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Rios vs. TBA on April 14th

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)


A press conference was staged by Top Rank on Tuesday at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel. Much like the one held the day before in Miami, Florida, it was to have focused on the April 14th battle between former WBA lightweight champion Brandon Rios and Yuriorkis Gamboa at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. For the second straight day, Gamboa was M.I.A.
 
“It’s like Where’s Waldo; nobody knows where he’s at,” said a frustrated Rios while addressing the gathered media. “Come today, I’m here in L.A. Gamboa’s nowhere to be found. That just shows you that he’s intimidated of me, scared; I don’t know what.” He added later, “I’m just ready for April 14th like the fight’s still on, I guess. I’m ready with or without him; I’m ready.”

This session with the media was hosted by Top Rank President Todd duBoef, who, despite the stark possibility of one of the year’s most anticipated events (almost 5,000 tickets were sold within the first 48 hours of availability) not coming to fruition, acted as if his company was proceeding with this fight. It would be up to Gamboa to live up to his agreement and participate.

“The situation is I got an agreement with Gamboa and I got an agreement with Rios and we’re here to announce a fight. I hear he’s training; people tell me he’s training, terrific,” said duBoef. When asked if he was surprised by the recent events, he admitted, “Well, the non-appearance would [surprise me]. One of the stipulations to our agreements is that we would do a press conference in Miami- of which we did- and then as recently as late last week, we were doing all the travel for him and his party to come to L.A., giving the birth dates and all that for the press conference today.”
 
The black drapery serving as the background for the press conference, in place of the customary fight banner, seemed not unlike a funerary shroud, prematurely covering a dying bout. As for a deadline for Gamboa to get back on board or move on with contingency plans without him, duBoef says that will be dealt with by their high-prices attorneys. “I’m going to put that to [Daniel] Petrocelli and [David] Moroso, who are handling this, if there’s anything legal out of that. I want to make sure that we’re covered. So I don’t want to answer that and say, ‘This is what it is.’”
 
Lem Satterfield of RingTV.com got one side of the story from Gamboa (http://ringtv.craveonline.com/blog/171823-exclusive-gamboa-says-he-wont-fight-rios-unless-the-deal-is-right) who claims that he is having issues with his promoters (Top Rank co-promotes Gamboa with Ahmet Oner) and that he never signed a contract for the fight. There are rampant rumors of Mayweather Promotions (Floyd Mayweather’s shell company which, as of now, isn’t even a licensed promoter in Nevada) getting in his ear. Pictures were posted on Twitter showing the Cuban working out at Mayweather’s gym on Monday (http://www.lockerz.com/s/189929598).
 
Could there be tortious interference claims?

“I don’t know,” said duBoef, who flew to Miami a couple of weeks ago, thinking he had sealed the deal with Gamboa. “We’re working in a vessel over here. I can only tell you I hear a lot of information through the internet; I hear a lot of information through writers, reporters, people calling. I try not to pay attention to it. We had an agreement; we made an agreement, February 16th. We had the Rios agreement about a week earlier. That’s all I know.”
 
When asked if Top Rank had a firm commitment (if not a formal bout agreement) from Gamboa, duBoef stated, “Yes, we have something binding.” As for a firm promotional pact with the Cuban defector, “Absolutely, and with an option year that we extended about a month ago.”
 
This will be key. Does Top Rank have a valid and enforceable deal with Gamboa, who was set to receive over a million dollars for facing Rios? That may be the crux of this whole dispute. It was no secret throughout the industry that Gamboa and Oner were having some problems. As for not having a signed contract, it’s not unusual for boxers to not put their names on the dotted line on a formal bout agreement till very late in the process- sometimes just days before a fight.
 
Originally, Rios was scheduled to go on March 3rd at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, but that date was backed up as Johnny Molina ran into a dispute with his promoter, Dan Goossen. Then the focus turned to facing Gamboa a month-and-a-half later in Las Vegas. It’s clear that he will fight on April 14th; what’s not clear is just who will be facing him. When asked if they were satisfied that Top Rank had done its due diligence in securing Gamboa, Rios’ manager, Cameron Dunkin, said, “Oh, absolutely. Listen, I’ve seen the paperwork; I’ve seen the text. I feel good with it.”
 
When asked his opinion of what happened with Gamboa, Dunkin told Maxboxing, “I think people were whispering in his ear, the stuff with Mayweather; there’s lots of people saying that he’s getting called by him five, ten times a day and there’s proof and stuff that Floyd has said about how he wants [Gamboa] to carry the torch, him and Adrien Broner. So where there’s smoke, there’s fire and I’m sure something’s going on. But hopefully, he’ll live by his agreement and come back and fight.”
 
