Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Boxing [Print without images]

Saturday, March 17, 2012
Brandon Rios will fight Richard Abril

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios, left without an opponent for April 14 after Yuriorkis Gamboa bailed last week on a major HBO fight in a contract dispute with promoter Top Rank, will instead face Richard Abril for a vacant lightweight title, Top Rank announced Saturday.

After Gamboa dropped out -- eliciting a breach of contract suit from Top Rank -- HBO elected to scrap the April 14 telecast when it could not come to an agreement with Top Rank on a replacement opponent to face Rios.

But Top Rank said the April 14 show would go on at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas even without HBO's hefty financial backing.

Top Rank signed Abril to face Rios and will package the fight as part of a $44.95 split-site pay-per-view card that will also include Mexican star Juan Manuel Marquez.

In Las Vegas, lightweight Mercito Gesta (24-0-1, 12 KOs), a native of the Philippines living in San Diego, will open the card, which Top Rank will produce on its own and have distributed by HBO PPV. His opponent has yet to be determined.

Then Denver junior welterweight contender Mike Alvarado (32-0, 23 KOs) will face Mauricio Herrera (18-1, 7 KOs) of Lake Elsinore, Calif., in the bout that was slated to open the HBO telecast. Then Rios will tangle with Abril and when the fight concludes, viewers will be shifted to the new Mexico City Arena, where Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs), fighting in his hometown for the first time since 1994, will face Ukraine's Sergey Fedchenko (30-1, 13 KOs) for a vacant interim junior welterweight belt in the arena's first sporting event since it opened in February. Spectators at Mandalay Bay will be able to watch Marquez-Fedchenko on big screens in the arena.

"We have four great fights that will make for a very exciting event, including a legend from Mexico in Juan Manuel Marquez and undefeated knockout artist Brandon Rios," Top Rank president Todd duBoef said.

Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) will be attempting to regain his old title. In December, Rios was stripped of the belt when he failed to make weight for a defense against John Murray on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II undercard. The fight went on and Rios scored an 11th-round knockout but the title remained vacant.

Now he has a chance to reclaim it against Abril, the interim beltholder who confronted Rios at a March 5 news conference in Miami that was supposed to kick off the promotion for Rios-Gamboa. Former featherweight titlist Gamboa, a Cuban defector who lives in Miami, did not show up and then failed to show up the following day at another promotional news conference in Los Angeles.

Abril challenged Rios to fight him, they got into a heated verbal exchange and then Abril slapped Rios across the face and yelled at him, "You aren't a real champion!"

And the fight was born.

"He may not have thought I was a real champion when he slapped me but he's going to know I'm a real champion on April 14 when I knock him on his South Beach," Rios said. "I do give Abril credit for one thing. I know he's going to show up for this fight. That will be his second mistake with me."

Said Abril, "Rios won't need a GPS to find me on April 14. All he'll have do to is look up and see the referee holding my hand up in victory."

Abril (17-2-1, 8 KOs), a native of Cuba living in Miami, claimed an interim lightweight title in October, knocking down former titlist Miguel Acosta three times en route to a unanimous decision win. Acosta lost his world title to Rios in February 2011.