Gamboa, Rojas agree to Sept. 11 fight
Featherweight titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa will still attempt to unify belts, just not against Orlando Salido as originally planned. Instead, Gamboa will face Elio Rojas to unify two of the major 126-pound titles.
Gamboa and Rojas will meet Sept. 11 in the main event of an HBO "Boxing After Dark" card at a venue to be determined -- although promoter Top Rank hopes to have the fight in Las Vegas -- Top Rank's Carl Moretti said. Moretti said Top Rank and Don King, Rojas' promoter, have come to terms, although they are trading paperwork.
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"We've sent them a draft of the contract for them to review and we're waiting for their comments, but we've agreed on the terms," Moretti told ESPN.com.
Gamboa had been scheduled to face Salido in a unification match on July 24 on HBO in Las Vegas, but the card was scrapped because Salido suffered a cut in his split-decision, title-winning effort against Cristobal Cruz on May 15 and it had not healed enough to allow him to train properly for the bout.
Before Salido got the fight with Gamboa, Rojas had been the target. However, according to Top Rank, issues between King and Rojas' manager, along with the tight schedule, forced Top Rank to turn to Salido, who it also promotes.
Once Salido dropped out and there was more time to make a fight for Gamboa, Top Rank made another run at Rojas because that is who HBO preferred, Moretti said.
"Style-wise, Rojas presents Gamboa with a different kind of fight than Salido," Moretti said. "Salido is right-handed and in front of you and can punch. Rojas is ... taller than Gamboa and not easy to hit. He's more of a pure boxer."
Moretti said there is no rematch clause and that neither side has options on any future fights.
"It's Gamboa's title against Rojas' title. Pretty simple," Moretti said.
King is famous for insisting on options if one of his fighters risks his belt in an optional bout, but he didn't in this negotiation, Moretti said.
"It shows that they really believe they have a shot to win the fight, which they do," he said.
Rojas has wanted a significant fight.
"He wanted this fight. He wanted Gamboa or [titlist] 'Juanma' Lopez, and now he has one, and when he beats him, he would go for another unification fight," Victor Rojas, Elio's uncle and one of his representatives, told ESPNdeportes.com.
To prepare for the fight, Rojas has hooked up with a new trainer, the highly regarded Kevin Cunningham. Cunningham, who is training unified junior welterweight titlist Devon Alexander for his Aug. 7 fight with former titleholder Andreas Kotelnik in Las Vegas, said Rojas joined the camp on June 30.
"They called me and asked me if I would train him," said Cunningham, who first met Rojas several years ago at King's training facility in Orwell, Ohio. "Elio is a good kid. He watched the way I run my camps when we were in Ohio and he has wanted me to work with him and this opportunity came up.
"This could be a very, very good fight. You've got Gamboa, who's coming in with good hand speed and he can punch and he has had his way with everybody he's fought so far. But I think Elio is the most talented opponent Gamboa would have seen so far in his career, so I like Elio's chances. He's going to have to be at his best and extremely sharp, but I see a lot of mistakes that Gamboa makes. I got nine weeks to get Elio ready and he will be ready."
Gamboa (18-0, 15 KOs), 28, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist and defector, will be making his fourth title defense. He is one of the linchpins in the talent-rich division and has become an HBO staple because of his penchant for making exciting fights.
"We think he's a major talent and we'll continue to track his career," HBO Sports president Ross Greenburg said in a recent interview with ESPN.com.
Rojas, 27, a native of the Dominican Republic living in New York, won his version of the title in Japan, scoring a unanimous decision against Takahiro Aoh last July. In Rojas' only defense, he easily outpointed titlist Guty Espadas in Espadas' native Mexico in February.
The planned co-feature is a lightweight title eliminator between Anthony Peterson (30-0, 20 KOs), of Washington, D.C., and Brandon Rios (24-0-1, 18 KOs), of Oxnard, Calif., both of whom are promoted by Top Rank. The winner is supposed to become the mandatory challenger for titlist Miguel Acosta, another Top Rank fighter.
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.