By Keith Idec
Executives for Top Rank Inc. won’t determine until after incoming HBO Sports president Ken Hershman begins his new job on Monday what they’ll do next with Brandon Rios and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
They’re either going to match Rios and Gamboa against separate opponents in a doubleheader to build more momentum toward what would be a highly anticipated lightweight showdown. Or they’re going to go straight to Rios-Gamboa, depending on how much money is available within HBO’s budget for immediately making a bout boxing fans really want to see.
Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs), who lost his WBA lightweight title at the scales Dec. 2 in New York, is fine with either plan. The rugged fighter from Oxnard, Calif., just wants a shot at Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs), the abundantly talented Cuban who is expected to move up from featherweight to lightweight for his next bout no matter who he fights.
“I’m more than happy to do it right away,” Rios said regarding the Gamboa fight, which is the only option at lightweight keeping him from moving up to 140 pounds. “I want to prove myself and show everybody I’m not a fluke, like everybody thinks I am. I’m fighting all these guys they’re saying I’m bigger than. I need to prove myself, so I need a serious challenge.”
While Gamboa, 30, has yet to fight at lightweight, the 25-year-old Rios realizes the former featherweight champion’s diverse skill set will present an extremely serious challenge.
“Gamboa’s a very quick, awkward little fighter,” Rios said. “But, you know, if he fights me he’s going to have a lot to think about. How he’s going to handle my pressure, a guy that takes the pressure, a guy that can punch with both hands? How will he handle that?
“He’ll be the smaller guy [about two inches shorter than Rios]. But like I said, he’s very quick, very awkward, so it’ll be a good fight to have. I think it would be like one of the fights I had with Miguel Acosta. The first round he’s going to run, try to out-box me, this and that. But then I’m going to catch him later on.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.