Brandon Rios: ‘My back is against the wall’
Brandon Rios first loss as a pro was difficult to accept. The second loss humbled him.
While Rios is a warrior in the ring with a badass personality to boot, making him popular with fight fans, the void of a title belt around his waist was difficult to ignore.
Rios knew what it was like to win a major title, having won the WBA lightweight strap. Over four years and two weight classes later, along with finding that hunger he was missing in recent fights, Rios has another opportunity to repeat that accomplishment. It will not be against Miguel Acosta (from whom he won the WBA title) but one of the best and bravest fighters in boxing today.
Rios will challenge WBO welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley Saturday night at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The 12-round bout will headline a Top Rank Promotions card, broadcast live on HBO, beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET/ 6:30 p.m. PT.
After a one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao in Nov. of 2013, Rios returned to the ring eight months later against Diego Chaves. While Rios won by disqualification, Chaves was up on two judges’ scorecards entering the ninth round.
Many boxing insiders and fans were not impressed with Rios’ performance on that night, raising questions as to whether the popular Mexican-American fighter was on the downside of his career.
In his most recent outing, Rios (33-2-1, 24 knockouts) erased some doubts with his impressive technical knockout over Mike Alvarado on Jan. 24. Rios dominated the action throughout the fight, even scoring a knockdown in round three. Alvarado did not answer the bell to start the fourth round.
Some wonder whether Bradley will be too skilled for Rios’ aggressive style. But the Oxnard, Calif. resident believes his resiliency and boxing pedigree will push him to victory.
“My back is against the wall,” Rios told RingTV over phone in a recent interview. “I’m very focused. Preparation for camp is just like in the first and third Alvarado fights. I’m older and wiser but I’m confident in my style and what I do in the ring. The way I fight was successful in the amateurs and it got me a world title.”
Rios was originally scheduled to fight in June but an opportunity never materialized. Fans wished for a summer fight between Rios and Ruslan Provodnikov but it never materialized since Provodnikov faced Lucas Matthysse on April 18.
Some wonder if the wear and tear of grueling fights with Alvarado has begun to diminish Rios’ skills. However, Rios found a silver lining in not fighting until Saturday.
“As much as I wanted to get back in the ring right away, it was good that I had this long of a break,” said Rios, who is trained by Robert Garcia. “I got to spend time with my family. The break allowed me to rest mentally and physically. I feel brand-new again.”
Rios may need that feeling in facing a high-volume counter-puncher in Bradley, Palm Springs, Calif., who is coming off a June 27 unanimous decision win over Jessie Vargas. The fight was highlighted by a bizarre ending when Vargas hurt Bradley with 20 seconds remaining in the bout. Referee Pat Russell intervened with eight seconds left, believing the 10-second count was the bell to end the round.
Bradley (32-1-1, 12 KOs) has that grinding, tough-as-nails style but he is also a skilled boxer. He is now working with Teddy Atlas, after spending most of his pro career trained by Joel Diaz.
Atlas’ influence on Bradley remains to be seen on fight night but Rios is more prepared for Bradley and not so much for Teddy Atlas.
“His toughness (is what I respect). He’s a warrior. He comes to fight. He’s a boxer and a brawler. I don’t care what he brings, though. I’m ready if he wants to box or if he wants to brawl. What I do in the ring is what matters to me.”
With the exception of the Pacquiao and Chaves fights, Rios makes for good fights. He has been a staple on HBO, especially for his bouts against Mike Alvarado.
He has a grand opportunity to make a statement in winning a world title belt and defeating a fighter as capable and talented as Timothy Bradley. The hunger and passion that seemed to disappear months ago is back and he wants nothing more to prove he is still a fighter to be reckoned with.
“I forgot what got me to the top. I forgot about being humble. I’m still young in the sport and I want to be where I was at before the Pacquiao fight.
“I have a lot to prove to myself. I’m determined to win.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since Oct. of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing.