After losing back to back fights against Mike Alvarado and Manny Pacquiao, Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23 KOs), is now on the comeback trail. Before losing the first fight of his professional career in what would be 2013’s Fight of The Year with Mike Alvarado, Rios was undefeated and one of the hottest fighters in the sport. I remember interviewing Rios the weekend of Pacquiao-Marquez IV in Las Vegas. He was coming off of the biggest victory thus far in his career: a 7th round TKO win over Alvarado in their first bout. Rios was confident, and eager to take on the winner. Particularly if the winner was Manny Pacquiao.
As history would have it, Pacquiao did not go on to win that weekend, and Rios would have to wait to take on Pacquiao. So instead of Rios landing a dream fight with Pacquiao, he would have to sign on to go through hell and back again with Mike Alvarado. The enthusiasm that Rios was brimming with for a potential Pacquiao fight was not there heading into the grudge match with Alvarado. Instead it would be Mike Alvarado, hungry for revenge, who brought the intensity and focus into their rematch. After slugging it out with Rios and coming up short in their first bout, Alvarado would mix in some boxing with his brawling to upend Rios over twelve excellent rounds. Alvarado would have his revenge, and Rios’ unblemished record was no more.
Despite losing to Alvarado, it was still Brandon Rios who would ultimately get the shot at Manny Pacquiao later on that year. Promoter Bob Arum felt as though Rios-Pacquiao could produce more fireworks than a potential Alvarado-Pacquiao bout, stating Rios was the more fan friendly fighter to watch. However, the loss to Alvarado coupled with Pacquiao himself coming back from being brutally KO’d made landing a fight with Pacquiao less of a jackpot than it once was. When Rios was undefeated and Pacquiao had not yet been detached from his senses in his fourth bout with Marquez, Rios was chomping at the bit to get his opportunity against the Filipino icon.
By the time the fight was actually signed in late 2013, Rios seemed happy just to be in China making the biggest payday by far of his career. After having his defensive weaknesses exposed by Alvarado, a cautious Manny Pacquiao would implement a similar game plan and also look to outbox Brandon Rios. That game plan would go on to be successful as Pacquiao was met with little resistance from Rios, who again lacked the intensity his followers have grown accustomed to seeing. Rios has even said so himself in the months following the loss to Pacquiao that he “Should have said F*** it, and fought the way I always have.”
In both of his losses to Pacquiao and Alvarado, Rios was out thought, more so than he was out fought. It is highly unlikely that Rios’ opponent for Saturday night, Diego Chaves (23-1, 19 KOs), will even attempt to do the same. In Chaves, Rios is almost looking in the mirror at himself. Chaves is a hard punching, come forward fighter who is going to beat you down with his will, not skill. Just like Brandon Rios. If Rios is not prepared for war this Saturday, then he will not risk getting outboxed again. Instead, if Rios is taking Chaves lightly, then he risks tasting the canvas for the first time in his professional career. Rios has never been down or knocked out, but that can all change as Diego Chaves will look to defeat Rios at his own game.
Brandon Rios has said he has found the fire again to compete, and that his training for this bout has been superior to his camp for his last two fights. At the same token however, Rios admitted to never studying Chaves. Stating “I don’t know if he is a puncher or a boxer.” We will have to wait and see.
Whatever happens, wether Rios thrills the crowd with a comeback KO, or if he losses his third consecutive fight, Boxing fans just want to see the fire and excitement back from Brandon Rios. He has the perfect opponent in front of him in Diego Chaves to give Boxing fans a Fight of The Year type of a fight. He will not have to worry about chasing and finding Chaves, Rios can do what he does best. Saturday night in Las Vegas, we will see if Brandon Rios still has what it takes to be one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the sport.