By Keith Idec
Brandon Rios made it clear Richard Abril isn’t the only Cuban-born boxer he doesn’t respect as their lightweight title fight approaches.
Rios was supposed to partake in the biggest fight of his career Saturday night in Las Vegas. Instead of readying for a heavily hyped HBO main event against another undefeated fighter, Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) is preparing to face a comparatively anonymous substitute who literally talked and shoved his way into their 12-round fight for the WBA lightweight championship Rios lost on a New York State Athletic Commission scale Dec. 2 at Madison Square Garden.
Rios reassures anyone who’ll listen that he is not overlooking the 29-year-old Abril (17-2-1, 8 KOs), toward bigger future fights. The Oxnard, Calif., native definitely has neither forgotten nor forgiven what happened in the recent past, either.
“Gamboa should’ve said something sooner, instead of making me go to Miami to the press conference, making me go to L.A. to the press conference,” Rios, 25, said. “He should’ve just said something sooner. But you can’t make a girl fight. If he’s scared, he’s scared. You can’t make a coward fight.
“He never wanted to fight me in the first place. I don’t even know why he mentioned my name. I never called him out. He was the one calling me out. So he thought I wasn’t going to do it. He thought the fight was not going to happen, but when it was made he got scared.”
Gamboa infamously skipped press conferences March 5 in Miami and March 6 in Los Angeles for a difficult fight the 2004 Olympic gold medalist said he wanted. He has yet to state publicly why he withdrew from the fight, which would’ve required the 30-year-old Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) to move up two weight classes, from featherweight to lightweight.
“It is what it is,” Rios said. “I’m not worrying about it no more. Whatever. When they told me I wasn’t going to fight him, I wasn’t too disappointed because I had a feeling he wasn’t going to fight me anyway. So I was like, ‘Whatever.’
“At first, when they were telling me, ‘You’re going to fight this guy,’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’ I signed my contract right away. Then when they said they couldn’t find him, that’s when I had the feeling of, ‘Oh, he’s not going to fight me. That fight’s not going to happen.’ ”
A legal battle over Gamboa’s unprofessional behavior is expected to begin soon. Rescheduling the Rios-Gamboa bout seems highly unlikely, especially since Rios probably will face Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs) in a 140-pound title fight July 14 in Arlington, Texas, if he beats Abril at Mandalay Bay Events Center. Marquez must win his fight in this split-site, pay-per-view doubleheader Saturday night as well, against Ukraine’s Sergey Fedchenko (30-1, 13 KOs) in Mexico City, for that bout to take place at Cowboys Stadium.
“If [Gamboa] fights me he’s going to have to go up to 140 now,” Rios said. “I’m not going to stay around [at 135] for his ass. This fight was supposed to be for him. I stayed around for him. But now, obviously I’ve got better reasons to move up in weight.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.