As for a replacement for Gamboa, the manager stated, “We’re going to talk about that. I’m going back to Vegas now. I’m going to be talking to the matchmakers and with Todd and Carl [Moretti] and we’ll find some names. We’ll have something to back it up if we have to. Hopefully, we don’t have to.”
 
This is quite the buzzkill.
 
“There are no rules or ethics and no guidelines in our sport. If this were the NBA or the NFL, David Stern or Roger Goodell would be coming in, stepping down hard and I think to a certain extent, we have to not enable this,” said an understandably peeved duBoef. “We do all this professionally to make things happen and I’m not sure that the way things are happening, that when we enable people that aren’t really understanding the business, that it’s good.”
 
REFUNDS
 
The real losers, again, are the fans. A multitude of folks from around the country had booked flights and hotels (which are oftentimes non-refundable) and bought tickets, expecting Rios-Gamboa.
 
When asked about refunds, duBoef explained, “Obviously, we would do whatever would happen normally if a fight didn’t occur, if there was an injury or whatever.”
 
HBO
 
If it’s shown that Top Rank has a legitimate promotional contract with Gamboa with a binding commitment to face Rios and he still backs out of this fight, I think it’s absolutely imperative that HBO (which believed this was the centerpiece of their first half schedule for 2012) takes as hard a stance as possible against such action. Not calling for a lifetime embargo from the network (I don’t know how realistic that is) but HBO should be punitive as can be.
 
How they handle this situation will set an important precedent for the future. Deal with it harshly and boxers and their handlers will think twice about pulling such stunts. Allow Gamboa to skate off easily and you just might green-light more of this behavior. It was bad enough when HBO enabled fighters back in the late-90’s to start their own shell promotional outfits (that did nothing more than allow fighters to collect a higher percentage of the network license fees but didn’t do much in the development of young boxers or markets) but they also marginalized the content providers (the real, bona fide promoters who oftentimes spend years and loads of money to invest in this talent) who at least made an attempt to invest back into their product once in awhile.
 
If there is one advantage that the UFC has- and it’s a big one- is that the talent does not wag the tail. It’s the reason why it can spend much more on marketing and expanding the brand. In boxing, the overwhelming majority of the money goes to the participants (whether their true market value dictates it or not) and too many times, they get to essentially dictate the terms, regarding what they receive and who they face. Say what you want about the UFC (personally, I’m not a fan) but its system seems to create more of the fights that their fan base yearns for and their sport seems to be growing consistently.
 
(If someone even thought about pulling a similar stunt to what Gamboa is doing in this realm, UFC President Dana White would do two things: go ballistic and then merely banish that guy and move on with another matchup. Nobody is bigger than the game or its machinery there.)
 
For too long, the premium cable networks (specifically HBO) were about certain individual fighters and catering to their every whims and desires, not about the overall fight game and its future health. Rios-Gamboa was one of those all-too-rare occasions when boxing seemed to get it right. But once again, certain people inside of the sport couldn’t help themselves. Perhaps in the past they could’ve gotten away with it, especially during the disastrous jock-sniffing regime of Ross Greenburg and Kery Davis, more so if Mayweather was involved.
 
It says here that how they deal with Gamboa (if it’s proven he was in breach of his agreements) is an early test of the new HBO administration led by Ken Hershman.
 
WINDY FLURRIES
 
I’m told that tickets for the Lamont Peterson-Amir Khan rematch on May 19th go on sale Saturday and the prices are $300, $200, $150, $100 and $50...It looks like Kelly Pavlik (who says he’s really enjoying California) will be facing Aaron Jaco (whose father, David, once defeated Razor Ruddock) in his return to the ring, March 31st in San Antonio...So Oscar De La Hoya’s big announcement on Twitter was that he’s not fighting. Uh, yeah, OK...To which the always funny @FauxBobArum tweeted: “Mike Tyson, JC Chavez, and Pernell Whitaker have also confirmed they are staying retired”...My understanding is that the March 17th bout at the Theater in Madison Square Garden between middleweight king Sergio Martinez and Matthew Macklin is doing quite well at the gate...I was told Nike will be getting involved with a couple more boxers...Say it ain’t so! Peyton Manning no longer a Colt? It’s almost unbelievable...Al Golden has his Miami Hurricanes doing everything short of chasing a chicken the way Mickey did with Rocky: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jW0Kbiwkp3Y&feature=player_embedded...I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing.


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