New Faces: Brandon Rios
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Weight class: junior lightweight/lightweight
Height / reach: 5-9 / 70 inches
Amateur record: 230-35 (reported)
Turned pro: 2004
Pro record: 19-0-1, 13 knockouts
Trainer: Roberto Garcia
Manager: Cameron Dunkin
Promoter: Top Rank
Best night of pro career: Rios overcame the quicker hands and fast start of Ricardo Dominguez (then-24-3-2) to outwork, outslug and narrowly outpoint the Mexican prospect over 10 brutally intense rounds last May. The split-decision verdict is more an indication of the location of the bout (Aguascalientes, Mexico) than the actual action, which Rios dominated over the second half of the fight with relentless pressure and a two-fisted body attack that smothered the game Dominguez, who beat undefeated (18-0) prospect Rafael Guzman and fringe contender Guadalupe Rosales in his next two bouts.
Worst night of pro career: Struggled mightily with Manuel Perez (then-12-4) en route to a 10-round majority draw last October. Rios simply didn’t train as hard as he should have in preparation for the bout, which took place in the high altitude of Denver, Colorado, ran out of gas early, and was outworked by Perez over the middle rounds of the bout. To his credit, Rios rallied in the final two rounds, but his form was sloppy and his punches lacked power.
Next fight: Takes on Mexican prospect Oscar Meza in the 10-round main event of an Azteca America-televised card from Buffalo Bill's Star Arena in Primm, Nevada on Saturday. Meza (18-2, 16 knockouts), a 22-year-old puncher from Sinaloa, is on a 12-bout win streak that includes a decision over fellow prospect Jorge Paez Jr.
Why he’s a prospect: Rios is a strong-willed slugger with a solid amateur background that culminated in a 2004 U.S. championship gold medal (in the 125-pound division) and an alternate position on 2004 U.S. Olympic squad. His amateur experience adds to his relaxed and confident nature in the ring and is partially responsible for his sharp offensive technique. (His trainer Robert Garcia should receive a lot of credit for teaching Rios proper balance and punching form). However, what makes the Garden City, Kansas native special is something that can’t be taught by even the greatest trainer — HEART. Rios has shown the ability to respond to adversity in the ring. He was dropped twice from body shots in the first round of his fight with Joel Ortega, his ninth pro bout, in January of 2006. Twice Rios, in obvious agony, got up. The 19 year old fought his way back into the fight and stopped Ortega in the fifth round of a brawl. He was badly cut over one of his eyes in the early rounds of his barnburner with Dominguez, but never allowed the blood and impaired vision to deter him.
Why he’s a suspect: Despite having an excellent young trainer and amateur seasoning, Rios is severely lacking in defensive technique. Too often he struggles with lesser talented and lesser experienced fighters and sometimes loses focus while fighting. He barely got out of the first round with Ortega, a rank journeyman. He struggled to an eight-round split decision over Carlos Madrid (then-8-2-2) in his 15th pro bout in 2007. And there was the let-down vs. Perez. “It’s frustrating,” admits Rios’ manager Cameron Dunkin. “I know the kid can fight. I know he’s got the ingredients to be something special but four and half years into his pro career he still hasn’t had that great performance. Some guys — like Steven Luevano or Kelly Pavlik — show you glimpses of their true potential early on in their pro careers. Brandon hasn’t done that yet. He’s sort of banged his way to where he is now. He’s got to make a statement against Meza. He’s got to look very good this weekend.”
Story lines: Rios followed his older brother to the boxing gym and began training and competing at age 10. The area where he was born and raised, Garden City, Kansas — a small (under 20,000 residents) plains town in the western part of the state — is not a hotbed for boxing. There were only two gyms in the town, so while he fought often as a pre-teen and teen, his opposition was relatively weak. Rios usually boxed the same kids from his gym and the rival boxing club, which didn’t aid in his development. He was usually eliminated at the regional level of the major tournaments (U.S. Nationals, Golden Gloves, PAL) and didn’t make it to the nationals. However, he (and fellow Garden City native Victor Ortiz) caught the attention of Robert Garcia at the 2003 Golden Gloves nationals, where Rios made it to the semi-finals. The former IBF 130-pound titleholder took both Kansas standouts under his wing and brought them to Oxnard, Calif., to live and train. The move to the more competitive gym environment (at La Colonia Boxing Club that spawned both Garcia and Fernando Vargas) had an immediate effect on Rios, who entered the 2004 U.S. Championships as an unranked participant but upset the odds by winning the 125-pound division title. He has continued to improve in the pro ranks in terms of his physical strength and offense, but he lacks defense and consistency. Dunkin says for years he remained a homebody and often made repeated trips back to Garden City, where he would lose his conditioning and focus. If Rios wishes to be more than an entertaining TV fighter he will have to dedicate himself 100 percent to his chosen profession.
July 23rd Raul Montes TKO 3
Aug. 27th Abraham Verdugo TKO2
May 1st Ricky Ponce KO 1
June 3rd Gerardo Robles TKO 3
June 18th Ramon Flores TKO 1
July 15th Jaime Alvarado TKO 1
Sept. 30th Angle Mata UD 6
Nov. 25th Mike Pare UD 4
Jan. 20 Joel Ortega KO 5
March 3rd Freddy Castro TKO 3
May 5th Juan Figueroa TKO 6
Sept. 8th Wayne Fletcher KO 3
Oct. 13th Elias Lopez UD 6
Dec. 22nd Humberto Tapia UD 8
May 25th Carlos Madrid SD 8
March 14th Alvin Brown TKO 2
May 17th Ricardo Dominguez SD 10
July 25th Sandro Marcos TKO 2
Oct. 3rd Manuel Perez Maj. Draw 10
Dec. 19th Carlos Guevara KO 5
Homepage photo of Rios by John Booze-Fightwireimages.com
Doug Fischer can be reached at [email protected]