NEW YORK – Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa are on a collision course for featherweight supremacy, as each won their championship bout in spectacular fashion Saturday at The Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Lopez stopped Steven Luevano at 44 seconds of the seventh round to claim the World Boxing Organization featherweight belt. In the opener on the HBO-televised doubleheader, Gamboa put on an electrifying performance in stopping Rogers Mtagwa in the second round.
"One of these two guys is going to become the next Manny Pacquiao," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said of Lopez and Gamboa.
Lopez controlled the classy Luevano throughout, out-boxing him and hurting him repeatedly with straight left hands and quick hooks. He gave up the WBO's super bantamweight title to challenge Luevano.
"I want to be a world champion in four divisions, and this is the second one," Lopez said after improving to 28-0 with his 25th knockout. "I'm very happy I gave the crowd a great fight."
Lopez caught Luevano with a right hand that badly hurt the champion and sent him staggering into the corner. Lopez wasted no time going for the kill.
He ripped off a series of shots that sent Luevano down. When he got up, he was on unsteady feet and referee Benji Esteves wisely halted it.
"He's a great fighter and a great hitter," Luevano said of Lopez. "I was blocking that particular punch (the right hook) the entire fight, but he got one in."
Top Rank wants to match the fighters later in the year, perhaps in late summer or in the fall.
Gamboa took care of his half of the equation in impressive fashion, retaining his World Boxing Association featherweight belt by knocking Mtagwa down three times in less than two rounds and forcing referee Steve Smoger to mercifully halt the carnage at 2:35 of the second.
The 2004 Olympic gold medalist isn't much for defense and he's not noted for a granite chin, but he's as good of an offensive fighter as there is in the game. He used his blazing hand speed and exceptional power to simply overwhelm Mtagwa.
Gamboa knocked Mtagwa down with a left to the top of the head with about 15 seconds left in the first round.
That was a precursor to a blistering performance in the second, when Gamboa landed 38 of the 58 power shots he threw, according to CompuBox.
Gamboa ripped Mtagwa with a hard combination in the center of the ring about a minute into the second round, then dumped him onto the seat of his pants with a right about 20 seconds later.
Mtagwa tried to fight back, but Gamboa swarmed him and Smoger halted it when Mtagwa went down for a third time from a flurry in the corner.
Gamboa hopes he ended the comparisons to Lopez with the effort. Lopez struggled to survive the final two rounds in a bout with Mtagwa in October.
"I hope with this performance, no one compares me to JuanMa anymore," Gamboa said. "We're different fighters. I proved I'm Yuriorkis Gamboa."
Mtagwa, who came in 3 1/2 pounds under the 126-pound limit, didn't seem to have the strength to withstand the onslaught. He had hoped to take the bout into the middle rounds, but was unable to get away from Gamboa.
CompuBox statistics had Gamboa outlanding Mtagwa 53-10, but Gamboa said he didn't remember being hit.
"We knew he was fast, but we felt we could handle his speed," Mtagwa manager Joe Parella said. "The game plan was to go three rounds and battle through it, but we got caught real early."
Middleweight John Duddy, one of the most popular fighters in the Metropolitan New York area, improved his record to 27-1 with a first-round stoppage of Juan Astorga.
Duddy dropped Astorga with a short right to the top of the head about a minute into the fight. Not long after Astorga climbed to his feet, Duddy ripped him to the body with a left hook.
Astorga immediately collapsed again, and this time referee Wayne Kelly called a halt to the bout at 1:51 without even finishing his count.
The win earned Duddy a spot on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard on March 13 at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.