The Steady Decline Of Yuriorkis Gamboa

(Yuriorkis Gamboa takes one on the chin)

It wasn't so long ago, in the scheme of things, that Yuriorkis Gamboa's fan club among the hardcore boxing public was practically too full to accept new members. In 2010, the Cuban sliced through Rogers Mtagwa like he was a living vorpal sword one fight after Mtagwa had nearly knocked out previous (junior) featherweight darling Juan Manuel Lopez, then the next year he blew Jorge Solis to smithereens in such a way that Solis came away more impressed by Gamboa than he had a previous conqueror, Manny Pacquiao. To be sure, he would turn in the occasional lackluster performance, as he did against Daniel Ponce De Leon, and he wasn't so far removed from a series of knockdowns that made everyone wonder whether he was long for this world — but even the bored fashion in which he dominated De Leon and the others added to his badass mystique, and the knockdowns made sure his fights would retain an air of danger for our hero. Those were giddy days for me, his unofficial biggest fan, seeing most everyone sharing my enthusiasm for the man I had dubbed YURIORKIS GAMBOA!

It's been nothing bad bad news since. The latest unflattering headline came via the Miami New Times, in the same report that linked Yankees star Alex Rodriguez to a shady clinic where a former employee kept notes about athletes he said the clinic was giving performance enhancing drugs. Gamboa's name was in the notebook.

Scott Christ is right that there's something off about the timeline involving Gamboa. And Kevin Iole suggests Gamboa is innocent until proven guilty of any wrongdoing. But it doesn't look good that his trainer and promoter didn't respond to multiple messages, and at any rate, it's all part of a pattern for Gamboa: There's not been anything good to say about him for too long now.

There was him pulling out of the Brandon Rios fight, a bout that had captured the imagination of a lot of fans. There was him having a prolonged absence from the ring while he battled his promoter, Top Rank, in what seemed like an unjustified lawsuit. There was a ring return where Gamboa's flaws — his questionable balance, his shaky chin — were dragged out by relative unknown Michael Farenas, of all people. There were the goofy challenges to boxers everyone knew he shouldn't and wouldn't fight, like his promoter 50 Cent calling out his old friend/new enemy Floyd Mayweather. And now there's this report raising questions about whether he was using PEDs.

Being a boxing fan is a headache sometimes. There's an awful lot of internal politics of the sport you have to put up with, too much unsatisfactory hemming and hawing while you wait for the fights you want to emerge and constant scandals, from PEDs to bad judging. Being a fan of a specific fighter is sure to end in heartache: One day, he's not going to have it anymore, and it's not like the frequently cited case of watching Willie Mays bobble pop flies in the outfield; when your favorite fighter doesn't have it anymore, he usually gets knocked out in violent fashion, or else takes a prolonged beating or becomes a journeyman who takes prolonged beatings for a living, and it's rare that a boxing career concludes happily.

What's happening with Gamboa? Maybe he can turn it around, who knows. But it's a different kind of decline he's undergoing than the usual boxing story, and while it's definitely not sadder, it is certainly more disappointing to watch the former "El Cyclone de Guantanamo" peter out into a humdrum breeze.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.