Salido to fight Gamboa with Rojas out

Updated: July 28, 2010, 5:42 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN

Featherweight titlist Elio Rojas has formally withdrawn from his Sept. 11 unification match against Yuriorkis Gamboa because of hand and shoulder problems, manager Tony Tineo told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

With Rojas out, Gamboa will instead face Orlando Salido, who also holds one of the 126-pound world titles, at The Palms resort in Las Vegas in the HBO "Boxing After Dark" main event, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said.

Rojas, training for the first time with Kevin Cunningham, was having problems with his right hand and left shoulder last week. He broke his Las Vegas camp to return to New York to see his doctor this week and hoped to go through with the bout.

"The doctor recommended that he be out for two months, so the fight is off," Tineo said. "Elio is very disappointed because he wanted to fight Gamboa and prove to the world that he is the best featherweight. He is very, very disappointed. He told me yesterday, 'Oh, Tony, I have all my plans on how I'm going to beat Gamboa and then it all goes down.' I told him, 'We can fight him in the future.' "

Tineo said Rojas (22-1, 13 KOs) hurt the shoulder hitting the heavy bag and was going to have an MRI on it later this week. The right hand, Tineo said, has a bone chip and would require surgery. He said Rojas' hand injury happened during his February decision win in a title defense against former titleholder Guty Espadas.

"The hand was injured in that fight and that is why he didn't knock Espadas out," Tineo said. "Now it's still giving him problems. Elio wants to fight, but as the manager, I spoke with the doctor and we made the decision. We decided no fight because the arm and hand were bothering him too much. We have to follow the doctor's instructions. This is his future. I can't send him into a fight with damage. I can't let him fight with an injury."

That leaves Gamboa (18-0, 15 KOs), the flashy Cuban defector, to go back to facing Mexico's Salido (34-10-2, 22 KOs). They had been scheduled to unify their titles on HBO on July 24, but Salido suffered a cut in his split-decision, title-winning effort against Cristobal Cruz on May 15. The cut had not healed enough to allow him to train properly for a July 24 fight.

When HBO moved Gamboa to September, it asked Top Rank to make another run at Rojas, the network's preferred opponent all along.

"We had Salido and wanted to make that fight. HBO wanted Rojas," Arum said. "So they went to [Rojas' promoter] Don King and they got Rojas done. And then Rojas got hurt and he can't fight and now we've gone back to Salido and HBO has OK'd Salido. Salido is a big puncher and it probably will be a more exciting fight than Rojas anyway because Rojas is more of a boxer. The fight with Gamboa should be a really good fight between two big punchers."

By taking the fight with Gamboa, Salido will scrap a planned Sept. 15 defense in Mexico, Arum said.

Arum said HBO asked Top Rank to reconsider trying to make a deal for Gamboa to face Celestino Caballero, the former unified junior featherweight titlist who moved up in weight and made his HBO debut with a tremendous performance against Daud Yordan in April.

"We said, 'Listen, it's only about a month until the fight and the big guy [Caballero] towers over everybody,' " Arum said. "You have to get the right sparring partners. It's not fair to do that to Gamboa on short notice. But what I told HBO is that we have no problem fighting the guy next as long as the money is right. I even told them we'll do a nice Caballero fight on one of our pay-per-view undercards as long as it doesn't cost me a lot of money and we can set up the fight next."

The Sept. 11 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 is ESPN.com's boxing writer.