By Chris Robinson
When I last spoke with former lightweight champion Brandon Rios, he was a little irritable, as he was still coping with the reality that his scheduled April 14th opponent, Yuriorkis Gamboa, had failed to show up at two scheduled press stops in Los Angeles and Miami to promote their potential fight.
Sensing that Gamboa was pulling a fast one and with the bout now hanging in the balance, Rios sounded off of the Cuban stalwart, calling him a coward, amongst other choice words, and vented on how his time earlier this week was wasted trying to promote an event with a fighter who was nowhere to be found.
The 25-year old Rios’ body is growing fight by fight and it’s becoming more of a struggle for him to make weight, as evidenced by him failing to squeeze down to the lightweight limit of 135 pounds for his December match with Manchester’s John Murray. With that in mind, Rios pointed out that, outside of Gamboa, the only realistic opponent that is worth him sticking around the lightweight class for is WBC champion Antonio DeMarco.
Rios’ remarks were all I needed to have vested interest in reaching DeMarco to get his thoughts on such a fight, as well as his take on all the latest drama surrounding Gamboa.
On Friday afternoon I was able to track down DeMarco as he spoke from his bases in Tijuana, Mexico, where he is preparing for a March 17th defense of his belt in Los Mochis against fringe contender Miguel Roman.
While hearing the obvious excitement in his voice about the first defense of his title, I couldn’t help but flash back to the emphatic fashion in which the 26-year old DeMarco was able to win his belt as he rallied from an early deficit before halting a bloody and retreating Jorge Linares in the eleventh round inside of Staples Center in Los Angeles this past October.
“For me it was the second best day of my whole life,” DeMarco would tell me, speaking to my translator Margarito ‘Maggie’ Quinonez. “That was a culmination of a dream that started thirteen years ago. I feel like the hard work paid off and I showed it with Linares.”
But the fight seemed to be out of DeMarco’s grasp in the early rounds, as Linares boxed beautifully and controlled the fight with deft movement and sharp punching. Linares started bleeding severely after a nasty gash formed on the bridge of his nose in the sixth round and DeMarco admits the stream of blood helped give him a boost.
“I felt good when I saw him bleeding,” DeMarco admitted. “When I go to fight, I feel that nobody is better than me. When I felt like I could get ahead of him, I gave it a chance and I gave 100%. I was very, very strong for that fight and I believe God blessed me with that victory.”
And while it was a glorious moment for DeMarco, the following weeks would see Linares and his team put their own asterisks on the victory, from Jorge claiming that the cut in round six was started from a head butt to strength and conditioning coach Alex Ariza disapproving of the way referee Raul Caiz Sr. handled and stopped the bout.
DeMarco found out about Linares’ words but feels the Venezuelan needs to keep mum and let the past be the past.
“I did read something about what he was saying but I believe Linares needs to eat humble pie,” DeMarco said after a slight spell of laughter. “Because he’s not humble at all and in this sport you need to be humble. You need to keep your feet in the ground, because when you have your feet in the ground you can see the truth of everything.
“I feel like I won, Linares lost, and there’s nothing else to say about it,” DeMarco continued. “If he feels like he [should have] won, I feel bad for him, but there’s nothing I could do about it. But I know in my heart I won the fight and Linares just doesn’t understand. He’s a loser, not a winner.”
Touching on the Gamboa situation, DeMarco didn’t want to say too much without a full understanding of what is going on but seems to believe that Yuriorkis, who has expressed displeasure with his co-promotional deals with Top Rank and Arena-Box, has all the right to back off on the Rios duel.
“I don’t have a real opinion but I respect Gamboa, because he’s knows what’s good for him,” DeMarco would state. “I don’t know the whole situation; I don’t know what’s going on. But if he had a problem, I believe it’s right, what he’s doing. Because you need to defend yourself. Nobody else is going to do it unless you do it. I respect Gamboa for that.”
And if the fight does miraculously come off, DeMarco envisions a tremendous scrap, with his eyes fixed on challenging the winner.
“I think it’s a really good match,” said DeMarco. “It’s a very even fight; it could go either way. For me, I’m excited about the fight because there’s going to be a lot of action. I could challenge the winner of that fight. It would be an honor. Just wait and see what happens.”
And with that response, DeMarco pretty much gave an answer to my following question, pertaining to his thoughts on Rios’ proposal of a possible fight if the situation were to present itself.
“That could be awesome,” said an enthusiastic DeMarco. “They just need to give me the right amount of money and no problem, I could fight him. For me, it would be an honor to fight him and fight the best in my weight division. At the same time I could be recognized as one of the best and it could give me the opportunity to give my family what they never had and to give a better life to my wife and my daughter.”
Calling a close to the conversation, DeMarco left off by pointing out that there’s nothing about the aggressive Rios that really leaves him smitten.
“I’m not impressed by Brandon,” said DeMarco. “He’s a good boxer but he’s not an extraordinary boxer. I believe that I could train really hard, the way I always train, and that could be a very good fight and I believe I could win. I don’t feel like Brandon is like superman. He’s just a normal human being.”
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