but abandoned his boxing ability as a pro and has become a wild slugger. He's gotten clipped on the chin frequently as a result of his eagerness to attack.

If he fights that way against Lopez, even though the bout will be at 126 pounds, a weight class up from where Lopez is dominating at 122, he could be in trouble. Lopez, who is 28-0, has won his last 14 bouts by knockout and had a stretch of three consecutive title fights in there in which he won in the first round.

Lopez, who has become nearly as popular in Puerto Rico as Cotto, hopes the bout can be put together, though he likes the idea of fighting on the same card several times as Gamboa.

"I think it's important for people to get to know both of us and we both get bigger," Lopez said. "We sparred in France before the Olympics. It wasn't friendly sparring; we went at it pretty good. I got to watch him in a lot of amateur tournaments, also. We never fought each other in those, but we got to see each other often."

Before we delve into the mailbag and I respond to your questions and comments, I'd like to remind you to follow me on Twitter. You can send me questions for the mailbag or just choose to talk some boxing.

Big show a stinker?

If the Floyd Mayweather-Juan Manuel Marquez fight in Las Vegas on Sept. 19 turns out to be a stinker, will we see the last of boxing's big fights? Personally, I can see this being a dull fight. Marquez has slowed down, and he is an old 36-year-old fighter from all those wars with guys like Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera. Plus, you have to question his knockout power. Floyd can dance to a 12-round win, making this a boring matchup. What are your thoughts?
Al Black

Al, I'm not sure of the correlation between this bout being a stinker and it being the last big fight. In November, Manny Pacquiao and Miguel Cotto will fight, and that's clearly going to be a major fight. And I think there will continue to be others as stars develop. I think Mayweather will win this fight by a wide margin. I have great respect for Marquez, but Mayweather is the bigger man; he's the faster man, and I think he's going to be the stronger man. That's pretty difficult for someone to overcome. It could be a stinker if Mayweather stayed on the outside and pot-shotted Marquez, but I don't think he's going to do that. Mayweather is ultra-competitive and he is irked that there are some who think Pacquiao deserves to be No. 1 instead of him. As a result, I think he's going to go after Marquez and try to stop him.

I am not a Mayweather fan and I hope Marquez busts him up, but to be fair, the main reason I hear that this bout is unfair is that Mayweather is too big for him. I thought so, too, but the more I looked into the history of some of the top fighters of the last decade or so, they all (Oscar De La Hoya, Mayweather, Marquez, etc.) started in the 130s. Mayweather didn't fight over 135 until eight years into his career to challenge the big-name fighters, and then jumped to 154 once for De La Hoya. I hope Marquez wins, but I just don't think the weight should give him an automatic excuse if he loses. Most of the greats in boxing, like De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Roy Jones Jr. (who went all the way to heavyweight) and Evander Holyfield, among others, were able to move up and use their skill, speed and punch rate to an advantage against bigger fighters. Your thoughts?
Michael Leone
Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany

Size alone doesn't win a fight, and I'd much rather have a talented smaller fighter than an unskilled bigger man. Usually, the smaller man would have speed and quickness advantages. That's not true in this case. Plus, I'm not sure Marquez is going to take a punch from a legitimate welterweight. He was knocked down many times in his two fights with Pacquiao and, while he doesn't have a reputation as a fighter with a bad chin, it can be dented. Marquez is a very smart boxer and a precise puncher, but his style doesn't seem to me to be the type that can deal with Mayweather. I think there are a lot of welterweights he could probably beat, but THIS welterweight just isn't one of them.

