Gamboa faces tough rival in Solis

Yuriorkis Gamboa defends his title against Jorge Solis Saturday in Atlantic City. AP Photo/Martin Meissner

Top Rank's Bob Arum is the one who said it, said that he would take his two exciting featherweight titleholders, Yuriorkis Gamboa and Juan Manuel Lopez, and build toward an eventual fight between them.

He said it might take a year and a few fights apiece but that the match would be made after it "marinated" for a little while.
It is, after all, one of the matches that fight fans crave. Arum, understandably, did not believe it was ready to be made right away, so he put both of them on the same pay-per-view card in October 2009 to whet the appetite of fans and media members. They both won their fights, so Arum put them both on the same card again, this time on HBO in January 2010.

They both scored impressive victories. Gamboa blasted out Rogers Mtagwa (the opponent Lopez struggled with in the previous fight) in two rounds, and Lopez, who was moving up in weight, knocked out Steven Luevano in the seventh round to win a title.

Now, more than a year later, however, we are no closer to seeing a Lopez-Gamboa fight happen. Lopez, who has fought twice since beating Luevano, is now a regular on Showtime and defends his title against Orlando Salido, Gamboa's most recent victim, on April 16.

Gamboa, meanwhile, fights on HBO. He also has fought twice since appearing on the same card with Lopez and goes for a third time when he defends his unified 126-pound belts against interim junior lightweight titlist Jorge Solis, who is moving down in weight, on Saturday night (HBO, 9:45 ET/PT) at the Adrian Phillips Ballroom at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

Even Gamboa (19-0, 15 KOs), who stands to make a career payday should the fight with Lopez ever come about, is sick of talking about the proposed showdown.

"In reality, I don't feel rushed to make that fight, but by the same token, there has been so much talk of me facing him, but it still hasn't come to fruition," Gamboa said through translator and manager Tony Gonzalez. "If it's going to happen, I want it to happen, but I don't have a desire to keep talking about it."

Gamboa, 29, who lives in Miami, was a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist before defecting and turning pro in 2007. He has been on the fast track since the first day of his professional career. He has won a pair of world title belts and, in Solis, is facing a very credible opponent.

Lopez, Gamboa said, is just another good opponent he would someday like to face. But he is not going to think seriously about it until the fight is made.

"I'm just thinking that Juanma is one of the champions in our division," Gamboa said. "The thing that bothers me most is that they have created the expectations in the press and they keep talking about this fight. But I can't make it happen. So I will tend to my business and keep collecting my belts and fighting. If it happens, great; if it doesn't, OK."

Top Rank president Todd duBoef said he would like to eventually make the fight but that it will happen when it is ready and can be the biggest it can be.

He would have preferred that Arum, his boss and stepfather, not outline a particular timetable as he did more than a year ago.

"We don't do well with timelines," duBoef said. "We do better building a business around each guy, and when it's ready to go, it's ready to go. We've seen them both progress substantially over the past 12 months."

So while Lopez perhaps is on the minds of others, Gamboa has Solis in front of him. Solis (40-2-2, 29 KOs), 31, of Mexico, will be fighting in the United States for the first time since an eighth-round knockout loss to Manny Pacquiao in a 2007 junior lightweight fight in San Antonio. However, Solis put up a strong effort against Pacquiao and made it an interesting fight for several rounds before succumbing to Pacquiao's pressure.

For Gamboa, Solis said, he is well prepared, because Gamboa is also a pressure fighter.

"I've arrived at 100 percent," Solis said. "I had a strong and intense preparation in Guadalajara. [Last] Friday I did 14 rounds [of sparring] with great intensity, and they went smooth. I left with a lot of motivation to win. I'm a natural 126-pounder, and I went to junior lightweight because there came the opportunity to win a world title. I'll be strong at this weight.

"We have several strategies to address the Cuban. We have analyzed his strengths and weaknesses, and plan to decrease his speed with blows to the body. He is a very fast and strong opponent but goes down when you attack and does not know what to do. Beating Gamboa will bring me to the big leagues of boxing -- big purses, and that's what I want."

Gamboa has no plans to allow that to happen.

"In my opinion, I push myself to win by knockout," Gamboa said. "It's something everyone likes, but I won't lose my concentration in that pursuit. I am just going to fight, showcase my talents and abilities, and come out with a victory."

