Ronny Rios: I don’t think people have seen the best version of me
SAN ANTONIO – Ronny Rios wants to prove a veteran fighter who has enjoyed a rebirth can learn new tricks. He also wants to win a world title, something he has yearned in his near-15 years as a professional prizefighter.
Rios will face Murodjon Akhmadaliev Saturday night at Tech Port Arena, in San Antonio, Texas. The 12-round bout will precede the main event bout between WBC junior bantamweight titleholder Jesse Rodriguez and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai.
Both fights will stream live on DAZN (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).
At Friday’s weigh-in, Akhmadaliev, who will defend his IBF and WBA unified junior featherweight titles, weighed in at 121.2 pounds. Rios weighed 121.8 pounds.
The clash between Akhmadaliev and Rios will put two of the top junior featherweights in boxing against each other. The 27-year-old Akhmadaliev and Rios are ranked Nos. 2 and 8, respectively, by The Ring.
Rios (33-3, 16 knockouts), who resides in Santa Ana, California, has not fought since February 13 of last year, defeating Oscar Negrete by unanimous decision. Rios was scheduled to face Akhmadaliev on November 19 but had to withdraw from the fight after testing positive for COVID-19.
Akhmadaliev ended up facing late-sub Jose Velasquez, of Chile, who gave a decent account of himself before losing by unanimous decision to Akhmadaliev. Rios watched the fight and picked up more attributes about Akhmadaliev.
“Before I had to withdraw from the [Akhmadaliev] fight, my team and I saw some weaknesses in his style,” Rios told The Ring earlier this week. “When we saw his last fight [against Velasquez], we saw much more. We had a game plan for him during the first fight but we added a few more things from what we saw in the last fight. We prepared the best we could in training camp. Now it’s just a matter of executing that game plan.”
Saturday will mark the second time Rios will be fighting for a world title. In August 2017, Rios challenged then-WBC world junior featherweight titleholder Rey Vargas, losing by unanimous decision. Rios has suffered stoppage losses to Robinson Castellanos in October 2014 and to hard-hitting contender Azat Hovhannisyan in March 2018.
The 32-year-old Rios has won his last four bouts since his loss to Hovahannisyan. Rios believes the boxing world has not seen the best of him.
“I think people look too much into my losses,” said Rios, who is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. “People don’t look into what I do well or solid wins I have. I don’t worry too much about that. All I do is focus on me as a fighter.
“I don’t think people have seen the best version of me. I put in work inside the gym and I believe I’m a better fighter now than where I was four, five, six years ago. I learn something new every time I’m in the gym. I believe I can win this fight Saturday night.”
Rios is the older brother of welterweight Alexis Rocha, who is also promoted by Golden Boy. According to Rios, both train alongside one another and push each other during camp.
“We’ve gotten closer and we push one another,” said Rios. “Whether my brother trains with me or not, we both have that self-motivation to be at our best. It’s great working together but he has his career and I have mine to still make a mark in the sport.”
A win over Akhmadaliev would have a significant impact on Rios, both in and out of the ring. Rios was a top amateur standout when he made his pro debut at the age of 18 in October 2008.
“Winning a world title belt would mean everything to me. I want to show my son that, despite the obstacles I faced, you can accomplish anything. Beating Akhmadaliev would show that.
“I can also fulfill my lifelong dream of winning a world title. That’s why this means everything to me. I believe it so much that I trained to my best for this fight. I know I can win.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for The Ring since October 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Francisco also covers boxing for the Ventura County (California) Star newspaper. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter @FSalazarBoxing.