By Jake Donovan
The Rios camp along with Top Rank Inc. and the West Coast-based media gathered at the Biltmore Millennium Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom in Los Angeles to hype up a fight that has received overwhelming support from the boxing public.
“The most surprising thing for me with this fight was the reaction from the fans,” said Todd deBuof, president of Top Rank. “They were going nuts. They were sending me e-mails. They were texting. You have to see the blogging out there, the comments in the social media. So what happens? Tickets go on sale and there is incredible demand.”
There’s only one problem – one of the participants is missing in action.
Gamboa has recently insisted that he never personally agreed to terms for the fight. There perhaps exists an argument between the literal meaning of his statement and the nature of the business.
During negotiations, Gamboa was represented by longtime promoter Ahmet Oner - who was responsible for getting his pro career off the ground after defecting from Cuba and his amateur boxing team years ago – when terms were agreed on February 16, shortly after Team Rios had already agreed to terms.
From there came the understanding that all systems were go to proceed with the fight.
Everyone else but Gamboa appears to have received the message loud and clear, particularly Rios who has been a one man show for the media tour thus far. The unbeaten lightweight showed up in Miami for yesterday’s scheduled presser, only to learn last minute – along with everyone else involved – that Gamboa had no plans to attend and that he remained in Las Vegas, where he is currently training in Floyd Mayweather’s gym.
Rios (29-0-1, 22KO) once again showed up for the Los Angeles presser, which is much closer to his Oxnard home. This time around, he spoke like a man who knew he’d be the only one in the house.
“I went to Miami, I did my job. I showed up, Gamboa is nowhere to be found. It’s like Where’s Waldo. I’m here today. He’s intimidated by me, he’s scared. Gamboa is trying to play mind games? He thinks it’s going to affect my memory or my mind. It’s only going to make me stronger.
“April 14 I’m ready. With or without him, I’m ready. I do this for the fans. I love my job. It sucks. I think he really is here. I made a poster of him to show that I’m not scared of him, he’s scared of me.”
On the poster – a picture of Gamboa in the ring - appeared the words ‘This coward never wanted to fight’ as Rios held it up to the crowd for all to see. Rios and deBuof did their best to make light of a bad situation – which is the possibility that there won’t be a fight at all, at least not between the two guys currently headlining the promotion.
Rather than speculate on what might happen, Rios and Top Rank are proceeding as if the fight is on. It’s what they signed up for and what they continue to prepare for, not leaving anything to chance.
“This is the biggest fight that the sport can have,” Rios believes. “Mayweather-Pacquiao is not (happening); this is the next biggest fight. Let’s fight. Let’s just do this. Let’s give the fans what they want. Let’s give the world what they want. To all of my fans, I love you guys. April 14 at Mandalay Bay, here comes Bam Bam. I’m ready to show the world what I got.”
Top Rank couldn’t be more appreciative of Rios’ optimistic spirit.
“This is what character is,”
deBuof insisted. “This is what the sport is all about. He exemplifies it.”
The question remains whether the same can once again be said of Yuriorkis Gamboa.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter: @JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to JakeNDaBox@gmail.com.