Said Gonzalez, "He's ready for Solis. He knows he is going up against an experienced fighter, but he feels he will overmatch Solis."

In the opening bout of the "Boxing After Dark" doubleheader, featherweight prospects Miguel Angel "Mikey" Garcia (24-0, 20 KOs), 23, of Oxnard, Calif., faces Matt Remillard (23-0, 13 KOs), 24, of Manchester, Conn., in a scheduled 12-rounder. The winner certainly could loom as an eventual opponent for the main-event winner.

Also on the card, cruiserweight Tommy Zbikowski (2-0, 2 KOs) will face Caleb Grummet (0-0-1) in a four-rounder. Zbikowski is the Baltimore Ravens safety who is boxing professionally during the NFL lockout. He fought once in 2006, when he was still at Notre Dame, but had his second pro fight March 12 on the Miguel Cotto-Ricardo Mayorga pay-per-view undercard. HBO will air highlights of Saturday's fight, Zbikowski's first under the tutelage of Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward.

Klitschko-Solis fallout

Arena-Box promoter Ahmet Oner apologized for his meltdown at the news conference following Odlanier Solis' first-round TKO loss to heavyweight titleholder Vitali Klitschko this past Saturday in Cologne, Germany.

"I simply overreacted, and I'm sorry for that," Oner said. "I lost control because of all the provocations, and I shouldn't have done it. Period. I already apologized to Vitali at the press conference. I respect him. He is a great champion. Now the most important thing is that Solis will be able to fight again. We are doing all we can to get his knee fixed as soon as possible."

The fight ended prematurely when Solis fell to the canvas with a right knee injury and was unable to continue. Solis, the mandatory challenger and 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist, was scheduled for surgery Thursday in Germany. Arena-Box announced that Solis had suffered a torn ACL in his knee as well as a damaged meniscus.

Oner also dismissed reports in the German media that Solis and the team hid a pre-existing injury and went through with the fight anyway, for which Solis was due a career-high $1.8 million.
"This rumor is based on a false quotation spread in the German press," Oner said. "Everybody knows that there are a lot of medical tests for fighters who want to compete in a world title fight. Every professional athletes has some small problems every now and then. But all documents prove that Solis was fit and ready for this fight. In addition to that, he was in a very tough training camp for eight weeks, where he was under permanent observation without any problems, and he moved extremely well in the first round, and the whole world has seen that. You simply cannot do this with a serious knee injury."

• Dmitry Pirog (17-0, 14 KOs) of Russia will make the first defense of his middleweight belt against Argentina's Javier Francisco Maciel (18-1, 12 KOs) on Saturday in Ekaterinburg, Russia. ESPN3.com will stream the entire world feed of the card live beginning at 11:45 a.m. ET, meaning it will include undercard bouts, including welterweight Felix Diaz, a 2008 Olympic gold medalist, in an eight-rounder against Russia's Andrey Berdishev. The main event is expected to begin at about 2 p.m. ET. It will be Pirog's first fight since winning the vacant belt when he scored an upset fifth-round knockout of Daniel Jacobs in July on the Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz II HBO PPV undercard.

• When 20-year-old Saul "Canelo" Alvarez (36-0-1, 26 KOs) claimed a vacant junior middleweight title March 5, he did it by easily outpointing England's Matthew Hatton. When Alvarez makes his first defense, slated for June 18, he likely will face another Englishman in Ryan Rhodes (45-4, 31 KOs), 34, who was appointed as his mandatory challenger. Golden Boy Promotions plans on staging the card in Guadalajara, Mexico, Alvarez's hometown. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said they are negotiating with Rhodes for the bout. Schaefer said he also is negotiating the television arrangements for the bout.

• Middleweight James Kirkland's third fight since coming out of prison, which will take place on Golden Boy's April 9 HBO PPV card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, will come against former junior middleweight titlist Nobuhiro Ishida (22-6-2, 7 KOs) of Japan, Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com. Kirkland (27-0, 24 KOs) has scored a pair of quick knockouts since returning to action March 5. In Ishida's last fight, in October, he dropped a split decision and his interim belt to Rigoberto Alvarez, the older brother of Saul "Canelo" Alvarez. "James is fighting a former titleholder, so it's definitely a step up for him and it's an interesting fight," Schaefer said. "We're getting his opposition up. That's exactly what this fight is going to do. No question that this is his toughest test since he's been back." Schaefer also said he received a notification from the WBO approving the Robert Guerrero-Michael Katsidis fight on the card to be for the organization's vacant interim belt. Schaefer said the reason the WBO approved it was because it had been informed by champion Juan Manuel Marquez that his next fight would take place outside of the lightweight division, even though he has no fight officially set.

