By Jake Donovan
As Brandon Rios prepares for his April 14 lightweight showdown with unheralded Richard Abril, most in the boxing industry still struggle to cope with the fact that it won’t come against Yuriorkis Gamboa.
The fight was to serve as the centerpiece of HBO’s boxing lineup for the spring. Instead, Gamboa balked and the network was left with a gaping hole in its schedule.
None of it was any fault of Rios, who proceeded with the press tour and training camp as if hope existed of the fight still happening. Instead came the realization that a superfight on HBO against a high profile opponent was being replaced by a less-desirable replacement and on pay-per-view.
To his credit, Rios (29-0-1, 22KO) stays focused on the fact that he still has a job to do. Whether it’s Gamboa or Abril standing in the opposite corner, Rios’ job is to fight; this bout in particular is where all of his focus remains until after April 14.
“Our main focus is on Richard Abril,” Rios said when asked of future plans beyond next Saturday. “The guys that are unknown are the most dangerous guys so we have to be careful. Right now all of our focus is on Richard Abril. I’ll be ready on April 14 to put on a nice show for everyone.”
While Rios refused to offer a glimpse into the future, one name he unofficially ruled out was Gamboa. If the opportunity once again surfaces and with guarantees that the fight really happens, it stands to reason that Rios will be all the way in.
Until then, the unbeaten lightweight sees no reason to discuss something that was never his Plan A in the first place.
“There’s no unfinished business between me and Gamboa because we never fought,” Rios bluntly puts it. “I never once said his name; he was the one who called me out. He talked all this stuff wanting to fight me, fight Manny Pacquiao and all this and that.”
The fight was negotiated and thought to be a done deal after Gamboa’s handlers reached out to Top Rank with the insistence that the Cuban star was eager to map out a road that eventually lead to Pacquiao. The weight jumping tour for the unbeaten featherweight was to begin with a stop at lightweight and a mouthwatering showdown with Rios.
All parties were believed to be on board, until it was learned the morning of the scheduled press conference in Miami that Gamboa would be a no-show. It was at that very presser where Rios was approached by Abril, who introduced himself as a champion before slapping the Californian across the face. The incident led to what has been deemed a suitable replacement, given the circumstances.
Assuming Rios emerges victorious on April 14, the hope is that Gamboa is able to come to terms with co-promoters Top Rank and Arena Box Promotions. From there, it is further wished upon that all parties can pick up where they left off in regards to making this dream fight a reality.
Rios is always willing to face anyone, but the all-too-recent history leaves him not caring less whether or not this fight ever happens.
“I was ready to fight,” Rios states. “I proved that when I went to his backyard to Miami for the press conference. “I have nothing to prove against (Gamboa).”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter:@JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com