Rios-Gamboa fantasy fight near reality

Fans know what they're going to get -- action -- whenever Brandon Rios, right, steps in the ring. Chris Farina/Top Rank

Lightweight titlist Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios has firmly established himself as one of boxing's most exciting fighters. He makes no bones about the fact that he is a seek-and-destroy fighter with contact on his mind.

Featherweight star Yuriorkis Gamboa, who won a pair of belts before being unceremoniously stripped, is one of boxing's most electrifying fighters, a rare combination of speed and power who was a decorated member of the powerhouse Cuban national team. He won an Olympic gold medal in 2004 before defecting in 2007, and quickly rose to the top of the pro game.

Both promoted by Top Rank, they are now on a collision course, according to Top Rank president Todd duBoef.

It is indeed a sort of fantasy fight -- and one that could happen as soon as the middle of 2012, duBoef told ESPN.com.

There is work to be done first, of course.

Rios (28-0-1, 21 KOs) is scheduled to defend his belt against England's John Murray (31-1, 18 KOs) on Dec. 3 at Madison Square Garden in New York in the co-featured fight on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II HBO PPV telecast.

Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs) will also have an interim fight. Last month, he routed Daniel Ponce De Leon for a lopsided eight-round technical decision victory in his last fight at featherweight.

He is headed up to junior lightweight, and Top Rank is planning for his return in late January or early February, duBoef said. When Gamboa next fights, he will have Hall of Famer Emanuel Steward in his corner, after they made a deal this week.

"Gamboa is so naturally talented and has speed and coordination as good as any fighter I have seen," Steward said. "I'm looking forward to super fights with him, and one of the fights they're talking about is with Brandon Rios. That could be in our second fight. I think that is a great fight."

Top Rank isn't trying to draw out the number of fights Rios and Gamboa will take before facing each other. Perhaps Top Rank learned from company chief Bob Arum's plan to let Gamboa's much-anticipated featherweight showdown with Juan Manuel Lopez "marinate" too long. They were headed for a major unification fight, but Arum continued to milk them in one lesser fight after another. Lopez was then knocked out by Orlando Salido (a fighter Gamboa had previously beaten) in April in one of the upsets of the year, killing the match for the foreseeable future.

"Gamboa and his people say he wants to go to 135 pounds," duBoef said. "He wants one fight at 130 in January or February and then, assuming everything with Rios goes well [on Dec. 3], they would love to fight Rios in May or June. I've talked to the Rios people, and it's a fight that can be made."

Rios had planned to move up to junior welterweight sooner rather than later, but he loves the idea of the match with Gamboa and said he will stick around at 135 a little longer to see it come off.

"It feels great that Top Rank is talking about me and Gamboa," said Rios, who is training for the Murray fight in Mexico along with Margarito, with whom he shares trainer Robert Garcia. "So that's why I'm staying at 135 for the fight."

Russell fight downgraded to highlights

When Golden Boy and HBO put together a split-site tripleheader for Nov. 26, it was supposed to be capped by Saul "Canelo" Alvarez's junior middleweight title defense against former welterweight titleholder Kermit Cintron in Mexico City, following a pair of fights in Cincinnati: hometown fighter Adrien Broner going for a vacant junior lightweight belt against Vicente Rodriguez, with blue-chip featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. opening the telecast in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be determined.

However, Russell's bout has been axed from the live broadcast and HBO will only show highlights of his bout against Dat Nguyen (17-2, 6 KOs), according to the network. The change comes because of issues over HBO's agreeing on an opponent it deemed worthy of the live broadcast.

Former Cuban amateur standout Luis Franco turned down the bout in favor of a Dec. 10 title eliminator against Eduardo Escobedo for less money, and talks with Teon Kennedy fell apart because of a disagreement about the weight.

Kennedy, a junior featherweight who would have moved up, was willing to fight Russell at the featherweight limit of 126 pounds. However, Russell (18-0, 10 KOs), a 23-year-old southpaw and 2008 U.S. Olympian, insisted on a maximum weight of 127 pounds.

"We're giving up enough weight," Russell Peltz, Kennedy's promoter, told ESPN.com. "Russell said no to 126 and HBO had OK'd the fight. It was the best fight they had on the table. If Teon Kennedy hadn't lost his last fight, Gary Russell wouldn't want to be in the same state with him.

"Kennedy has fought better fighters, he's ranked higher and he's more pleasing to watch. We're head and shoulders above anyone Russell has fought so far. He didn't want the fight."

Peltz said they had agreed on 126 pounds, after which the Russell camp came back and insisted on 127. Golden Boy matchmaker Eric Gomez disputed that.

"Weight was never agreed," Gomez said. "Kennedy wanted 126, we wanted 127. They turned it down over one pound."

