He stood in the center of the ring, hands draped across his face.
Richard Abril had worked hard to catch a break and had capitalized on that chance. He had out-boxed Brandon Rios for 12 rounds last April. The scorecards should have been a mere formality. Most people watching on PPV and at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas knew who won.
Then Abril heard the devastating words: “…and still WBA lightweight champion.”
He had been robbed of a title in his biggest opportunity. It took him a while to come to terms with it. Eventually, he did. He promised to get another title shot and this time, he wouldn’t leave it to the judges.
Abril (17-3-1, 8 knockouts) now has that chance in the form of a Showtime Championship Boxing title fight on Saturday against Sharif Bogere at The Hard Rock in Las Vegas, the very same title he rightfully won last March.
“I felt really frustrated because I knew I won the fight and I felt really bad about it. They stole it,” said Abril, who is rated No. 5 by THE RING at 135. “Every fighter has aspirations of becoming a world champion. Anybody who watched absolutely knows I beat Brandon Rios and that I deserved the decision.
“Ever since then, in my heart, I always considered myself the WBA champion. The WBA only made it official [with this match].”
The encounter with “Bam Bam” wasn’t the first time Abril felt he was robbed, though. Abril also suffered split-decision losses to current junior welterweights Hank Lundy and Breidis Prescott.
“They stole the Lundy fight as well,” remarked Abril. “It was pretty much the same thing. Fought in another state, another part of the country. With Prescott, I had jaw problems at the time of the fight — different scenarios.”
The 30-year-old Cuban is a stick-and-move specialist who has been criticized for his style in the past, but he promises a different breed of fighter on Saturday.
“There will be a lot of surprises this Saturday – it will be a different Richard Abril,” he said. “It’s an honor to be fighting on Showtime, boxing in the main event is a really big thing for me. It motivates me even more to put on a good fight for the fans and show them that I’m the real deal.”
The fight with Bogere was originally slated for last fall, but several snags forced two postponements of the fight. Abril says the constant rescheduling has made him antsy to fight. It’s put him in a holding pattern and kept him away from his ultimate goal.
“I think I will be victorious this Saturday and in the future I will want a rematch against Brandon so the people can see who the real winner is,” he said. “I will definitely beat Bogere and the world will know who I am and the world will know that I’m a champion.”
The 24-year-old from Uganda is known for his flashy entrances featuring a live lion. Abril says he isn’t impressed by the show and believes his performance will trump any showmanship on Saturday.
“He’s a lion, but I’m a tiger,” he said. “And the real king of the jungle is the tiger.”
Photo / Naoki Fukuda
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger