Rios jabs verbally at ‘unheard-of’ Abril

- By Bob Velin USA TODAY

It was everybody’s surefire fight of the year, power vs. speed, a toe-totoe showdown of unbeatens on HBO.

Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios vs. Yuriorkis “The Cyclone” Gamboa on April 14. The nicknames described this matchup, and any boxing writer worth his salt wanted to be ringside for such a can’t-miss title fight.

Gamboa never got the message. When he didn’t show up at the promotiona­l kickoff news conference­s, Top Rank, the fight’s promoter, was confused and furious, and Rios was left to ponder what might have been.

For Gamboa, who was to make $1.1 million, the issue was money.

As in more of it, and, as in Floyd “Money” Mayweather, whose gym Gamboa was spotted at the day of the Miami news conference. Gamboa, a Cuban defector, is still working out at Mayweather’s gym. Top Rank says Gamboa is under contract to it and that won’t change.

During the Miami event, a littleknow­n Cuban lightweigh­t named Richard Abril, who was there to support Gamboa, saw his opportunit­y and rushed the stage, slapping Rios and challengin­g him to a fight.

The dislike between the two was palpable, and, with Gamboa’s mind unchanged, even in the face of a hundred grand bonus Top Rank offered to the winner, a fight was born.

Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOS) and Abril (17-2-1, 8 KOS) will face off for the interim WBA lightweigh­t title Saturday night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The title is the one Rios left on the scales against John Murray in December, when he was stripped of the belt for not making weight.

The fight is now on HBO pay-perview (9 p.m. ET) but needed an injection of star power. So 38-year-old Mexican star Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOS) will face Ukrainian Serhiy Fedchenko (30-1, 13 KOS) from Mexico City for the interim WBO light welterweig­ht title.

Also on the card, lightweigh­t Mike Alvarado (31-0, 23 KOS) fights Mauricio Herrera (18-1, 7 KOS) in a light welterweig­ht 10-rounder. Alvarado’s bloody 10th-round TKO victory vs. Breidis Prescott in November was a 2011 fight of the year candidate.

Meanwhile, Rios and Abril have been fighting all along. At a news conference Monday in Los Angeles, tempers flared. Rios shoved Abril, then let his mouth do the talking.

“No unheard-of fighter like Abril will ever beat me,” Rios said. “He’s going to go down real hard. In the boxing world, Abril is in the darkness, and I will keep him there. I haven’t forgotten what he did to me in Miami. He’s going to pay bigtime.”

By Wednesday’s final news conference in Las Vegas, the pair was kept from the traditiona­l stare-down pose for fear of reprisals. But the vitriol kept flowing. “He is going to run away from me all night,” Rios said. “I think he’s going to pull a Forrest Gump. ‘Run Richard. Run!’ ”

Abril then took Rios’ heritage to task. “Rios is not as good as everyone says. He’s only 50% Mexican,” Cuban-born Abril said. “I ride horses, listen to Mexican music and speak the language. I’m more Mexican than he is.”

If Saturday’s bout matches the war of words, this could be good.

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