Before Yuriorkis Gamboa lost his damn mind, the Internet lost its damn mind. Gamboa didn’t show up for the news conference in Miami Monday for his April fight against Brandon Rios, so contradictory, far-flung theories flew like so many chicken feathers as though they were fact: Golden Boy was stealing Gamboa away from Top Rank! Or Mayweather Promotions was! Golden Boy’s promised, strangely-hyped “announcement” for Tuesday was to hype this maneuver! The fight is definitely off! And everyone really made up their minds about it, too. Even though nobody had heard from Gamboa or anyone about what his hold-up was, there was incriminating but inconclusive evidence like a photo of Gamboa working out in Mayweather’s gym and any evidence to the contrary about everyone’s favored theory was aggressively ignored.
Tuesday morning, we finally heard from Gamboa himself. It turns out he was mad about the money he was getting for the lightweight bout against Rios, and about his contract with promoters Top Rank/Arena Box. Maybe it’s cuz he wants to sign with GBP or add Mayweather as his promoter. But at the moment we heard from Gamboa, the baton of insanity was handed from the Internet to Gamboa himself (whereupon the Internet collectively pretends it didn’t say a bunch of totally wrong things one day ago).
This site has cheerleaded Yuriorkis Gamboa as much as, if not more than, anyone else, to the point of always capitalizing his name and adding an exclamation point at the end. But whatever valid minor bones he has to pick with his current promoters, his position is ultimately indefensible. Until further notice, he will be:
Let’s look at his pickable bones. Yeah, Top Rank hasn’t done enough to feature him in Miami, where there’s an untapped Cuban audience. (He hasn’t picked this one, but others, including myself, have when critiquing Top Rank’s handling of Gamboa.) Yeah, he deserves a lotta money for this fight, given the riskiness of it and fan interest. Yeah, he hadn’t signed a contract yet.
Top Rank was at least making gestures toward promoting Gamboa in Miami. But if you don’t show up at a Miami press conference with the mayor and all that, you lose the right to complain about what the other guy isn’t doing to help you down there.
Gamboa is, reportedly, making more money for this fight than any other previous. And as a fighter who has yet proven a ticket or ratings draw, it seems absurd for him to be holding out for very much money at all.
Another is that by most accounts (I can’t find any explicit public confirmation by Gamboa), Gamboa agreed to the deal for the fight, whether he signed it or not. I haven’t seen a good explanation for why it’s “standard practice” in boxing to wait before signing deals like this as far in advance as possible, but it is, however bad an idea it sounds like to me. Regardless, if you agree to the fight terms, you agree to the fight terms. Changing your mind later don’t look so hot.
And, while this is a claim attributable only to Top Rank at this point, their track record suggests that when they say they have a fighter under contract for a while longer the way they say they do with Gamboa… they aren’t just barking at the moon. They tend to have their legal house in order.
But give Top Rank yet more credit. In light of Gamboa’s disappearing act, they’re offering to up the money so that the winner of his fight with Rios gets another $100,000. It’s probably not going to do the trick, and they probably know it, but good on them for at least putting something worthwhile on the table.
Gamboa has painted himself into a corner, and for what? OK, he’s not happy with his promoter. I remember a buncha people — a segment of fans and writers both — leaping to the defense of Timothy Bradley when he was trying to extricate himself from a contract with a promoter he didn’t like. That was even though it meant turning down a fight that the hardcore fans wanted, i.e., Bradley-Amir Khan, similar to how hardcore fans are looking forward to Rios-Gamboa — and both Bradley and Gamboa were the ones who demanded those fights from the start.
Those people are not coming to Gamboa’s defense, for some reason. Maybe it’s cuz they tend to take Top Rank’s side in everything, and Gamboa wants to leave Top Rank while Bradley ended up leaving to Top Rank. And there are differences, of course — that Rios-Gamboa is further along in the process than Bradley-Khan ever got, for instance, so the offense is greater — albeit not enough of them to justify the outrage imbalance.
Me, I wasn’t thrilled about what Bradley did and I’m not thrilled about what Gamboa is doing here, either. In both cases you have two fighters who weren’t happy with their promoters, and who aren’t draws or ticket sellers, and who demanded a fight the public wanted only to try to or suceed in backing out of it in hopes of being happier somewhere else. They’re all entitled to do so, if they want. But it’s a risky gambit. The public is gonna get really pissed off at you, and there better be a pretty green patch on the other side of the fence or it won’t pay off.
Bradley’s done OK for himself, landing a Manny Pacquiao fight and all. What patch of green awaits Gamboa elsewhere? Top Rank has most of the best-paying options for him — Rios, Juan Manuel Lopez, Nonito Donaire. Golden Boy, were Gamboa to go there, has Gary Russell, Jr., who doesn’t figure to move him up into a Pacquiao-ish pay bracket. There’s nobody like that outside of Golden Boy, either. And Mayweather Promotions is the Potemkin village of boxing promoters.
About the only hope for Gamboa salvaging this is flat caving in and taking the Rios fight. Top Rank hasn’t given up on the possibility. If Gamboa caves, he’ll still be unpopular with many fans over this, at least until, or if, he wins. Oh wait! I’ve got a theory. This is a bid by Gamboa to take on a heel persona! Good move, maybe. But until it’s all sorted out, Yuri, you’ll just be…