Rios stands in way of Gonzalez's path

Unbeaten Jonathan Gonzalez, right, nearly got into it with Joseph Rios ahead of Saturday's bout. Joel Colon/PRBBP

SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO -- The junior bantamweight division will be extremely active in the next few weeks, beginning Saturday in the Caribbean and then moving on to Macau.

Highly regarded prospect Jonathan Gonzalez (11-0, 10 KO) will face Joseph Rios (13-7-2, 4 KO) in the main event of a "Future Champions" card to be held in Trujillo Alto, Puerto Rico.

A victory against Rios, who lost in 2007 against former 122-pound champion Leo Santa Cruz, could give Gonzalez, 21, a boost in the world rankings. Rios has never been knocked out in his career.

"I'm very confident in the preparation I had for this fight," said Gonzalez. "We look forward to beating Rios. We know if we can win this, it will open the possibility of fighting for a world championship. If we can knock him out, it will be a bigger victory because not even Leo Santa Cruz could knock him down."

Gonzalez is coming off a no-decision against Mexican Omar Salado on the undercard of the Juan Manuel Lopez-Aldimar Santos card. An accidental punch to the back of Salado's head ended the fight in the first round.

"That's done. I wanted to fight, but the referee was just doing his job and stopped the fight," Gonzalez said. "Now we have another chance. I'm confident I can KO him, but I will take things one step at a time. I know we will win."

The fight will be very emotional as both fighters shoved each other during the card's midweek press conference in San Juan.

"He pushed me. I was shocked he did that, but if he wants to be the bad boy, I'll be the good boy," Gonzalez said. "After all, everything is settled in the ring. I know he wants me to do his fight, but I'll do what I want, too, and he will be forced to follow mine."

Gonzalez said he's looking forward to getting a chance at Brian Viloria's 112-pound title before the year is over. Viloria is scheduled to defend his belt on April 6 against Juan Francisco Estrada in Macau.

Another well-regarded Puerto Rican prospect who will also take part in the card is former Olympian Felix Verdejo (3-0, 2 KO), who will face Martin Quezada (2-3, 2 KO) in a four-round bout that will serve as the co-main event. If he wins on Saturday, Verdejo has been promised to be part of Top Rank's Radio City Music Hall card, which will feature Nonito Donaire and Guillermo Rigondeaux on April 13.

"I'm very happy to come back and fight in front of my countrymen," Verdejo said. "It really motivates me."

Other fighters active in Saturday's card include Luis Cruz (20-2, 16 KO) against journeyman Streve Trumble (12-25, 16 KO), who has lost five of his last six fights since 2006.