Debate on open scoring

I have a lot of respect for your comments on boxing, but I wanted to pursue an unsettled discussion. When talking about open scoring, you say that it would be disastrous because it could mean that a boxer who's winning a fight might run the last round or couple of rounds because his win is already secured. However, would that scenario unfold if there was open scoring in the first place? What I mean is that if the scoring is shown after each round, a boxer would have to adjust, i.e., try to adjust, accordingly and this might result in a more competitive fight all around because the fighter who loses a round will have more incentive to win the following round and not fall behind on the scorecard. Given that it's a fair match (unlike Roy Jones and Felix Trinidad), a fight might be more competitive if fighters know the score throughout the fight (after each round). Also, corners always tell their fighters if they're winning or not, and they are many times wrong (sometimes on purpose to manipulate their fighters). One of the saddest moments for me in boxing was seeing Oscar De La Hoya lose against Trinidad in 1999 because he ran the last two rounds. I still think he won because he won sufficient earlier rounds, but his corner gave him the wrong advice, which wouldn't have possibly happened if there was open scoring. I wanted to know what you think about these two observations.
Heli Minano
Tuxedo Park, N.Y.

Heli, I would love to see a way to correct scoring injustices so that the fighter who deserves to win a bout gets the decision. Open scoring has been tried many times, and it's been proven to be a failure for many reasons. Here's another reason against it: The rules dictate that if a fight is stopped because of a cut that was caused by an accidental head butt, the fight will go to the scorecards if it's after four full rounds. So let's say there's a close but action-filled fight. Fighter A is ahead let's say four rounds to three in a fight that most in the stands are enjoying and believe could go either way. Fighter A gets cut from an inadvertent butt. If he knows he's ahead, he'll quit and take the win. Fighter B is in the bout and completely capable of scoring either a decision or a knockout, but the open scoring would alter the bout and cause it to be stopped after seven. Fighters need to fight all 12 rounds and not given an excuse to coast. Open scoring simply doesn't work.

Disappointed in the 'Baby Bull'

When I saw Juan Diaz meet Juan Manuel Marquez in February, I was impressed. Taking Marquez on isn't easy, and Diaz is still a young fighter. But then, in the fight on Aug. 22 against Paulie Malignaggi, I was disappointed. I expected so much more from Diaz. You wrote in a previous column that whichever of the fighters lost the fight (should) leave town. But what do you think about the future of Diaz after this fight? Has your opinion about Diaz changed? I would also like to thank you for your columns and your love for the sport. Here in Stockholm, we have no boxing journalists, and you never read about the sport in the newspapers (just football).
Stefan von Ajkay

You're welcome, Stefan, and thanks for writing. I've been a boxing fan for as long as I can remember, definitely more than 40 years. Diaz wasn't particularly great against Malignaggi, but Malignaggi deserves some credit for that. I think what we've seen from Diaz is that he's found his level. He's better than most of the fighters at 135 (where he has fought until this last bout), but when he goes against the elite guys like Marquez and Nate Campbell, he's a notch short. He doesn't punch hard enough to keep those kinds of fighters off of him. But he's still a very good and entertaining fighter and I wouldn't be surprised if he won a belt at 140.

Pacman-Roach conflict?

I believe there is a conflict between Manny Pacquiao's team and his trainer, Freddie Roach. They couldn't settle on where Pacquiao would train for his Nov. 14 fight against Miguel Cotto. I have heard Roach is furious at Pacquiao's team, because they want Manny to prepare at a training facility at Baguio City, Philippines. Roach denounced it as a big mistake. Baguio City is a tourist site and filled with distractions. Roach tried to contact Manny, but he was busy doing a movie and shooting a commercial. It's time for Manny to get down to training now in the right environment.
Nathan Martos

I don't believe there is a conflict between Manny and Freddie, though Freddie didn't want Manny to train in the Philippines. Manny can't spend his entire camp in the U.S., like he normally because, because of U.S. tax law. As a foreign national, he's only permitted to stay in the U.S. a certain amount of days. If he exceeds that number of days, his tax rate will go up substantially. There had been talk of him training in either Mexico or in Vancouver (Canada), but he appears to have made the decision to train in the Philippines. Manny is one of those guys who seems to handle distractions fine. I have no concerns about his training. I believe he'll train hard and be prepared to put on a great performance against Cotto.