Updated: July 16, 2010, 8:46 AM ET

Arum letting Lopez-Gamboa marinate

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
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Top Rank's Bob Arum promotes Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa, two of the most exciting fighters in the world. They're both undefeated and both hold featherweight titles. Arum's master plan is for them to eventually meet in what would surely be a major fight.

But Arum is also a businessman. He wants to build the fight. He wants to let it, as he says, "marinate."

He doesn't believe it's ready yet and perhaps won't be for another year. Until the pressure mounts and the dollars pile up, Arum said, he's content to have them fight other titleholders and contenders in the deep division, and if and when they're still standing, he'll match them.

Arum isn't shy about his intentions either. After Lopez vacated his junior featherweight title and won a featherweight belt in January by stopping Steven Luevano in the seventh round and Gamboa retained his belt on the undercard by blowing away Rogers Mtagwa in two rounds, Arum addressed the situation head on.

"When everyone is panting about seeing these guys fight each other, I'll do a big, big blowout kind of show. I promote both of them. I owe it to both of them to make them the biggest amount of money they can make," Arum said, adding that he has next summer in mind. "It's a great fight, but it's got to be the kind of fight where, even though they are only 126 pounders, they will make a s--- load of money."

Gamboa has a unification match with Elio Rojas slated for Sept. 11 as he tries to roll toward Lopez. For his part, Lopez makes his first title defense against fellow Top Rank fighter Bernabe Concepcion, a 22-year-old Manny Pacquiao protégé from the Philippines.

They meet Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) in San Juan, Puerto Rico, where Lopez has become the island's second-most popular active fighter behind Miguel Cotto.

In the Showtime opener, Nonito Donaire (23-1, 15 KOs) defends his interim junior bantamweight belt against Hernan "Tyson" Marquez (25-1, 18 KOs) in what is expected to be Donaire's final bout at 115 pounds before moving up to bantamweight, where he'd like to face unified titlist Fernando Montiel, or even junior featherweight.

Although there are big plans for Lopez (28-0, 25 KOs) beyond Concepcion (30-2-1, 17 KOs), he said he isn't taking him for granted, even though he's a significant favorite.

"Concepcion is a very strong guy," Lopez said through translator Ricardo Jimenez. "We know he has power, but we also know with our speed and movement we should be able to defeat him. You have to give him credit for taking the fight here. He's a professional and he's willing to come here, but there are only two guys in the ring fighting. You have to respect that he would come to my home to fight me."

Concepcion earned the fight in a de facto eliminator when he outpointed Mario Santiago in surprisingly easy fashion in February in a fight in which Arum had promised the winner a shot at Lopez.

Although Lopez, 27, has scored numerous early knockouts, he said, "I think it's going to be a long fight. I know he's not a great defensive fighter and he gets hit a lot, so it could be a short fight. But I don't expect that. I think he'll try to put a lot of pressure on me. I think he'll be able to take my punches and be in condition, but as the fight goes deeper, it will be to my advantage and I can hurt him later in the fight."

If Lopez wins and comes away uninjured, there is already a deal in place for his next fight. He's lined up for a Sept. 18 Showtime fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against Rafael Marquez, the Mexican action star and former two-division champ coming off a third-round stoppage of rival Israel Vazquez in their fourth fight in May.

It's all part of Arum's plan to have Lopez and Gamboa face other top featherweights before facing each other. The fight with Concepcion was planned long before the Marquez fight came up, but even though it's now on the books, Lopez insisted he's not looking ahead.

"I'm just thinking about this fight," he said. "I know that fight is out there and I know I will eventually fight him, but I'm only thinking about Saturday night. After that I will think about what's next.

"I have a fight and a fighter who will be tough, so you can't be thinking about anyone else. But Marquez is a [future] Hall of Famer and it's been a dream of mine to fight him. So of course, I'm motivated for Saturday night like I am for any fight, but even more because I think he might be the next one.