In his most recent fight, Nguyen, 29, took a fierce beating on Showtime's "ShoBox: The New Generation" in a near-shutout decision loss to Luis Del Orlando Del Valle in June.

Issues with Russell are nothing new to HBO. In September, HBO allowed him to face massive underdog Leonilo Miranda and acquiesced to his camp's request to reduce the bout from 10 rounds to eight, which was unprecedented in HBO history. In July, Russell was supposed to make his HBO debut on the undercard of Amir Khan's fight against Zab Judah, but when Russell's camp refused to make a fight HBO believed would be competitive, that bout also was downgraded to a highlight package.

Katsidis ready for Burns

Lightweight brawler Michael Katsidis of Australia has earned the nickname of the "Brit Basher" in some quarters because of his road knockout wins against Graham Earl and Kevin Mitchell.

Now Katsidis (28-4, 23 KOs) is back in England for a Nov. 5 interim lightweight title bout against Scotland's Ricky Burns (32-2, 9 KOs), the former junior lightweight titlist who vacated his belt to move up in weight.

"He is very dangerous, the most dangerous opponent I could have faced," Katsidis said. "Burns has better boxing ability than both Kevin Mitchell and Graham Earl. Earl has the biggest heart out of them, while Mitchell is a little inconsistent. Burns will be the best I have faced in the U.K.

"Burns is a very consistent fighter. He has showed it in the past. It will be tough. Like I said, he is more consistent that Mitchell and he is a better boxer than Earl, if we are to compare him with the English lads."

Katsidis, who briefly moved up to junior welterweight for his most recent fight (a third-round knockout win against Michael Lozada in August) before returning to 135 pounds, said he didn't think the change in divisions would have an impact on Burns, who claimed he could no longer make 130 pounds.

"I don't think Burns will be at a disadvantage moving up a weight," Katsidis said. "I think it's a move he should have made a long time ago. Some underestimate his power, but not me. I do not feel I am the favorite for this fight or that I have the edge. I feel we are on par. I may be experienced at the top level, but Burns has an awful a lot of experience, too. He showed that last year when he won his title."

Brook coming to America

British welterweight contender Kell Brook, closing in on a title opportunity, will make his American debut at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., on Dec. 17 on the undercard of the Super Six World Boxing Classic final between super middleweight titleholders Andre Ward (24-0, 13 KOs) and Carl Froch (28-1, 20 KOs).

The 25-year-old Brook (25-0, 17 KOs), a stablemate of Froch's with promoter Matchroom Sport, doesn't have an opponent yet. He scored the biggest win of his career on Oct. 8 when he became the first fighter to stop veteran contender Rafal Jackiewicz, scoring a sixth-round TKO.

"It's the best Christmas present I could have," Brook said after learning that Matchroom Sport promoter Eddie Hearn had arranged for him to fight on the card. "I've been dreaming of fighting on a massive show in America and I plan to put on a great performance. The pressure will be on to dazzle the American fans and that's exactly what I plan to do."

"This is a big night in the career of Kell Brook," Hearn said. "He has taken steps into the world-class level recently, and on Dec. 17 it will be another important milestone as we unleash him on the American public. Television executives in the states are delighted that they will get to see Kell in the flesh, and he knows he needs to deliver something special to announce himself on the biggest stage. This will be the final test for Kell before a major marquee fight in the spring."

Also added to the Ward-Froch undercard was light heavyweight Edison Miranda (34-6, 29 KOs), the trash-talking former middleweight and super middleweight title challenger. He is scheduled to meet Kariz Kariuki (24-9-2, 19 KOs).

Other undercard bouts include a heavyweight meeting between fringe contenders Bowie Tupou (21-0, 16 KOs) and Donnell Holmes (33-1-2, 29 KOs); former Cuban amateur standout Yordanis Despaigne (9-1, 4 KOs) against Cornelius White (17-1, 15 KOs) in a light heavyweight bout; and middleweight Isiah Seldon (5-0, 2 KOs), an Atlantic City native and the son of former heavyweight titlist Bruce Seldon.

Quick Hits

• Although the deal isn't closed, promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com that former light heavyweight and cruiserweight titlist Zsolt Erdei (33-0, 18 KOs), whom DiBella promotes, would challenge light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud (23-0, 19 KOs) in the main event of Showtime's Dec. 31 card. DiBella said he and Don King, Cloud's promoter, were close to a deal. "It'll get done," DiBella said. "The paperwork is not done, but everything has pretty much been agreed to. I have to work out options with King, but we will get it done. It's a good fight. It can't be a bad fight. Styles make fights, and that's a food fight. Erdei goes one way and has a good jab, and Cloud also only goes one way. These are two guys who go forward." The opening bout of the card, which is also being promoted by Dan Goossen and likely will take place in Anaheim, Calif., will feature junior featherweight titlist Rico Ramos (20-0, 11 KOs), who is from Southern California, in a mandatory fight against interim titlist Guillermo Rigondeaux (8-0, 6 KOs), the former two-time Cuban Olympic gold medalist.

