SINGAPORE – Brandon Rios is all smiles outside of the ring, but inside it, he’s a beast unleashed.
The come-forward fighter from Oxnard, California is perhaps tailor-made for a guy like Manny Pacquiao, but he brings more to the table than the average boxing fan would expect, and could be faced with the opportunity of a lifetime to send Pacquiao into retirement.
Rios, former WBA Lightweight Champion, finds himself on the biggest stage of his career in Macau, China, as he takes on former pound-for-pound king Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao in a highly anticipated Welterweight bout.
The match serves as Pacquiao’s return to action following a shocking knockout loss to Juan Manuel Marquez in December 2012.
Who is Brandon Rios?
Brandon Rios amassed an impressive amateur boxing record of 230-35, becoming the US National Amateur Featherweight Champion in 2004 as well as serving as a United States Olympic alternate at 125 lbs.
At the 2004 Olympic trials, Rios met former world champion Robert Garcia and since then, the two have forged a formidable alliance. Garcia replaced Rios’ father Manuel as head coach for the budding young star.
In 2009, Rios was signed to Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, debuting with an impressive 7th round knockout of Manuel Perez. Rios had arrived on the boxing scene as a fighter to watch – a high octane, no-nonsense brawler that brought the pain.
His next fight was against the much heralded Anthony Peterson. Rios dropped Peterson with a vicious left hook in the fifth round and looked to be on his way to dominating the fight with his furious body attack.
Peterson retaliated with frustration by throwing a series of illegal low blows, prompting the referee to disqualify him, and awarding Rios the victory. Rios led all 3 of the judges’ scorecards at the time of the disqualification.
Rios then took on Omri Lowther on the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard. Matched up with solid opposition, Rios cemented his claim as one of Boxing’s most promising, young prospects, decimating Lowther, winning by 5th round technical knockout (TKO).
Rios followed up his success in the spotlight with quality knockout wins over tough fighters like Miguel Acosta, Urbano Antillon, and John Murray, and a split decision win over Richard Abril.
But it wasn’t until Rios’ first fight against Mike “Mile High” Alvarado that people began to take notice of his slow but steady climb to the top of the sport.
In an incredible phonebook battle, Rios and Alvarado went to war on Oct 13, 2012. Blood, sweat and tears were shed that night as the two combatants wailed at each other with no regard for each other’s well-being.
Rios took as much as he gave, pushing his opponent to the limit and then some. The fight fell short of Ring Magazine’s “Fight of the Year” honors for 2012 – that distinction belonged to the Pacquiao-Marquez IV fight which saw Pacquiao get brutally stopped with a single shot.
But more importantly, the bout installed Rios as a true blood and guts warrior who never stops coming. Although Rios lost to Alvarado in the rematch by Decision over 12 rounds, it was still more of the same non-stop action the two pugilists have been giving fans for two straight contests.
The Rios-Alvarado rivalry is currently deadlocked at one win apiece. With Alvarado’s recent loss to now new Jr. Welterweight champ Ruslan Provodnikov, the rivalry may no longer be revisited.
As luck would have it, Rios emerged as the winner of the Pacquiao sweepstakes despite the recent setback.
Pacquiao-Rios should answer a lot of lingering questions. Take into consideration Pacquiao’s recent slide, and it appears the window of opportunity, as Rios sees it, is wide open.
Pacquiao hasn’t looked like his whirling dervish self as of late, outputting two lackluster performances in his most recent fights. Add that to a nearly year-long layoff by the time he steps into the ring with Rios, and Pacquiao could be faced with a steeper climb than initially thought.
In addition, Rios’ come-forward style provides some interesting dynamic to the entire matchup. Stylistically, the matchup favors Pacquiao, who is more agile in the ring than the flat-footed Rios.
But Rios brings unique qualities that Pacquiao has not had to deal with in quite a while.
Rios will be right in front of Pacquiao all night with his chin tucked into his chest and his gloves in front of his face. No tape of Brandon Rios exists that suggests he plans to do otherwise. Rios employs a vicious body attack, purportedly Pacquiao’s primary weakness.
To say Rios often digs at his opponent’s midsection is a gross understatement. Rios has one of the best body attacks in Boxing. Pacquiao would do well to have trained properly for this fight, else have to deal with the possibility of being incapacitated with a carefully placed shot to the liver.
Regardless of the outcome, Rios will bring the fight straight to Pacquiao’s grill. If he gets hit, so be it. Rios will grit his teeth and grin through the pain, occasionally beating his chest and egging Pacquiao to pour it on.
That’s just the type of fighter he is – a throwback to the old-school type prizefighter who leaves it all inside the ring.
“No pressure on me,” said Rios, now in Macau, during his daily workout.
“I’ll be the one putting all of the pressure on him November 23rd,” he added. “Marquez took the last bit of life out of him. I’m going to get all of that Manny money when I win and get ready for my next fight.”
“I’ve been training for five months, the longest camp of my life,” Rios said. “This work is what it takes to win a fight like this.”
On the biggest stage of his career, Brandon Rios prepares himself for one of the toughest battles he’ll ever be in.
Manny Pacquiao brings with him the hopes and dreams of an entire nation, who are suffering from the ravaging of history’s fiercest storm. All indications point to Pacquiao bringing that storm with him into the ring against his young opponent. (WATCH: Pacquiao’s road to redemption: The comeback)
But Brandon Rios is prepared to do whatever it takes to weather it, survive it, and win.
“I’m retiring Pacquiao. I said it before and I’ll say it again – Pacquiao’s time is over,” said Rios.
Maybe Rios is just what Pacquiao needs, someone who is easy to find, someone who will be right in front of him the entire fight. The world expects Pacquiao to steamroll right through him, like he has done with so many other opponents before.
Not if Rios has anything to say about it.
The Pacquiao-Rios bout is scheduled for 12 rounds and is for the WBO International Welterweight Championship. It takes place at the Grand Venetian in Macau, China on November 23rd (November 24, Manila time). – Rappler.com