• Promoter Dan Goossen made it official that the Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal between super middleweight titlist Andre Ward (23-0, 13 KOs) and Arthur Abraham (32-2, 26 KOs) on May 14 (Showtime) will take place at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. "I'm also happy to return to the Home Depot Center," Ward said. "I fought there once before and I think it's a great outdoor venue. Arthur should have a lot of fans there with the large Armenian contingency in Los Angeles, and I will have a lot of fans as well." Ward is from Oakland, Calif., and Abraham, an Armenian from Germany, said he is not concerned with fighting in his home state. "There is a huge Armenian community in Los Angeles, and I will put on a spectacular fight for them," he said. "I am very grateful to have their fantastic support and I can already promise them a very special evening. It will be good to have their backing. It will give me a huge boost." Heavyweight contender Cristobal Arreola (30-2, 26 KOs), from nearby Riverside, Calif., will meet Nagy Aguilera (16-5, 11 KOs), who has lost three of four, in the co-feature. Their fight is not scheduled to be part of Showtime's telecast.

• The Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinal between super middleweight titlist Carl Froch (27-1, 20 KOs) and Glen Johnson (51-14-2, 35 KOs), originally scheculed for May 21, is moving to a new date, likely June 4, Johnson co-promoter Leon Margules told ESPN.com. Showtime is not anxious to butt heads with a major HBO card the same night that features the Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins light heavyweight championship rematch. Margules said the site is still up in the air, but the leading contenders are Quebec City and Atlantic City, N.J. "It could be either of them," Margules said. "Atlantic City became a player when the Nonito Donaire fight that was supposed to be there fell through." Top Rank had planned to do a Donaire fight in Atlantic City in conjunction with Caesars Atlantic City on May 28, but that is off now that Donaire has jumped to rival Golden Boy Promotions. Regardless of what happens in the eventual lawsuit over the move, if Donaire still fights May 28, it will be on the West Coast, leaving Caesars to look for another significant early summer fight.

• Julio Cesar Chavez will challenge middleweight belt holder Sebastian Zbik -- who got his belt only when Sergio Martinez was stripped by the WBC -- on June 4 on HBO. Top Rank's Carl Moretti said three sites in Southern California are being looked at as possibilities to host the fight, which will take place a week before Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. is inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame: Staples Center, Dodger Stadium and the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Moretti said he expected a competitive fight. "Zbik is not the easiest guy in the world to fight," he said. "He kees his hands up. He doesn't open himself up. He waits to counter, so I think it's an interesting fight." The opening HBO bout hasn't been worked out yet.

• Welterweight Alfonso Gomez, a star of the first season of "The Contender," is scheduled to return against Calvin Greene in the main event of "Top Rank Live" (Fox Deportes) on May 21 at the Morongo Casino Resort Spa in Cabazon, Calif., Top Rank's Moretti told ESPN.com. Gomez has not fought since scoring a sixth-round stoppage of former lightweight champ Jose Luis Castillo last March on the Manny Pacquiao-Joshua Clottey undercard at Cowboys Stadium. Gomez was due to fight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in December but withdrew a week before the fight because of a torn ligament in his left arm. If Gomez (22-4-2, 11 KOs) is successful in his return from the injury, Moretti said he would like to match him with Mike Jones "sometime in the very near future." Green (21-5-1, 13 KOs) has been idle since suffering a seventh-round knockout loss to Sergio Mora last April on the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr. II undercard.

• The working date for Top Rank's proposed rematch between junior middleweight titlist Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito is July 16. If the fight is signed, it will be on pay-per-view, although it has not been determined if it will be on Showtime PPV, which did Cotto's 12th-round knockout of Ricardo Mayorga on March 19, or on HBO PPV, which has a long history of putting on Cotto events. If the fight is made, former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron, who is now with Top Rank -- although promoter Lou DiBella remains financially involved -- could land on the undercard. "We don't have a specific date yet for Cintron, but we know we have to get him a fight," Top Rank's Carl Moretti said. "Bob [Arum] believes he fits in with any of the top guys at welterweight or junior middleweight, so there are some attractive fights."

