The Last Call for Brandon Rios
By Hector Franco | Senior Writer and Editor
Published: February 14, 2018
This weekend in the city of Las Vegas, Nevada, former lightweight world champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) will take on Philadelphia’s Danny “Swift” Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) in a crossroads match up. The bout is a WBC (World Boxing Council) final eliminator, giving the winner a title shot against Keith “One Time” Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs). Garcia, who up to last year was an undefeated two-division world champion, will look to get back in the win column against Rios.
Last March, Garcia suffered the first defeat of his career when he dropped a split decision to Thurman for the WBA and WBC welterweight titles. Although Garcia was not knocked down or beaten up in the fight with Thurman, the loss did have an effect on the Philadelphia fighter. By the time, the first bell rings, Garcia will have been out of the ring for almost year. For a fighter in his prime to take off for nearly a year without having suffered an injury or a devastating defeat, speaks volumes about how much the “sweet science” is just as much mental as physical.
For Rios, the bout with Garcia will likely be his final opportunity to get back into world title contention. For his part, Rios has been inactive for the last few years. After suffering the first stoppage defeat of his career against the now-retired Timothy Bradley (33-2-1, 13 KOs), Rios stayed out of the ring for nearly two-years. In the summer of 2017, Rios made his long-awaited return to the ring against Mexico’s Aaron Herrera (33-8-1, 22 KOs). The man known as “Bam Bam” returned to the ring under a new promotional outfit and with a new trainer. After spending a vast majority of his career with promoter Top Rank, Rios decided to take his talent over to Premier Boxing Champions which has the majority of the elite fighters at welterweight. Rios’ return was successful as he was able to stop Herrera in the seventh round with a body shot. For his fight against Garcia, Rios has returned to long-time trainer Robert Garcia, who also trains current WBC lightweight champion, Mikey Garcia. After a few years out of the spotlight, according to Rios, he has a new focus on his career.
Garcia-Rios has been primarily criticized by most fans and pundits as nothing more than a tune-up or showcase fight for Garcia to look good. The loss to Bradley for Rios changed the narrative of his career with many fans who viewed him as a never say die competitor who would never quit. When Rios faced Bradley, he looked burnt out and ready to leave boxing in the past. However, it is possible that at 31 years of age, Rios is being written off too soon.
For all of Rios’ faults and “supposed” lack of skill, the California-based fighter does something that for many of today’s fighters is rare. Rios may not be able to slip a jab and counter ala Floyd Mayweather Jr., but he can fight on the inside. In today’s era, fighting on the inside has become an exercise in grabbing and holding and waiting for the referee to call a break in the action. Against a fighter like Garcia, who is at his best when fighting from mid-range distance throwing hooks, Rios has the opportunity to make the fight a grueling affair where he can wear down his opponent. An excellent example of an opponent fighting on the inside and taking the fight to Garcia working well is in the second-half of Garcia’s fight with Lamont Peterson.
Fighters like Rios have always been taken for granted by boxing fans. Fans love to discuss and debate who is the best pound-for-pound and mythical matchups between fighters of today and yesterday’s era. Boxing is one of the few sports that has infinite replay value. Boxing matches can be similar to a great film, where you can put on a classic fight from the past the way you may put on a classic film you enjoyed. In Rios’ case, he has plenty of classics to be played on repeat. While some fans are fickle, there are those who remember the excitement and passion in which Rios chooses to fight.
Rios lightweight run produced memorable fights against Miguel Acosta (29-9-2, 23 KOs) and Urbano Antillon (29-3, 21 KOs). Nobody will forget Rios’ memorable trilogy against Mike Alvarado that produced two fight of the year contenders.
Balance is vital in all aspects of life and boxing is no different. For every fighter, that can fight on his back foot, and counter-punch his opponent to death, their needs to be a fighter who produces entertaining fights for those at home and in attendance. Rios, this weekend against Garcia has one more chance to deliver another classic encounter. This weekend is the last call for Brandon Rios. One more shot at glory could put him back into boxing relevancy.
(Feature Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank)