On This Day… January 23… JuanMa and Gamboa head towards the superfight that never was

2010 – It was one of the sport’s most ‘marinated’ fights. Boxing fans had hoped to see shooting star Juan Manuel Lopez face Cuban sensation Yuriorkis Gamboa and through 2010 both were on fire.

Lopez moved closer to the superfight with an impressive stoppage win of smart Canadian WBO featherweight champion Steve Luevano, and in the co-main event, inside New York’s Theater in Madison Square Garden, Gamboa defeated game Philadelphian Rogers Mtagwa to retain his WBA featherweight title.

Both Lopez and Gamboa appeared on the fight poster as the main stars, as Top Rank tried to build their clash. ‘JuanMa’ had struggled by Mtagwa in a Fight of the Year contender but Gamboa blitzed Rogers in two rounds, although Lopez’s win over the capable Luevano was just as impressive in New York.

Their fight had never been hotter. Luevano was stopped in seven, with referee Benjy Esteves not allowing him to continue after being dropped in the decisive round. Luevano never fought again.

There were also wins on the bill for an upcoming champion named Chris Algieri and middleweight contender John Duddy. 

The main event victories made Lopez 28-0 while Gamboa improved to 17-0 but their unification clash never happened and was condemned to boxing’s What If pile.

Top Rank waited and waited. They tried to build and build. Lopez went on to beat Bernabe Concepcion and Rafael Marquez, the Cuban defeated Jonathan Victor Barros, Orlando Salido and Jorge Solis – but then the wheels came off.

Lopez was upset by Salido, stopped in eight rounds in Puerto Rico, and the momentum stuttered and the rug was pulled out on a fight that had been two years or more in the making. Two fights later, Salido won a rematch, too, halting Lopez in 10 rounds this time.

There was always speculation down the line that Lopez and Gamboa might eventually meet in some kind of nostalgic showpiece, but it never happened and remains a glaring example of what not to do when a fight is seemingly red hot and can’t miss.

Also on this day… in 1967

The brilliant Virgin Islander Emile Griffith defeated the Bronx’s Joey Archer in a second consecutive fight. Their first contest resulted in a majority decision win for Griffith, defending his middleweight titles in The Garden. This rematch was unanimous, with Griffith winning a close but unanimous decision over 15 rounds, 8-6, 8-6, 8-7.

In 1968…

One of Britain’s finest fighters, Welsh wizard Howard Winstone, finally won a world title. After three valiant losing efforts to Mexican star Vincente Salvidar, Winstone defeated Japan’s Mitsunori Seki on a cut to claim the vacant WBC featherweight title in London.