When former featherweight beltholder, Yuriorkis Gamboa failed to show up at a Miami press conference last month, his scheduled opponent, RING No. 1-rated lightweight Brandon Rios, had the microphone all to himself to vent about the no-show Gamboa, whom he called “scared,” among other things.
An already miffed Rios was later greeted Richard Abril, a Miami-based Cuban who came to the event literally looking for a fight — and very nearly caused one when he challenged Rios during the conference and pushed him, igniting a brief brawl.
It was more of the same on Monday at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel’s Crystal Ballroom, this time at a promotion for Rios’ fight against Abril, who stepped in after Gamboa pulled out, that is slated for Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas for the vacant WBA lightweight belt which once belonged to Rios.
“It was heated,” wrote publicist, Fred Sternburg, in an e-mail to RingTV.com. “Rios and Abril got nose-to-nose and jawed at each other, which eventually led to shoving before being separated by their camps.”
Long after a shoving match between the two boxers during the face-to-face posedown, Top Rank Inc. publicist Lee Samuels said each of the two camps “got into it when the cameras were turned off.”
TRAINER SAYS CONFRONTATION WAS “NO BIG DEAL”
“Richard said that he wanted to apologize for what happened in Miami, but Brandon told him, ‘I still have not forgotten what happened in Miami, so I’m going to knock you out,'” said Rios’ trainer, Robert Garcia.
“After that, they did the face-to-face, and they pushed a little bit, but it was not big deal. There was a little bit with their trainer, but it was no big deal. Nothing really bad happened.”
The clash between Rios (29-0-1, 22 knockouts), who turns 26 on April 29, and Abril (17-2-1, 8 KOs), who is 29, takes place as part of a split-site card that is being produced by Top Rank and distributed by HBO Pay Per View.
The main event matches WBA/WBO lightweight beltholder Juan Manuel Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs) against Ukrainian Sergei Fedchenko (30-1, 13 KOs) for the WBO’s interim junior welterweight belt from New Mexico City Arena in Mexico City.
“No unheard-of fighter like Abril will ever beat me,” said Rios. “He’s going to go down and go down real hard.”
Rios also earned the WBA crown in February of last year when he came from behind to knock out Miguel Acosta in the 10th round.
Rios dropped Acosta during the sixth, eighth and last round of the fight, finally cornering his rival and unloading a barrage of blows — the most telling of which was a vicious right hand — that crumpled Acosta at 1:14 of the round.
The victory ended a 19-fight winning streak for Acosta, though Rios lost the WBA belt on the scales before his fight with Murray.
“In the boxing world Abril is in the darkness, and I plan to keep him there,” said Rios. “I haven’t forgotten what he did to me in Miami. He’s going to pay bigtime for that.”
ARUM SAYS ABRIL IS NO PUSH-OVER
The nearly 6-foot tall Abril also has a victory over Acosta, whom he dropped once in the fourth and twice in the 10th on the way to a unanimous decision victory in October of last year.
The victory was the fifth straight for Abril, including two knockouts, since losing by split-decision to Hank Lundy in January of 2010.
“You know, that’s a very competitive fight,” said Arum of Rios-Abril. “Acosta was beating Rios until Rios got on top and finally knocked him out. And Abril just fought Acosta and he knocked him down three times when he fought him. He dominated Acosta.”
Abril appears to be just as confident in his abilities to do so against Rios, who may not have faced a fighter with the Cuban’s range and patience.
“Rios is not as good as what people say,” said Abril. “I did what I did at the Miami press conference to tell Rios he should be fighting me, not Gamboa, because I am a real champion.”
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank Inc.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]