Familiar Faces Fill HBO Latino Undercard

Photos by Will Hart

By Eric Raskin

The televised boxing quintupleheader doesn’t come around often. But this weekend’s undercard at Turning Stone Casino in Verona, New York is stuffed with TV-worthy fights, so like it or not, five fights is what you’re getting.

Following HBO’s main doubleheader featuring Luis Ortiz vs. Bryant Jennings and Nicholas Walters vs. Jason Sosa, HBO Latino will catch the spillover with a tripleheader stronger than a lot of pay-per-view undercards. Starting at 12:15 a.m. ET/PT (technically, a very rare case of Sunday morning boxing action), several names from the recent and not-so-recent HBO past will fill the screen, along with a couple of prospects looking to secure more dates in the future.

Here’s a glimpse at the three bonus fights airing on HBO Latino:

Yunieski Gonzalez (16-1, 12 KOs) vs. Vyacheslav Shabranskyy (14-0, 12 KOs), 10 rounds, Light Heavyweights

Gonzalez turned heads in his HBO debut, particularly that of Jean Pascal, an action he performed repeatedly and with both hands. That frenetically paced July fight in Las Vegas ended in a controversial unanimous decision in former world champ Pascal’s favor, but it was Gonzalez’s stock that rose. So the Cuban gets an immediate return on an HBO network, this time playing the role of known quantity in comparison to the unbeaten but untested Shabranskyy.

A two-time amateur world champion in kickboxing, the L.A.-based Ukrainian has yet to prove much in the professional boxing ranks—and if anything, major question marks arose when he was heavily dropped twice in the first round by Paul Parker last time out. To his credit, Shabranskyy showed colossal heart coming back from being so badly hurt to win the fight two rounds later. But if a fighter of Gonzalez’s talent finds his chin the way Parker did, there probably won’t be an opportunity for a comeback. Whoever wins moves into consideration for a fight with Sergey Kovalev or Andre Ward in 2016—especially if that victor is the favored Gonzalez.

Gabriel Rosado (21-9, 13 KOs) vs. Joshua Clottey (39-4, 22 KOs), 10 Rounds, Junior Middleweights

In his first fight since sharing the ring on the big screen with Adonis Creed, fan-friendly warrior Gabriel Rosado faces another boxer from a fighting family, former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey. If you enjoy a good scrap between two veterans desperate for a meaningful win, this is the fight for you.

At age 29, the hard-luck Rosado is winless in his last five, though it’s understandable when you look at the opposition: Gennady Golovkin, J’Leon Love (a disputed decision loss turned into a no-contest when Love failed his postfight drug test), Peter Quillin, Jermell Charlo, and David Lemieux. Having been off for a full 12 months, hopefully Rosado’s tender skin has been given time to heal.

Clottey, on the other hand, has been doing little else besides healing up lately, fighting infrequently and against suspect opposition over the last five years. When he was active, like Rosado, he took on the best competition around; Clottey’s four losses came against Manny Pacquiao, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, and Carlos Baldomir, plus he holds wins over Zab Judah and Diego Corrales. Now 38 years old, this may be the Ghanaian’s last run at contender-ship. It’s a cliché, but this fight could well come down to which grizzled vet wants it more.

Yuriorkis Gamboa (24-1, 17 KOs) vs. Hylon Williams Jr. (16-1-1, 3 KOs), 10 Rounds, Lightweights

The last time Gamboa was seen on HBO, he was picking up the first blemish on his record in arguably 2014’s Fight of the Year against Terence Crawford. With just one tune-up in the 18 months since, the 33-year-old Cuban speed demon returns against pseudo-prospect Williams, who knows a thing or two about facing decorated Cuban amateur fighters.

Williams’ lone loss came in 2012 via eight-round decision to Rances Barthelemy, now regarded as one of the top 130-135 pound fighters in the world. Williams fought once more after that, then disappeared for three years. He finally returned to the ring this past August, escaping with a disappointing draw against Jason Litzau. Williams’ record still looks pretty and he’s in his physical prime at 25 years of age, but he lacks the power to take advantage of Gamboa’s shaky chin and appears simply a notch or two below from a talent standpoint.

On paper, this is a steppingstone fight for Gamboa to get back into main events. Then again, throughout Gamboa’s career, formalities have been known to become adventures.