In the era of the four major world championships, the modus operandi is for a young fighter is to be maneuvered toward the most vulnerable or softest touch in the division in a first attempt to win one of these belts. It could be otherwise considered as “Mark Breland-ing” the way to a title. However, that is certainly not the case when Brandon Rios faces WBA lightweight titlist Miguel Acosta, who has built quite the résumé in recent years with road wins versus Urbano Antillon and Paulus Moses.
This ain’t no Harold Volbrecht or Seung Soon Lee here.
Acosta has seemingly come out of nowhere to be one of the premiere 135-pounders on the planet.
"Everyone’s considering him one of the best out there," Rios told Maxboxing, earlier this week. "He’s very strong; he’s got power in both hands and he’s a good mover. So I consider him one of the best, too. I’m ready for the best; I wouldn’t be in the sport if I’m not going to fight the best. I’m glad I’m fighting him. When I beat him, everyone will probably look at me different and say, ’Damn, Brandon’s not a contender anymore; he’s one of the pound-for-pound [best] out there’- because I want to be one of the best, pound-for-pound."
His trainer, Robert Garcia, says of their Venezuelan foe, who comes in with a mark of 28-3-2 with 22 KOs, "I not only know we’re facing a tough Acosta; I truly believe we’re facing the best lightweight in the world right now. [Juan Manuel] Marquez, I seriously doubt he’s going to fight at 135 again. If he never fights at 135, next to him, then it’s Acosta without a doubt." Rios’ manager, Cameron Dunkin, states, "We know this isn’t an easy fight but if you look at it, [Acosta’s] style is much better than Miguel Vazquez, who has the IBF belt. He’s a difficult, awkward guy for anybody. Not sure we really wanted to face that. We thought Acosta’s style was a much better fit for Brandon and if you’re fighting for a world title, you should expect to fight a guy of this caliber. Robert is as confident in this fight as he was withNonito Donaire before his fight with Fernando Montiel- crazy as it sounds, he thought he’d get him out of there early. But we think this kid’s ready to go."
Coming into this fight at the Palms Resort in Las Vegas, Rios comes in a much less distracted fighter than the one who faced Omri Lowther in Arlington, Texas in November. The fact his fight was moved up three weeks, causing him to have problems with weight, was the least of his problems. Then a firestorm of controversy was ignited when a video of his camp seemingly mocking Freddie Roach and his Parkinson’s Syndrome went viral. At best, it was tasteless and stupid; at its worst, cruel.
Rios, who had so much positive momentum coming in with his breakthrough victory over Anthony Peterson in September, was battered like a piñata during the build-up of that fight card at Cowboys Stadium.
"Y’ know, that thing was a bad video," admitted Rios. "I learned from the mistake and that was a mistake that I did wrong and I learned from it. But like I said, I gotta watch what I do more now. I’m still going to be Brandon but I just gotta watch when there’s cameras around and joke around. With friends, it’s different but when there’s cameras around, I gotta watch what I do in front of the cameras and everything. It’s something I learned from [that] if people can’t get past that, they consider me a bad guy; well, let them be. I said my apologies; I’m sorry for what I’ve done but it was just between camps. It had nothing to do with the illness or anything.
"So that’s behind me now; I really don’t think about that no more. If Freddie Roach and everybody else still thinks about that and everything and still has comments, then let them be. That’s what I say; let them be."
Garcia, who found himself caught up in this story, which became national news, insists, "The intention was never to make fun of the disease like the whole world took it. But Brandon learned his lesson; he knows to be careful with what he says and what he does. Brandon doesn’t think; he just does his thing and will do it without even thinking about the damage that could happen."
"He learned you ain’t in Kansas anymore," is how Dunkin referred to his fighter, who is, in fact, originally from Garden City, Kansas.
There are many out there who will neither forgive nor forget those actions of Rios but as Michael Vick found out this past NFL season, there are those in the public who will if you perform well enough. "I think Brandon’s style and Brandon’s way of fighting, [will] maybe not [coerce fans to] forgive him but it’ll just give the world and the people more to talk about him, dislike him or now, they’re still going to watch him fight because he’s exciting. He’s a fighter that people want to see over and over," said Garcia. "So like him or dislike him, they’re still going to see him fight."
Garcia took his fighter up to Northern California for a spell as he trained Donaire and, according to him, the reception was generally very warm and accommodating.
"Mostly everywhere we go, when people are around us, people seem to like him. We’ll see if people boo at him. I don’t know; maybe they will but it seems like people forget about that already. They see the Brandon that can fight and will fight for the title. They see a person that they want to wish good luck to," Garcia said. "Nobody ever mentioned Brandon talking about Manny [Pacquiao] or Freddie or anything."