• Welterweight titlist Andre Berto (28-1, 22 KOs) and mandatory challenger Randall Bailey (42-7, 36 KOs) have agreed to terms for their fight and avoided this week's scheduled purse bid, according to Lou DiBella, who promotes both fighters. "We have a deal between the fighters and I have 15 days to do a contract and provide the IBF with the information," DiBella said. "We would like to do that fight." The bout is due by February, DiBella said. However, neither HBO nor Showtime has bought any 2012 fights yet as both networks deal with major changes in their boxing departments following the exit of longtime Showtime boxing chief Ken Hershman to head up rival HBO Sports, where he starts Jan. 9. DiBella said if HBO wants to make a rematch between Berto and Victor Ortiz (29-3-2, 22 KOs), who defeated Berto in a fight of the year candidate in April, he would need to know quickly. But DiBella said he hasn't heard from the network on the topic or from Ortiz's promoter, Golden Boy. Ortiz is coming off losing his belt to Floyd Mayweather Jr. on Sept. 17. Berto rebounded from the loss to Ortiz by stopping Jan Zaveck for another version of the 147-pound title on Sept. 3. "If an Ortiz-Berto rematch materializes and HBO puts up the money and says they are not buying Bailey, Berto would probably go with the rematch," DiBella said. That means Berto would give up his belt and "Randall will wind up fighting for a vacant title," DiBella said.

• Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN.com that the Nov. 12 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight will be available as an Internet pay-per-view in addition to being on HBO PPV. This will be the second major fight in a row that Top Rank offers online. Pacquiao's fight against Shane Mosley, which aired on Showtime pay-per-view on May 7, was the first one. "The May fight was the first time we tried it out and it was an incredible experience for the user," duBoef said, noting that online viewers of the card could select their own camera angles to watch the fight. "So we are going to do it again. It will be the same price, $54.95, as the pay-per-view and it will become an additional platform for all of our pay-per-views." DuBoef said he is in the midst of finalizing deals with various websites to carry the card but that it will be available at TopRank.tv. "We will be announcing the sites next week," he said.

• Top American heavyweight prospect Seth Mitchell (23-0-1, 17 KOs) of Brandywine, Md., who will make his HBO debut on Dec. 10 on the Amir Khan-Lamont Peterson card in Washington, D.C. (where he will have a home crowd on his side) will face Timur Ibragimov (30-3-1, 16 KOs) of Uzbekistan; HBO approved the bout this week. England's Khan will be defending his unified junior welterweight titles against Washington's Peterson. Tickets for the "Capital Showdown" card at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center go on sale Friday through Ticketmaster in the United States. British fans planning to make the trip can purchase tickets, priced at $300, $150, $75, $50 and $25, by calling 0800 555 666.

• Although HBO and Golden Boy Promotions haven't released -- and likely won't release -- official pay-per-view numbers for the Oct. 15 Bernard Hopkins-Chad Dawson card, both camps acknowledge that the total was well below 100,000 buys, perhaps as few as 40,000. But the gate numbers are in for the live event at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, and they support the notion that the card bombed. According to the California State Athletic Commission, the show sold just 3,888 tickets, with 3,151 free tickets distributed and 2,099 tickets going unsold for a live gate of $285,677. HBO, which "flipped" the card to pay-per-view in a budgetary move, paid about $3 million for it.

• Featherweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez (50-7, 44 KOs) of Mexico has twice been scheduled to defend against Panama's Roinet Caballero (31-10-1, 22 KOs), but each time the bout was called off because of Caballero's visa issues. They were supposed to meet in July in Atlantic City, N.J., on the Erislandy Lara-Paul Williams undercard and then on a rescheduled date in September in the main event of a card in El Paso, Texas. Now they are scheduled for a third time, according to Dan Goossen, Gonzalez's co-promoter. This time they are due to fight Dec. 10 in Mexico, where Caballero shouldn't have any paperwork issues. Gonzalez will be making his third title defense, while Caballero will get his second shot at a world title. In January 2008, Chris John stopped him in the seventh round in a featherweight title defense in Indonesia.

