Undefeated former WBA Featherweight Champion Yuriorkis Gamboa and former WBO Junior Featherweight Champion Daniel Ponce De Leon, along with their respective promoters, Bob Arum and Ahmet Öner for Gamboa, and for De Leon, Richard Schaefer, CEO Golden Boy Promotions, hosted a media conference call today to discuss their 12-round featherweight rumble, which will take place Saturday, September 10, at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City. The fight will be televised live on HBO World Championship Boxing, beginning at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
Bob Arum: I would like to welcome you all on the call and like to tell you that Atlantic City is back in business after Hurricane Irene closed them down for a couple of days.
Yuriorkis Gamboa is recognized as one of the great fighters in boxing today. He’s going to be tested by Ponce De Leon who is a tremendous puncher and a very good fighter so it should be an extremely interesting match that will be shown live on HBO. It is my pleasure now to introduce to you now Gamboa’s co-promoter and a good friend Ahmet Öner.
Ahmet Öner: I am happy that Atlantic City is back and was spared by Irene. I do know that Hurricane Gamboa will be back in Atlantic City. I respect Ponce De Leon. He is a very strong kid, but I think Gamboa will blow him away.
Arum: I would like to now introduce one of the great fighters in boxing today, Gold Medalist representing the country of Cuba in the Olympics, a tremendous professional career.
Yuriorkis Gamboa: I want to thank Bob Arum and Amet Öner for this great opportunity I am going to have boxing Ponce De Leon. I want to show what I have on September 10 and see what else will come for me after that.
Arum: I would like to now introduce our co-promoter for the event, representing Golden Boy Promotions, CEO Richard Schaefer.
Richard Schaefer: Thank you Bob. It is great to be back on a conference call with you co-promoting this fight with you. No question about it that Gamboa is a tremendous fighter with a tremendous background with a Gold Medal. Ponce De Leon is a 2000 Olympian as well.
Has a tremendous record of 41-3 with 31 knockouts with huge punching power and that’s what he’s going to be looking for – to take it to Gamboa and show what he’s all about. He’s looking for his second world title in a second weight class. As we all know he was the WBO junior featherweight world champion. It is a pleasure for me to introduce to you Daniel Ponce De Leon.
Daniel Ponce De Leon: I want to thank the promoters. I want to thank Golden Boy. I want to thank Top Rank, HBO for putting this on and I’m looking forward to it. Gamboa is a very good fighter. He is tough. But I fought the best in the past. I fought them all and I’m looking forward to this fight because after this – a world title fight.
Question: How do you feel about being a top-ten fighter fighting without a belt?
Gamboa: I feel sad that they took the belt away from me. When I fought Solis with the belt and now I don’t have a belt. Now it is not about the belt. It is to see who is the best out there.
Q: What kind of performance does he need in this fight?
Gamboa: I think he’s a very good fighter. A very good boxer, but I am not here really to talk about the fight. I am going to show it on September 10 in the ring. From there we will go on.
I am ready to fight at 126, 130 or 135. I am ready for anything. Right now, this is something the promoters want. I will fight at any of those weights. I just want the big fights. They have sent me three Mexican boxers and you have seen the results. I have always come out on top. That is what I have wanted in my career. I want to box with the best and do the big fights. Whatever they bring to me, that’s what I am going to do.
Q: Ponce’s last fight was at 130. Why is he moving back down?
Ponce De Leon: Everybody saw the fight. I took the fight because an opportunity was presented to me. It was a fight that could be done thorough our promoters, Golden Boy. I took it and everybody saw the results, except the judges. My weight – I feel more comfortable at 126. That’s what this fight will be at and I’m ready for this fight.
Q: Was it a one-shot deal to fight at 130?
Ponce De Leon: It was an opportunity and I took it because I felt I could beat Bruner. I wanted to check to see how I felt at 130. But right now 126 is best for me. Maybe some time in the future if it presents itself and it is a good opportunity I’ll take it again but right now I feel very good at 126.
Q: What happened to the belt?
Arum: They said he didn’t pay the sanctioning fee. This whole thing is getting to be nonsense, these sanctioning bodies. Who can waste time on following it all. They all do everything for their own business. Not one of them, with the exception of the IBF and maybe the WBO are businesses. So they thought it was their best business interest to take the title away. So who is going to waste time going to court to try to fight it.
Q: You have never lost back-to-back fights, so this is very important?
Ponce De Leon: I know it is a very important fight and that’s why I accepted it. I take challenges. I love challenges. I took Gamboa because he is the best in the division, the most dangerous in the division. But I feel very good. I feel very comfortable and I’ve trained very hard and I’m going in there to win. On September 10th I’m going to win. I’m still young and a loss doesn’t cross my mind. But it wouldn’t be the end of my career. I am still very young and there are still many fights to go. I know what I need to do to win and I will do it on September 10.