"There are a lot great fighters and interesting fights that can be made in this division and I look forward fighting them. Sooner or later there will be two of us left and I hope to be one of them, and when we make that fight with Gamboa it's going to be one of the biggest fights the division has ever seen."

Marquez is expected to attend the bout and to formally announce the September fight afterward, assuming Lopez wins.

Arum said he doesn't think Lopez will feel the pressure of that situation as he readies to fight Concepcion.

"He's a grounded kid. He's the kind of kid who is disciplined, who is not looking ahead to the next fight, so I'm not concerned that he is looking past Concepcion," Arum said. "But the Filipino is a tough, tough kid with a great, great punch. If you relax for a second he can tag you, and then it's all over.

"We didn't make this fight as a setup fight. We weren't even contemplating the Marquez fight when we made this fight. Concepcion is a legitimate tough opponent. The featherweight division is really heating up isn't it?"

Barrera going for lightweight belt

AP Photo/Jon SuperMarco Antonio Barrera is determined to clinch another title in a fourth weight class.

Marco Antonio Barrera, a former junior lightweight, featherweight and junior featherweight champion, will get the opportunity he's wanted -- to fight for a lightweight title knowing a victory will make him the first Mexican fighter to win belts in four weight classes. Barrera's bitter rival, Erik Morales, tried and failed against David Diaz in 2007.

Top Rank's Bob Arum, who now promotes Barrera after years or doing battle against him, including with Morales, told ESPN.com that Barrera (66-7, 43 KOs) will challenge lightweight titlist Humberto Soto. Although they talked about the fight taking place in Mexico in September, Barrera probably will take one more fight before facing Soto.

In his first fight with Top Rank, Barrera, 36, easily outpointed Adilton De Jesus on June 26. After the fight Arum said he would eventually give Barrera a shot at one of the two 135-pound titlists he promotes, Soto or Miguel Acosta. Arum said this week it would come against Soto.

"That is definitely happening," Arum said.

Top Rank is planning a pay-per-view card from Mexico on Sept. 25 featuring Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., who is coming off his impressive win against John Duddy on the same show that Barrera beat DeJesus. Barrera's tune-up could come on the undercard before he goes for a belt against Soto.

"I don't know who wins that fight. Sometimes I think Barrera, sometimes I think Soto. I don't know," Arum said. "I'm not thrilled with these titles anymore, but for Barrera it's big. It's a big goal for him to be the first Mexican to get a title in that fourth division."

Soto (52-7-2, 32 KOs) won a vacant belt against Diaz in March and has made one defense.

Sturm saga over

Vladimir Rys/Bongarts/Getty ImagesA free man: Felix Sturm has cut ties with promotional outfit Universum.

Middleweight titleholder Felix Sturm, idle since last July during a legal battle over his contract with Universum, reached a settlement this week with the German promoter and is now a free agent.

"Universum Box-Promotion and Felix Sturm have come to a settlement of the lawsuit and will amicably go our separate ways," Universum said in a statement. "Both sides have agreed to keep the details of the settlement confidential. Universum wishes Felix Sturm all the best for the future."

According to German media reports, however, a German court ruled that Sturm (33-2-1, 14 KOs) could buy his way out of the contract for $1.2 million -- less than Universum was seeking -- which he did.

Sturm, under his own promotional banner, is expected to defend his title Sept. 4 in Germany.

A Sturm representative has offered the fight to junior middleweight contender Kermit Cintron (32-3-1, 28 KOs), according to Lou DiBella, Cintron's promoter.

"They made us an extremely low offer, but an offer to fight for a middleweight title in Germany," DiBella told ESPN.com. "We're interested and we're talking, but right now the money is just way too low. If we can work it out, Kermit is interested and obviously considering it."

Cintron doesn't have many notable options in the U.S. following his HBO-televised debacle in May against Paul Williams, in which Cintron fell out of the ring and didn't continue in the what became a four-round technical decision loss.

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