On Saturday night, Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2) will return to pay-per-view but he will be facing a foe you may not be familiar with. In his last few pay-per-view forays, the Filipino Congressman faced Juan Manuel Marquez, a future hall-of-famer and Mexican icon; Timothy Bradley, who had been featured in numerous premium cable main events prior to facing Pacquiao; Shane Mosley, a future hall of famer who was famous for his pay-per-view victories over Oscar De La Hoya; and Antonio Margarito, fresh off his successful pay-per-view victory over Miguel Cotto and infamous for the hand-wrap scandal. All of these opponents were at least known to boxing fans and the general public. Pacquiao’s opponent, Brandon Rios (31-1-1), may not have that level of notoriety. However, the name Rios may be familiar to you but you just don’t know where you heard it. If so, here are six ways you have heard of (or should know) Rios:
- The Garden City, Kansas and Victor Ortiz Connection
If you are not familiar with Rios, you are probably familiar with Victor Ortiz who faced Floyd Mayweather on pay-per-view in September, 2011 and was featured in HBO’s “24/7″ reality series leading up to that bout. One of the major storylines during that “24/7″ was Ortiz’ rise from abandoned child in Garden City, Kansas to major boxing star. Ortiz’ start occurred in Kansas when he became involved in amateur boxing. While an amateur, Ortiz was discovered by the Garcia family (Father and trainer of Fernando Vargas, Eduardo Garcia, former titlist Robert Garcia and Danny Garcia) and moved to Oxnard, California to continue training. What is not well-known is that Rios was an amateur standout who was also discovered by Robert Garcia and moved to Oxnard to train. Throughout all of this, Ortiz and Rios were friends. Then, before Ortiz’ 2009 fight with Marcos Maidana, Ortiz fired Eduardo and Robert due to a personal falling out and hired Danny as his trainer. This not only caused a rift in the Garcia family, it obliterated the friendship between Rios and Ortiz as Rios sided with his trainer, Robert. In fact, Rios would take the rift public by slamming Ortiz on numerous occasions calling him a “mother f—–g crybaby” and a nobody, alleging that Ortiz has exaggerated about his troubled childhood for media attention and challenging him to a fight.
- Welcome to Premium Cable Television
On September 11, 2010, two fights after signing with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, Rios got an excellent opportunity for wider exposure when he faced fellow unbeaten lightweight prospect Anthony Peterson in the opening bout of an HBO “Boxing After Dark” telecast from the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada featuring Yuriorkis Gamboa. Despite the opportunity, most boxing experts were opining that this would be a quick visit to the big time for Rios before he was sent back to the minor leagues. At the time, Anthony Peterson was thought to be the better Peterson prospect and viewed to be better technically and a harder puncher than his brother Lamont. He was a heavy favorite against Rios. Nevertheless, Rios was extremely impressive in pressuring Peterson and working him over with hard shots to the body and the head. The beating got progressively worse and Anthony Peterson began looking for a way out. The way out he found was low blows which earned him point deductions and an eventual disqualification. Rios, meanwhile, had earned valuable exposure and respect as a top-ranked lightweight.
- Guilt By Association
In the lead up to Pacquiao’s 2010 bout with Margarito, Rios became close with the “Tijuana Tornado.” The two were in the same training camp, run by Robert Garcia, in Mexico and became close friends. This did not sit well with a lot of fans because they viewed Margarito as a cheater who, at the very least, tried to use illegal hand wraps against Mosley and possibly used them in other fights. Then, in a video interview with an AOL reporter, Margarito and Rios mocked the fact that Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach suffers from Parkinson’s Disease. It was a particularly disgusting display and it did not earn Rios any fans. Rios later apologized for the joke and it appears that the matter is water under the bridge. Roach was extremely angry at the time and this may be something that rises to the surface during fight week.
4. Lightweight Titleholder
Just six months after the Peterson victory, Rios was matched with WBA lightweight titleholder Miguel Acosta in a Showtime televised main event. Again, boxing experts were predicting bad things for Rios. This time it was thought that Acosta’s awkward boxing style would befuddle Rios and cause his first loss. During the early rounds of the bout, that appeared to be the case as Acosta moved well and built an early lead. Rios kept working though and his pressure eventually wore Acosta down and earned him a 10th round knockout. More importantly, it earned Rios a world title.
- Not Making Weight
After making his first title defense in an exciting three round war with Urbano Antillon, Rios was given the co-featured bout on the Miguel Cotto-Margarito 2 pay-per-view from Madison Square Garden. This was another great opportunity for more exposure. Rios eventually won the fight against John Murray by 11th round TKO. However, Rios lost the WBA title because, the day before, he failed to make the 135 pound weight limit. His struggle to make the weight was captured by HBO cameras and he looked absolutely horrible at the weigh in. Despite expert and media calls for Rios to move up to the junior welterweight division, Rios was set to return to 135 pounds for a highly anticipated fight with Gamboa. When Gamboa pulled out of the fight, Rios instead faced Richar Abril for his old lightweight belt. Again, Rios failed to make weight. Unlike the Murray fight though, Rios performed terribly and most feel his split-decision victory was the product of highly questionable judging.
- Is Rios the Next Arturo Gatti?
Throughout his career and despite any notions of Rios’ lack of refined boxing skills or defense, boxing media, commentators, experts and fans have all been enthusiastic in their praise of Rios as an action fighter and television-friendly boxer. In particular, his performances against Peterson, Antillon and Murray were very entertaining. Simply put, Rios was a fighter who hit his foes and got hit. At 140 pounds, Top Rank had another such fighter: Mike Alvarado. Expectations for the first fight were sky high and people were already thinking trilogy and mentioning Rios-Alvarado along the same lines as Gatti-Ward and Barrera-Morales. The two fighter did not disappoint as they engaged in a rock’em sock’em affair that Rios won by 7th round stoppage. Earlier this year, they did it again with Alvarado winning a 12 round decision in a fight that was better than the first. The rematch was Rios’ first loss but in no way diminished his standing. Rios pressed the action in that fight and gave almost as good as he got. Now, he faces the ultimate action fighter of this era: Manny Pacquiao. It appears to be another can’t miss action fight.
Tags: Boxing, Brandon Rios