By Cliff Rold, photo by Mary Ann Owen
It was supposed to be Brandon Rios (29-0-1, 22 KO). It was not supposed to be Richard Abril (17-2-1, 8 KO).
On the pay-per-view undercard of Juan Manuel Marquez-Sergiy Fenchenko this Saturday, what was supposed becomes what is. We have Rios-Abril at Lightweight. Can Abril make it matter?
It has to be assumed, on some level, that the suits at HBO didn’t think so. When the much anticipated Rios-Yuriorkis Gamboa fight imploded, so too did Rios’s April HBO appearance. With limited funds available to the premium cable networks, Rios-Abril didn’t get the nod.
Despite the demotion to a television venue guaranteed to carry fewer eyes, Rios and Abril deserve credit for generating what interest there is in the card this weekend. Expletives, ethnic one-upping, and just plain old good fighting trash talk have marked promotional events. Rios, easily one of boxing brightest young U.S. stars, may not have the star maker foe he hoped for, but he’s not resting on laurels either.
And Abril, as the opponent to mark time with, has played his part well.
The only catch is that Abril might end up playing the part of co-star much more than supporting act this weekend. A closer look at the career of Abril, turned professional a little more than a year after Rios in 2005, says he’s live.
He could say he’s almost perfect.
While his record shows three blemishes, the difference between those blemishes and a shiny “0” is a few points here or there. He could easily have only a single loss. Depending on the eyes judging, maybe even none?
The latter might be a stretch. Abril’s first blemish, a draw in six rounds in his sixth professional contest, is assumed to be as close as the scores. He wouldn’t suffer a loss until June 2008, matched with then undefeated Breidis Prescott. Abril kept it close for much of the night, flagging late but managing to earn the win on one judge’s card in part due to Prescott losing a point late.
Abril again kept it close matched with another undefeated young Lightweight in January 2010. The big talking Hank Lundy, surely good preparation for the trash talk of Rios, suffered an awkward knockdown and had his hands full in a technically awkward affair.
Again, Abril managed to earn the favor of one of three judges. He just didn’t get the other one he needed.
Abril’s breakthrough came last October, the decision going his way after scoring three knockdowns to defeat former WBA Lightweight titlist Miguel Acosta. Prescott, Lundy, and then Acosta are the sort of solid foes a fighter can grow against and he’ll need those lessons this weekend. With the Acosta win, Abril snared an interim WBA belt at 135. He’ll defend that nominal honor this weekend.
For the sake of good humor, it’s worth pointing out that when he won that interim strap, Rios was still the regular WBA champ, having also defeated Acosta for the honor. Gotta’ love the WBA.
Also gotta’ love that, had Rios’s body not already started rejecting Lightweight a fight ago (he lost his belt on the scales to John Murray in December), these two were sort of inevitable before they were the substitute for a bigger show.
Fans know what Rios brings to the table. He’s strong, has a big chin, throws a ton of shots, and eats his share. Rios is always worth the price of admission. What does Abril bring that gives him a shot?
Think James Kirkland-Carlos Molina. Before he got Tex-assed a couple weeks ago, the tricky Molina looked like he had a chance at slipping, punching, and holding into the winner’s circle over the bigger punching and more aggressive Kirkland. Abril isn’t afraid to make matters ugly. He’ll move plenty, hold, lean, and has snappy if not stopping power.
Add it all up and then take into account the struggles Rios has already had on the scales, and there’s enough ingredients in this stew to indicate the possibility of a surprise on Saturday night. If not, the least we might hope for is a test of styles that makes Rios work hard over the stretch.
It won’t erase the sting of living without Rios-Gamboa this weekend but it’s enough to know there is still a real professional prizefight on tap.
The Weekly Ledger
But wait, there’s more…
Bantamweight Remodeling: http://www.boxingscene.com/-bantamweight-division-remodeling-underway--51537
Moves Below Lightweight: http://www.boxingscene.com/big-moves-on-lower-scale-review-ratings-update--51570
Updated Division Ratings: http://www.boxingscene.com/forums/view.php?pg=boxing-ratings
Picks of the Week: http://www.boxingscene.com/boxingscenecoms-television-picks-week--51605
Cliff’s Notes… Antonio Tarver may have no fear of Klitschko’s. I fear the Heavyweight division getting so much worse that Tarver versus Wlad or Vitali it could actually be signed. Then again, it’s still better than Wlad-Jean Marc Mormeck…Speaking of Mormeck, were there really reports saying he could be headed for once-beaten Cruiserweight Denis Lebedev? Do Lebedev’s people know something the rest of the world doesn’t? It’s the only thing that makes sense in the sort of protective matchmaking he’s had recently. He looked so good on his way to, and through, a title shot at Marco Huck. Match the man with some real opponents again. It’s been awhile…Odlanier Solis is back. Hide the Krispy Kreme…Sergio Martinez wants Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and then Floyd Mayweather. Why not just call them big check and bigger check? It’s just as honest, both fights are just as big, and everyone understands.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]