• Former junior lightweight and junior featherweight titlist Joan Guzman (30-0-1, 17 KOs), long troubled with problems making weight, will return to the ring as a welterweight on Nov. 18 in his native Dominican Republic. He will face Florencio Castellano (17-4, 13 KOs) of Colombia, who this week replaced Mexico's Armando Robles (17-1-1, 9 KOs), in the main event of a card that will be televised by ESPN Deportes. The fight will be Guzman's first since he knocked out Jason Davis in the second round last December in Las Vegas, only to have the result later changed to a no-contest because Guzman tested positive for a banned substance -- a diuretic, which is often used to used to assist in weight loss. Guzman, who was suspended for eight months by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and was fined and released from his Golden Boy Promotions contract, was three pounds over the contract weight of 141 pounds. It was the second fight in row for which he missed weight, and at least the third time overall in his career. On the undercard, Dominican junior lightweight contender Argenis Mendez (18-2, 9 KOs) is slated to face Samir Torres (12-4-1, 9 KOs) of Colombia. The fight will be Mendez's first since losing a tight decision for a vacant 130-pound belt to Juan Carlos Salgado on Sept. 10 in Mexico.

• Former welterweight titlist Joshua Clottey (35-4, 20 KOs) has been added to the undercard of middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.'s first defense against Peter Manfredo Jr. on Nov. 19 in Houston, Top Rank matchmaker Brad "Abdul" Goodman told ESPN.com. Clottey will face Houston's Calvin Green (21-6-1, 13 KOs) in a scheduled eight-rounder at 156 pounds. Clottey, who hasn't fought since being routed by Manny Pacquiao in March 2010, has lost two fights in a row, both welterweight title bouts -- a lopsided points defeat to Pacquiao and a split decision to Miguel Cotto in June 2009. Green has also lost two fights in a row, knockouts to Alfonso Gomez and former junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora. Clottey and Green were originally scheduled to fight in March on the undercard of Cotto's junior middleweight title defense against Ricardo Mayorga at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. But during the week of the fight, Clottey tripped in a pothole while doing roadwork and suffered ankle and wrist injuries, forcing him to withdraw from the bout. Also on the card will be featherweight prospect Roberto Marroquin (20-1, 14 KOs) and lightweight Mickey Bey (17-0-1, 9 KOs).

• According to British promoter Frank Warren, welterweight Frankie Gavin (11-0, 8 KOs), a 2008 British Olympian and one of boxing's top prospects, withdrew from Friday night's main event in Manchester, England, without explanation. Warren said Gavin pulled out Thursday morning and simply left the hotel. He was supposed to face Frank Haroche Horta (26-8-5, 9 KOs) of France in a scheduled 12-rounder. Ireland's Dean Byrne (15-0, 6 KOs), who won an eight-round decision just a week ago, agreed to step in for Gavin. "This is a fantastic opportunity that has been put my way to top the show, and I'm looking forward to putting on a good performance for the fans," Byrne said. "Horta looks tough. He's got a good record and he's never been stopped in 39 fights, so I'm looking to do a good job on him. He's fit and ready to fight, as he had Gavin lined up; and I'm in top shape, as I only boxed last week, so it will be a good, tough fight while it lasts."

• In a world title doubleheader, which may be televised on "Top Rank Live," junior featherweight titlist Jorge Arce (58-6-2, 45 KOs) is slated to make his second title defense Nov. 26 in his hometown of Los Mochis, Mexico, against an opponent to be determined. Lightweight titlist Miguel Vazquez (29-3, 13 KOs) will make a mandatory defense against Ameth Diaz (30-10, 21 KOs) on the undercard. ... Talks are under way to match flyweight titlist Brian Viloria (29-3, 16 KOs) and former junior flyweight champ Giovani Segura (28-1-1, 24 KOs), who vacated his title to move up in weight. If a deal is made, they would meet Dec. 10 in Manila, where Viloria, a Filipino-American, is popular. ... Top Rank announced its Nov. 5 "Top Rank Live" card (Fox Deportes), which will take place in Tijuana, Mexico. In the main event, former junior bantamweight titlist Tomas Rojas (36-13-1, 24 KOs) will meet Feliciano Dario Azuaga (82-21-2, 67 KOs) of Paraguay. Rojas will be fighting for the first time since he lost his 115-pound belt in Thailand to Suriyan Sor Rungvisai on Aug. 19. ... Heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder (18-0, 18 KOs), a 2008 U.S. Olympic bronze medalist and America's only boxing medalist in Beijing, has been added to the undercard of the Nov. 5 Alfredo Angulo-James Kirkland card in Cancun, Mexico. Wilder's opponent has not been determined.



"I have been waiting for this fight for a long time and I am very excited that it is finally going to happen. I beat him the first two fights but did not get the decision. This time I will beat him again, and I will also get the victory."
-- Juan Manuel Marquez, on facing welterweight titlist and pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao for the third time on Nov. 12 (HBO PPV)

"Juan Manuel Marquez has the right to make alibis about not winning our two previous fights. It's because of those alibis that I am so motivated for our upcoming fight. I want to end all the questions he has raised about who won our past fights and who the better fighter is."
-- Pacquiao, on facing Marquez again

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at danrafaelespn.