Cuban fighters seeking American Gold

By Tom Donelson
Updated: January 10, 2009

IOWA CITY — Odlanier Solis escaped from Cuba pursuing both freedom and gold in America. After fighting in Europe for his first 12 bouts, he sought to extend his unbeaten streak against Kevin Burnett.

Burnett nearly lost his last fight on ESPN2 when Horace Grant sent a right hand crashing with one second left in the fight and Burnett nearly failed to beat the count. That showed that Burnett was vulnerable to an overhand right and that just happened to be Solis favorite weapon.

In the first round, Solis sent a combination in the middle of the round that started with a right hand. Burnett did not pop his jab out and he rarely throughout the fight established his own real estate.

Being four plus inches taller, Burnett needed to keep the smaller Solis at a distance but repeatedly, Solis managed to move inside Burnett. In the first round, a Solis combination came when a lazy Burnett jab got countered by a Solis right and unleashed what appeared to be a 30-second volley before tiring out.

The second round was Burnett best as he managed to keep some distance from the Cuban heavyweight but this was but an illusion as the third round nearly was Burnett last.

Halfway through the found, Burnett got nailed with yet another right and was nailed with a 30-second flurry before Solis got tired of hitting Burnett. Throughout the fight, Solis would connect on massive flurries before getting tired and taking a break from the action. This kept Burnett in the fight.

The third round was the perfect example of this as Solis had Burnett nearly out and aimed much of punches to the head. Throwing no body shots to set up finishing head shots, Solis allowed Burnett to cover up and survive.

Then, he took a step back as he attempted to catch his breath.

Round four through six, Solis connected on the more effective punch but never seem to have his quarry in trouble. He not only delivered rights effectively but he also threw effective hooks to the body. There was no doubt who was throwing the more effective and telling blows, that fighter was Solis.

The seventh round saw a return to the third as Solis dominated with several hard shots. After the round, Burnett’s trainer Pat Burn told the ESPN crew that he was ready to stop the fight if nothing much changed.

What he saw was a young fighter getting nailed with solid shots repeatedly and saw the need to protect his young charge.

In the eighth, a Solis burst was followed by a lull but after the lull, a left hook wobbled Burnett leg and this was followed by a flurry. As the flurry occurred, Burn came out of Burnett corner and stopped the fight.

Burnett never hit the ground but there was no doubt that the fight needed to be stopped. As for Solis, the Cuban showed solid techniques honed by Cuban amateur training but there were enough problems to concern Team Solis.

The first is that at 260 pounds, Solis is overweight and never appeared to be in top shape. Solis often took break from the action after flurries and this was a result of a lack of training.

As a slugger and a fighter who will press the action, Solis need to be in top flight shape to batter opponents. The secret of a brawler like Solis is to fight every minute of every round and this is what takes the leg of his opponent out.

Solis failed to do this.


Yuiorkis Gamboa’s motto is “kill or be killed”. Gamboa’s idea of defense is hit his opponent as often as he can before his opponent hits him back. Defense is not one of Gamboa’s forte and this has presented some anxious moment for him as he has already hit the canvas numerous time.

What he did every time was get up and win.

Facing the crafty veteran Roger Gonzalez, Gamboa found himself in similar pattern as a right hand sent Gamboa down. He wasn’t hurt ,but he lost the round by 10-8. This gave Gonzalez a one point lead after two rounds.

That would be the last lead for Gonzalez as he pursued a survival strategy while waiting for another moment liked he experienced in the second. Spending more time blocking shots than throwing punches, Gonzalez understood he didn’t have the power to match Gamboa in a shootout.

As the fight progressed, Gamboa simply outworked Gonzalez but rarely had him in trouble. Gonzalez attempted his right hand numerous times but he never could deliver that punch again that to send Gamboa down.

In the 10th round, Gamboa went for a knockout. Gonzalez realized that he had two choices; go down on his sword or move and survive. The referee gave Gamboa a gift as he stopped the fight after a Gamboa upper cut stunned Gonzalez.

Gonzalez recovered quickly and retreated quickly from Gamboa but he never saw the referee stop the fight. While Gamboa had his knockout for the record book, it was not a true TKO, for he didn’t have his opponent truly hurt. What hurt Gonzalez was that he spent much of the last several rounds surviving and the referee looked for any reason to end the fight.

Gamboa like his Cuban heavyweight stable mate has much to work on. The first is defense and against a more experienced or heavy puncher fighter; Gamboa may not a get a second chance to pull the fight out.

Gamboa depends upon his athletic skills but he is not learning the basics.As he moves up, this weakness may keep him from winning a title.