Rios hopes his actions in the ring can erase his terrible and unfortunate lapse in judgment.
"Hopefully, that’s the plan; if not, if they’re still going to keep that in their minds- ’Well, he’s an a**hole for what he did to Freddie’ or this and that- well, let them be," said Rios, who has record of 26-0-1 with 19 KOs. "That’s what I got to say because y’ know what? At the end of the day, I don’t have time to think about people’s comments and try to let them affect my career. Like I said, I’m sorry; hopefully, they can forgive me. It was a mistake that I did and hopefully, they can forgive me. If not, life moves on."
After the turmoil in Texas, Rios comes into this fight with peace of mind.
"Right now, I feel freakin’ great. Actually, my conditioning, my weight is doing good right now," said Rios on Monday, who has battled the scales before. "Usually, at this time, I’m struggling with weight but right now, I’ve been training hard. I’m in the best condition of my life. A lot of fighters say that but I think I really am in the best condition of my life right now. And it barely hit me today I’m fighting for a world title. I woke up this morning with my wife and she’s like, ’What’s the matter?’ I said, ’Man, I’m fighting for a world title now; that’s my dream come true.’ I was just tripping out today."
Garcia states confidently, "He’s ready for this. Every day in the mornings, running like never before. I think he knows and he learned so much from running withAntonio Margarito, how fast and how much he runs. Brandon’s dong the same thing. He’s just been training like never before and I can tell you he got very well prepared when he beat Peterson and this time he’s giving it 100-percent more than he did for that fight. We’re going to have the best Brandon Rios inside that ring."
“Bam Bam” admits that the guy you saw on the Pacquiao-Margarito undercard won’t get the job done this weekend.
"When I fought that day, that was the worst performance you’ve ever seen from me. I looked like sh*t; I felt like sh*t. My weight was horrible," he says in typically blunt fashion. "It was eight days notice and I felt heavy, real stiff; I didn’t feel like myself. Everyone’s going to see a big difference in the way I train and when I don’t train. They’re going to see a big difference this fight and my last fight."
Acosta is a big, strong guy, one that is active with his heavy hands and has mobility inside the ring. He’s a hardened man who has come into his own. After a three-fight losing streak early in his career, he has not lost since 2003. Acosta is relatively anonymous but dangerous. More than one boxing insider is tabbing Acosta to come out victorious.
To win this title, Rios will have to earn it. This is no gimme.
"Hopefully, he comes in toe-to-toe with me," said Rios, on what he expects this weekend, "but if he doesn’t, will it be hard for me? No, it may take a few more rounds but other than that, I think it’s something I can handle. It’s something I’ve been training for and I’ve had great sparring partners that fight exactly like Acosta. So anything he brings to the table, I’ll be ready for him."
You may not know it but this weekend’s edition of Showtime Championship Boxing (10 PM, ET/PT) is a doubleheader, as another lightweight tussle takes place between Antonio DeMarco and Reyes Sanchez in the boxing hotbed of Grand Island, Nebraska. Yeah, that’s Gary Shaw once again, proving he’s the best television packager/casino broker in the business. Perhaps the Silverdome was booked this weekend but why take a fighter from Tijuana and place him Cornhusker country (Perhaps it would be a good idea to put this fight in this state if it took place at the halftime of the Nebraska spring game at Memorial Stadium)? But when you get free rooms, board and meals, with no pressure to sell tickets, that’s right up his alley.
If they ever open up casinos in Wyoming or South Dakota, all of GSP’s fighters can expect to soon be fighting there.
But seriously, Grand Island, Nebraska?
Thing is, Shaw doesn’t care if 500 people buy tickets to his “promotions.” Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Vanes Martirosyan makes his return to the ring on March 19th on the Lucian Bute-Brian Magee undercard at the Bell Centre in Quebec, Montreal against Bladimir Hernandez...Plenty of boxing on Friday night, with ESPN2 showing Juan Carlos Burgos-Frankie Archuleta from Tulsa, OK (Artie Pellulo could find a casino on Pluto willing to put up money for his shows, it seems), Telefutura’s “Solo Boxeo” featuring Danny “Swift” Garcia and Telemundo’s bout between Americo Santos and Jesus Pabon. Make sure to set you TiVos and DVRs...For those of you who asked, the wheels are in motion to do another radio show/podcast ala “The Main Event” in the very near future. More details as they come...Lots of trades before the NBA deadline but I can’t help but think that the OKC Thunder became an instant contender while the Celtics may have just lost the Larry O’Brien Trophy....