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Gamboa eyes Donaire after de Leon

Fighters Network

After unbeaten featherweight prospect Gary Russell Jr. takes on hard-hitting Leonilo Miranda in Biloxi, Miss. on Sept. 3 on HBO, undefeated former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa takes on ex-beltholder Daniel Ponce de Leon in Atlantic City, N.J. on Sept. 10 also on HBO.

Top Rank Inc. CEO Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer were on a conference call on Monday promoting Gamboa-de Leon when each fielded separate questions concerning a potential match up between former Cuban Olympian Gamboa (20-0, 16 knockouts) and the southpaw Russell (17-0, 10 KOs).

Promoted by Arum, the 29-year-old Gamboa is meeting a tough challenger in de Leon, who is 41-3, with 34 knockouts.

But Gamboa had long been on track to face Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez (30-1, 27 KOs) before Lopez was dethroned by Orlando Salido (36-11-2, 24 KOs) via eighth-round knockout in April.

Lopez has a clash with Mike Oliver on Oct. 1, after which he will likely rematch Salido.

If Gamboa defeats de Leon, Arum said he would try to match him against the Salido-Lopez winner, or else WBC and wBO bantamweight titleholder Nonito Donaire (26-1, 18 KOs), who will make a defense of his belt on Oct. 22 on HBO.

So it appears that Arum’s point of view, Russell is not immediately on Gamboa’s radar.

“As far as I’m concerned, big fights for Gamboa down the road are the winner of Juan Manuel Lopez and Salido. I would hope to make that fight by early next year,” said Arum.

“And then, probably the biggest fight in the featherweight division would be with the up and coming bantamweight champion Nonito Donaire, who will be going up to featherweight next year and that would be a big, big match. So there are a lot of big matches for Gamboa.”

What about Russell?

“As far as Russell is concerned,” said Arum. “I’ve never seen him fight, but it seems to me that he’s another [adviser] Al Haymon invention.”

Schaefer disagreed.

“There is Gary Russell, and Gary Russell would be happy to fight Gamboa any time anywhere,” said Schaefer. “So, there are some great big names there, but I’m sure that Gary Russell will make some noise in that division as well.”

Promoted by Schaefer, the 23-year-old Russell, likewise, has expressed his belief that he is the division’s premiere fighter.

Russell personally selected Miranda (32-3, 32 KOs), whom he will face on the under card of a main event featuring IBF beltholder Jan Zaveck (31-1, 18 KOs) and ex-titleholder Andre Berto (27-1, 21 KOs).

“There’s no one in the division who can beat me, and that includes Yuriorkis Gamboa, Juan Manuel Lopez or anyone else,” said Russell.

“But my main focus is to fight up to my own standards, which I feel is at a completely different level than everyone else.”

Whether it is Russell, Lopez or Salido — the latter of whom he already has vanquished by decision — Gamboa does not care whom he faces.

“I’m ready to go 126, 135. I’m ready whenever I have to fight. Right now, this is something that the promoters want. I’m ready to move up or whatever. I just want the big fights,” said Gamboa.

“When those fights are ready to go, then I’ll be ready. I’m confident in my ability. I’m ready for those challenges. It’s just a question of my promoters getting together and to decide if that’s the next fight for me. I’ll fight anyone.”

Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]