Saturday, April 18, 2009

Shobox Recap: Gamboa stops Rojas, Aydin decisions Ouali

Michael Nelson recaps last night's Shobox card.

Rising Cuban star Yuriorkis Gamboa picked up the interim WBA "Ordinary" Featherweight Championship strap when he outclassed Jose Rojas, stopping him in 10. On the undercard, Selcuk Aydin earned a split decision over Said Ouali in an action packed welterweight bout.

Gamboa showed uncharacteristic caution early against Rojas, only throwing the occasional right hand along with a few flashy flurries as he got a look at the tall and awkward southpaw. Rojas managed to be fairly elusive, but offered little offense in return.

Gamboa turned up the heat in the 3rd. Controlling the round with right hands to the body, he threw some of his patented long combinations in the final minute. The audience roared in appreciation. Rojas was still largely elusive, but came away from the violence with a right eye that was quickly closing.

While Rojas had his moments in the first three rounds, it was becoming clear in the fourth and fifth that he didn't have much of a chance outside of a knockout. Gamboa was fighting smart, and proved to be far too quick for Rojas to land many serious blows. Rojas lost his balance in the 5th, and while referee Russell Mora incorrectly called it a knockdown, the bout was becoming academic.

Rojas' eye was nearly shut by the middle portion of the fight and Gamboa turned up the pressure accordingly. Exhibiting a well-timed left hook, he countered Rojas nearly every time Rojas attempted a punch.

Still determined to avoid recklessness, Gamboa let his foot off the pedal in the 8th and 9th rounds, choosing to potshot and counter his over-matched foe rather than push for a stoppage. The doctor and Russell Mora took a look at Rojas' badly swollen eye before the bell sounded for the 10th and reluctantly let him fight another round. After Gamboa landed a few more stinging right hands and started trying to put his punches together, Mora decided he had seen enough and stopped the proceedings.

Good call; the fight had become a bloodletting. There was no real point in risking serious injury to the 37 year old Rojas' eye by letting him continue to get smacked with left hooks and right hands.

Somehow, born out of the increasingly nonsensical politics of the four major organizations, this was considered a title fight. Nevertheless, Chris John is recognized as the real WBA champion, and Gamboa's team has openly targeted the winner of Chris John's June 27th rematch with Rocky Juarez. Gamboa is still raw, but he showed poise and patience we haven't seen against Rojas, and his explosive athleticism makes him a formidable contender.

The undercard was far more competitive. It seems that's becoming a pattern with ShoBox.

Said Ouali and Selcuk Ayid put on quite a show. Ayid was the aggressor for most of the bout, often pushing Said to the ropes and pounding him with uppercuts and body shots. Throwing relentless combinations, Ayid repeatedly snapped Ouali's head back with blows between the gloves.

Ouali controlled the bout when it was fought in the middle of the ring, which is why his trainer, Roger Mayweather, admonished him to stay off the ropes in between several of the rounds.

Ouali's punches were more effective as well. Ayid had a visible reaction nearly every time Ouali landed a straight left or right hook to the body. Nevertheless, he remained stubborn, seeking rest and counter opportunities along the ropes as he got swarmed with punches.

The fight was razor close going into the 12th. Ouali turned up the pressure and rocked Ayid with a straight left in the final moments. But it was too little, too late as the judges favored Ayid's activity over Ouali's economy. The scores were 115-112 and 116-111 for Ayid, with a dissenting score of 114-113 for Ouali.

Ayid would make a good fight with any mid-level contender in the welterweight division, while Ouali remains a dangerous fighter. I wouldn't mind seeing more of either man in the future.

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