Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Rios ready, with or without Gamboa
By Dan Rafael
Not that it came as a surprise, but former featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa was a no-show for the second day in a row as Top Rank moved to Los Angeles for another news conference to promote his April 14 fight with former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios.
Gamboa, who originally called out Rios, was supposed to move up two divisions to face him next month at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay in a major HBO fight.
But Gamboa blew off Monday's news conference in Miami, where Gamboa, a Cuban defector, lives. He did it again Tuesday, failing to show at the presser in L.A., Rios' home region.
So there was Rios, along with trainer Robert Garcia, alone on the stage while Top Rank president Todd duBoef spoke. The only sign of Gamboa was the large framed photo of him that Rios held. Printed on it were the words "The coward never wanted to Fight!!!"
And so it was just another wacky day in boxing -- a news conference to announce a fight that seems unlikely to happen, although Rios was ready to talk while Gamboa was boycotting in Las Vegas, where he has been training at Floyd Mayweather Jr.'s gym, leading to speculation that Mayweather Promotions is trying to sign him out from under Top Rank and co-promoter Arena Box, which insist that Gamboa not only has a rock-solid promotional agreement but that he agreed to the terms to fight Rios.
"It's disappointing that Gamboa didn't show up to the functions that he was supposed to be at, but he has an agreement with Arena and Top Rank to fight Rios," duBoef told me by phone after the presser. "At this point, Top Rank and Gamboa are bound to each other. Any determination otherwise will be made by our lawyers. But as far as I'm concerned, we're promoting Brandon Rios against Gamboa. Gamboa agreed to the terms personally, not through an agent or anyone else. My attorneys have all of the evidence. He is bound to me and I am bound to him.
"This is a situation, to me, that is despicable. If it was the NFL or NBA or Major League Baseball, the commissioners would have fined him. There would be repercussions. You can't just run roughshod over people on your terms when you've agreed to stuff."
DuBoef said Gamboa went so far as to submit a travel list for his team members who would be going to Los Angeles and that he had also made hotel room requests.
At Tuesday's news conference, duBoef announced a sweetener he hoped would get Gamboa to come around -- a $100,000 bonus to the winner on top of their guaranteed purses, which he didn't disclose. DuBoef did say, however, that Rios and Gamboa would both be making their biggest paydays. Neither has made more than about $400,000 for a fight.
"The fans love this fight, and we don't want them to think we're doing anything to stop this fight," duBoef said. "We want this fight to happen and are doing everything to make it happen, which is one of the reasons for the $100,000 bonus to the winner."
The fight is one of the most attractive in boxing because Rios and Gamboa are two of the most exciting fighters. Rios is a powerful brawler with a penchant for dramatic fights. Gamboa is insanely fast, with tremendous power (at featherweight, anyway) and a distinguished amateur career that includes a 2004 Olympic gold medal for Cuba. DuBoef said that more than 4,000 tickets had been sold since they went on sale Friday, exceeding initial expectations.
Regardless of what happens with Gamboa, duBoef said, Rios is fighting April 14.
"I'm disappointed in Gamboa, but I'm not going to let our business be jacked around by a prima donna, and that's why Brandon Rios is fighting April 14, and it's against Gamboa until I am told otherwise," he said.
DuBoef said it's too soon to talk about replacement opponents or HBO's plan if Gamboa doesn't go through with the fight.
Said Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs), in a Tuesday interview with Ring magazine: "There's no contract and there is no fight. ... Whenever everything is clear with my contract, that's when the fight will happen, but right now, I'm not under the terms that I want the fight to happen."
For his part, Rios was his usual outspoken, ready-to-rumble self.
"I guess this s--- is part of boxing," he told me Tuesday. "Gamboa's scared. He knew that he was facing a machine. He got scared, got cold feet. Nothing I can do about it. I'm disappointed because I could have been training Monday, but I flew to Miami and he didn't show up in his own hometown. It sucked."
Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) did, however, find a silver lining.
"I got to experience flying first class for the first time, and I've never been to Miami," he said. "First class was great. I loved it. Makes me not want to go back to coach."
As for the fight, Rios said he would be ready for whoever showed up across the ring from him.
"I feel very good. I'm gonna win that $100,000. But Gamboa's scared. I showed up to his hometown and he wasn't there. I'm ready for this fight. I'm sorry to sound cocky, but I can't make the girl fight. I don't really care who I fight. I will be ready for April 14. Hopefully, it's Gamboa. Hopefully, Gamboa mans up and says, 'Let's fight.'"