Former unified featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa is doing his best to make up for lost time.
Plagued by long layoffs, usually of his own doing, Gamboa, now a junior lightweight, will fight for the second time in two months on Friday night (ESPN2 and ESPN Deportes, 8 ET) as he aims to land another world title opportunity in the twilight of his career.
Part of the plan when he signed earlier this year with Golden Boy Promotions was that he would be active after going through four layoffs of at least a year in his career.
“When I did the deal with him and I signed him, one of the conditions was that we were going to keep him busy and we were going to keep him sharp,” Golden Boy president Eric Gomez said. “He was telling me he has a few good years left, so I told him, ‘As long you’re willing to fight and work and stay busy, we can use you. I think you have another good fight in you with one of the top names.’ So we are sticking to the plan and keeping him busy.”
Gamboa, 35, made his debut for Golden Boy on March 11 and won a lopsided unanimous decision against Rene Alvarado. It was Gamboa’s first fight in 15 months.
Next up, Gamboa will be in the ring against Robinson Castellanos in the main event of a three-hour edition of “Golden Boy Boxing on ESPN” at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where much of the boxing world will be on hand because of the highly anticipated Canelo Alvarez-Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. showdown on Saturday night at T-Mobile Arena.
“I’m excited to open up this weekend, especially on such a historic one,” Gamboa said through a translator. “It’s a great opportunity for me and my career.”
“After my fight this past March against Rene Alvarado, I was ready to jump back in. … I went back home to Miami Beach and held my training camp with my team. It was a solid camp, and we are ready for Castellanos. He’s a Mexican fighter who goes into the fight to get the victory, and his record shows that his career has a great trajectory.”
After all the layoffs and inconsistency, Gamboa said he is happy getting right back into the ring. The way he and Golden Boy officials view it the activity is key to helping him get sharp for when the inevitable big fight comes his way.
“After my fight this past March against Rene Alvarado, I was ready to jump back in. I’m ready to just get back into title contention, and I know that’s going to take work,” Gamboa said. “I went back home to Miami Beach and held my training camp with my team. It was a solid camp, and we are ready for Castellanos. He’s a Mexican fighter who goes into the fight to get the victory, and his record shows that his career has a great trajectory. I will be expecting him to apply pressure and come forward.”
Castellanos (23-12, 13 KOs), 35, doesn’t have a pretty record but he has some solid wins. Although he is coming off a seventh-round knockout loss to Oscar Escandon for an interim featherweight world title 14 months ago, in his two previous fights he defeated Rocky Juarez and Ronny Rios in a big upset. For comparison purposes, in the fight before he beat Rios, Castellanos was stopped in the ninth round by Alvarado.
Gomez said he likes the attitude Gamboa (26-1, 17 KOs) has displayed during his return to regular activity. He’s not making much money for Friday’s bout, only $20,000, but he was still willing to do it after making purses regularly in the mid-six figures in recent years.
“What hurt him all these years was the inactivity and now he’s staying busy and he’s bought into it,” Gomez said. “This fight is key because he has to stay busy. That he would take this fight, a smaller fight, says that he’s serious about getting back to the top. There are certain sacrifices you have to do to be in a big fight or be considered for a big fight and he’s making them. He’s serious about getting back to the top and the way you do that is staying active and getting sharp.”
If all goes well, Gomez said he will try to land a junior lightweight world title fight for Gamboa, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, who has won three fights in a row since he moved up to lightweight and got knocked out in the ninth round of a tremendous battle with then-champion Terence Crawford in June 2014.
“I think he can fight again after this fight as soon as maybe September,” Gomez said. “We’re planning a pay-per-view view with Canelo in September and maybe he can fight on that card or maybe he’ll say he wants another fight first and we can put him on another ESPN card. But Castellanos is no joke. He’s a dangerous guy, he pulled some upsets and he’s treating this fight with Gamboa like it’s do or die.”
There are also two other 10-round fights scheduled for the telecast. In the co-feature, featherweight Abraham Lopez (22-0-1, 15 KOs), 29, of La Puente, California, will square off with Jesus Rojas (24-1-2, 17 KOs), 30, of Puerto Rico, who is unbeaten since 2008.
Opening the card will be southpaw Yamaguchi Falcao (12-0, 6 KOs), 29, who claimed a bronze medal for Brazil in the 2012 Olympics, against Morgan Fitch (18-0-1, 8 KOs), 34, of Pittsburgh, in a middleweight fight.