Yuriorkis Gamboa, Brandon Rios to meet

Former unified featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa will jump up two weight classes and face former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios in a fight that matches two of boxing's most crowd-pleasing fighters.

They will meet April 14 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas for a vacant lightweight title. It will be televised on HBO's "World Championship Boxing."

The fight, for which HBO is paying a little more than $2 million for, is easily the biggest in the careers of both fighters and the winner likely will be propelled into even bigger events.

"Rios and Gamboa are two young and hungry fighters in their prime looking to make a leap to stardom," Top Rank promoter Todd duBoef said on Friday.

DuBoef had been in Miami to personally close the Gamboa side of the deal, which had been the difficult side to get done. Rios badly wanted the fight and his side of the deal has been done for about a week.

"This is what Brandon really wants," Rios' manager, Cameron Dunkin, said. "I feel that it's an opportunity that could catapult the winner. A lot of people who call me tell me this is a great fight. I really think everyone will be excited by this fight."

Rios will stay at 135 pounds for the fight despite past problems making weight. In December, he was stripped of his lightweight title because he failed to make weight for a defense against John Murray on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito II pay-per-view undercard at Madison Square Garden in New York.

Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs), 25, of Oxnard, Calif., ate essentially nothing for five days leading up to the fight and also severely restricted his fluid intake in an ultimately futile attempt to make weight.

The fight went on, and Rios stopped Murray in the 11th round -- though he lost his title by not making weight. Now Rios will have the chance to win the vacant belt back against Gamboa.

Rios talked about moving up to junior welterweight, but decided to remain at lightweight and is now working with a nutritionist and a strength and conditioning coach to make sure he makes weight safely, Dunkin said.

"He's got a full-time guy watching what he eats every day and he hasn't ballooned up," Dunkin said. "Last time he was huge when he started training. He doesn't have near that kind of weight to lose this time. He'll be really ready. He's already been working out, doing cardio, all kinds of different exercises and strength training. It's completely different than what Brandon has ever done before. We know it is a really, really tough fight."

Dunkin said even though Rios was excited about making the fight, he was not so sure about it at first.

"Sure, you doubt yourself, but I really believe in my guy," he said. "Brandon is so determined. He talks all the time about what he wants to accomplish. (Trainer) Robert (Garcia) was very confident and liked the fight from the beginning, and he had to sway me a little because I was hesitant. But Robert said we'll be fine and I know how much Brandon wanted this fight. I don't know Gamboa but I'm sure he's like Brandon, that he knows this is an opportunity to prove how good he is."

Gamboa (21-0, 16 KOs), 30, of Miami, was a decorated amateur, including winning a 2004 Olympic gold medal for Cuba before defecting and turning pro in 2007. He is one of the most electrifying fighters in boxing, a rare combination of power and speed.

"Gamboa has been constantly referred to as a 'rising Cuban star' throughout his career. But on April 14, the word 'rising' will finally be eliminated. Gamboa will be a superstar," said Arena Box promoter Ahmet Öner, who co-promotes Gamboa with Top Rank. "Gamboa is so special and though he has been fighting at 126 pounds, 135 pounds is where he belongs. He will be so much stronger fighting at lightweight."

Rios won a lightweight belt on a 10th-round knockout of Miguel Acosta in February 2011. He made one defense by knocking out Urbano Antillon in the third round in July before the weight problem against Murray cost him the belt.

Gamboa won a featherweight belt in 2009 and unified two titles in 2010, but the politics of boxing ultimately caused him to be stripped of both titles, although his previous four opponents -- Jonathan Barros, Orlando Salido, Jorge Solis and Daniel Ponce De Leon -- were either former or future world titleholders.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter