By Jake Donovan
Spring has finally sprung for the boxing world.
The much talked potential showdown between unbeaten action star Brandon Rios and the incredibly skilled Yuriorkis Gamboa is now a reality, as both sides agreed to terms for an April 14 showdown at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
“We got the deal done today,” confirmed Ahmet Oner, co-promoter for Gamboa, who will leap two full divisions to the lightweight limit to meet Rios in their vacant title fight. “It was heavy (favorable) terms for their side, but we are very pleased with the deal we reached and the fight is on.”
Initial plans called for both fighters to appear in separate showcase bouts in a March 3 telecast to hype up a targeted summer clash. The date was pushed back when sufficient opposition couldn’t be obtained in time. However, with the card pushed back to April 14 came the insistence from HBO – who will televise the fight – to fast forward to a head-on collision.
Top Rank began working on details immediately thereafter. However, representatives from the Las Vegas-based firm declined comment at this time as they were preparing an official statement.
Gamboa (21-0, 16KO) captured Olympic Gold for his native Cuba as a flyweight in the 2004 Summer Games, before defecting more than two years later. His pro debut in April 2007 took place at featherweight, then jockeying back and forth between the 126 lb. and 130 lb. divisions before dropping back down to featherweight for good in 2009, where he won his first major belt.
The lightweight limit of 135 lb. set for his showdown with Rios (29-0-1, 20KO) will serve as a career-high weight for Gamboa, though he was well aware of that risk the moment the fight was first suggested. The Cuban has often shone as one of the brightest young stars in the game, though not without his moments of inconsistency.
Separate performances in 2011 – both of which took place in Atlantic City - saw both sides of the Cuban star. He looked phenomenal in tearing through former titlist Jorge Solis, stopping the Mexican in four one-sided rounds last March.
Less than six months later, he was forced to box and maul his way to a technical decision against Daniel Ponce de Leon in a bout cut short by a headbutt-producing gash in the eighth round of a fight that fell short on the entertainment front.
In stark contrast, Rios enjoyed a breakout campaign in 2011. The free-swinging Mexican-American captured his first major title, scoring an 10th round stoppage of Miguel Acosta in an instant classic nearly one year ago. Rios picked up where he left off in his very next ring appearance, trading blows with Urbano Antillon before stopping the lightweight contender in three rounds last July.
The bout would serve as Rios’ lone successful title defense, losing the belt on the scales after showing up over the limit for his showdown with John Murray last December at Madison Square Garden. Appearing in the chief support slot to stablemate Antonio Margarito’s losing effort in his rematch with Miguel Cotto, fight night went much better for Rios, who stopped his British foe in 11 rounds.
It was speculated that Rios would bolt to the 140 lb. division, but instead sought the advice of nutritional experts – including Victor Conte – and has since changed his diet in efforts to remain at lightweight for the time being.
The move came right on time as far as this bout was concerned, as Gamboa was not willing to budge beyond the 135 lb. limit for this fight, already coming all the way up from featherweight. Remaining put also gives Rios the opportunity to regain the vacant crown he was forced to concede at the scales two months ago.
In the end, the former featherweight champ is pleased that his career is heading in the direction in which he and his handlers prefer.
“I’m very happy with what was agreed to, and it’s a great opportunity,” said Gamboa through Oner, his co-promoter. “I want to show that I am a special fighter. This is the perfect test. It was important to get the big fights and be properly compensated. The deal that was made was very fair.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]