Where are you in your career? Are you getting better?
Gamboa: I am still learning and still getting better. At this point in my career I can do better things but I think I’m getting to where I need to be.
Q: What are your thoughts on Gary Russell and other big fights?
Gamboa: Those decisions are in the hands of my promoters. I am confident that I can face any opponent and when those fights are ready, I’ll be ready. I prepare myself always to the best of my ability and ready for all changes. If Bob Arum and Amet get together and decide that is the next opponent? I’ll fight anyone.
Q: What will be the next big fight for the winner?
Arum: As far as I am concerned, big fights for Gamboa down the road – the winner of Juan Manuel Lopez and Orlando Salido – I’d like to make that fight next year. Then probably the biggest fight in the featherweight division would be against the up and coming bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, who will be going up to featherweight next year and that should be a big, big match. As far as Gary Russell is concerned, I never saw him fight and it seems to me to be another Al Haymon invention.
Schaefer: Ponce De Leon is the kind of fighter that will fight anyone. Definitely the names Bob has mentioned. If this is a great fight it could be a rematch. Chris John is another, as well as Gary Russell would be happy to fight Gamboa any time, anywhere. I am sure Gary Russell will make some noise in that division as well. This is a tough fight for Ponce De Leon and a difficult fight for Gamboa as well so we are not looking past that.
Q: How is it promoting a fight together for the first time in a long time?
Arum: I think the important thing is that through this effort we were able to make a very competitive, very good fight which is great for Gamboa and De Leon and its great for the public.
Schaefer: I totally agree with that and I hope it is the first of many match-ups which we can make. Bob and I have discussed some other fights so we will see what happens. I think between our two stables are some interesting match-ups and this one here being the first one. We have opened up our channels of communications and that’s a good thing.
Arum: We have had meetings but until the fights are made it is silly to talk about them.
Q: Is there a difference in developing a Cuban fighter than a Mexican fighter?
Arum: A Cuban fighter that has been through the Cuban program and has won a Gold Medal is more technically proficient than any fighter in the world. The Cuban amateur boxing program is second to none and you know a Cuban fighter has been thoroughly schooled, so that’s the plus. On the negative side, the Cubans that live in the United States don’t necessarily follow boxing.
At the time of the Castro Revolution, 72% of the Cubans were white. The Cubans that we have living in the United States are essentially white Cubans, middle class, upper middle class that left Cuba. Those people never had a particular interest in the sport of boxing. That’s why you can’t build a Cuban fighter specifically with a Cuban audience and you have to have them appeal to other ethnic groups. Cubans like Gamboa and Lara and Rigondeaux are tremendous fighters and you have to build them outside the Cuban base.
Ponce De Leon: There is no surprise that I’m fighting at the top level against the best in the world because I have always been dedicated to my career and focused and know what my goals are and clean. So there is no surprise whatsoever.
Q: Do you see Atlantic City being Gamboa’s headquarters?
Arum: Yes. The way Caesars and the others market a fight, people in Atlantic City look to see terrific fighters and they have now seen Gamboa and I know tickets are going very, very well. We have a lot of local stars on the card.
We have this 130-pound Luis Cruz on the card but unfortunately there will be only one live fight on HBO on September 10th and that will be the Gamboa Deleon fight because HBO is playing a delay of Klitschko-Adamek from Poland and they also have a 24/7 on Mayweather-Ortiz. So we only have one fight on the program but the undercard is loaded with talented local people who bring in even more fans, so we expect to have a sell-out crowd on September 10th.
Q: Another name that keeps coming up is Jhonny Gonzalez…
Schaefer: If that’s what he wants to do we could see if that fight could get done.
Ponce De Leon: I want to thank the press for being here and I want to ensure the fans that we will be celebrating big on September 17, Mexican Independence Day. The public will come out winners because it is going to be a great fight and I’m looking forward to it and I’m ready.
Schaefer: These are two of the most exciting guys in the sport. Combining these two in one fight - I know it will be fireworks in the ring in Atlantic City. It’s going to be a great night of boxing and I can’t wait to see it.
Arum: Weather should be great in Atlantic City on September 10, the boardwalk is up and running. Who knows, this fight could be a candidate for fight-of-the-year. Two guys who come to fight, it should be tremendous.
Gamboa: I want to thank my promoters for making this fight possible and Golden Boy for being part of this promotion. I think it’s going to be a great fight and everyone knows I give everything I have inside the ring and look forward to a great fight.
Gamboa vs. De Leon is promoted by Top Rank, in association with Arena Box U.S., Golden Boy Promotions and Caesars Atlantic City and sponsored by Cerveza Tecate, Remaining tickets, priced at $250, $100 and $50, can be purchased at the Boardwalk Hall box office, by calling Ticketmaster at (800) 736-1420 or online at ticketmaster.com.