• Cruiserweight titlist Marco Huck will make his sixth defense against substitute Ran Nakash on April 2 in Halle, Germany, Sauerland Event announced. Huck (31-1, 23 KOs) was supposed to meet former titlist Giacobbe Fragomeni (27-3-1, 11 KOs). However, Fragomeni suffered a cut over an eye in training and withdrew from the fight last Friday. Nakash (25-0, 18 KOs), a native of Israel living in Philadelphia, accepted the fight as a replacement. "I don't care about the late change," Huck said. "It will not exactly be a walk in the park, but as the world champion, I will find a way to deal with it. I will be prepared for Nakash and I will defeat him just like I defeat anybody who wants to take the belt away from me." Also on the card, heavyweight prospect Robert Helenius fights former titlist Samuel Peter.

• Former heavyweight titlist Sergei Liakhovich's first fight since his recent signing with promoter Main Events will come April 9 (Integrated Sports PPV, $29.95) at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J., on the undercard of heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek's fight against Kevin McBride. Liakhovich (25-3, 16 KOs), who has not fought since May 2010 and only three times since late 2006, will face club fighter Johnnie White (22-4, 18 KOs) in the 10-round co-feature. Welterweight Sadam Ali, a 2008 U.S. Olympian, is also slated for the pay-per-view undercard.

•Welterweight Delvin Rodriguez has been scratched from the ESPN2 "Friday Night Fights" main event against Michael Medina on April 22 because of a wrist injury and flu-like symptoms that have had him under the weather for the past week. Rodriguez was already ill when he went to the gym a few days ago to try to train. During the session, he injured his wrist. "It's the first fight he's ever pulled out of to my knowledge, and I've worked with him for many years," Star Boxing matchmaker Ron Katz said. "It's the first time he's been unable to make a fight. He never says no. He's fought with injuries, but between the wrist and the bug he can't get rid of, it was best for him to pull out of this fight." No word yet on a replacement main event, although junior middleweight prospect Demetrius Andrade is slated for an eight-rounder in the co-feature at the Mohegan Sun resort in Uncasville, Conn.

• Japanese promoter Akihiko Honda has moved his world title tripleheader on April 8 from Tokyo to the southern Japanese port city of Kobe because of the problems in Tokyo, including limited electricity, in the aftermath of the recent earthquake and tsunami disaster. Hozumi Hasegawa (29-3, 12 KOs) defends his featherweight belt against former bantamweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez (47-7, 41 KOs) of Mexico in the main event. Also, junior featherweight titlist Toshiaki Nishioka (37-4-3, 23 KOs) will meet Argentina's Mauricio Munoz (21-2, 9 KOs), and junior lightweight titleholder Takahiro Ao (20-2-1, 9 KOs) defends against Humberto Gutierrez (28-2-1, 20 KOs) of Mexico.

• Heralded Puerto Rican lightweight prospect Jose Pedraza, who made his pro debut in Puerto Rico in February, will make his New York debut March 29 on promoter Lou DiBella's "Broadway Boxing" card at the BB King Blues Club. Pedraza (1-0, 1 KO), 21, a standout before turning pro under the guidance of promoters DiBella, Gary Shaw and Javier Bustillo, will face Corben Page (1-1, 0 KOs) in a four-rounder. Pedraza was a 2008 Olympian and 2009 silver medalist at the amateur world championships. In his pro debut, he knocked out Felix Rivera in the first round.


"Marcos Maidana is an exciting young fighter, and there is no quit in either of us. Like true warriors, we will keep fighting until the end. I know my hand will be raised as the winner when it is over." -- former three-division champion Erik Morales, on his junior welterweight fight against Maidana on April 9 (HBO PPV) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

"Erik Morales is one of the greatest fighters of all time, and I'm honored and excited to be fighting him. But when the bell rings, I will put respect aside and do what I do best, which is knock my opponent out." -- Maidana, on his upcoming fight with Morales.