For the last year or two, Ronny Rios has been matched against a series of veterans like Roger Gonzalez and David Rodela, who were chosen to gauge where he was in his development. Tonight, as the main event on the season premiere of “ShoBox,” he is paired with a former world champion in Rico Ramos in a bout that will be contested for the vacant NABF featherweight title. It's reasonable to say (even though Rios is listed as the betting favorite on those sites that do it for “entertainment” purposes only) this is his first 50/50 fight of his professional life.
Rio is no longer in the kiddie pool. It's time to find out if he can swim just a little bit. The training wheels are off; let's see if he can at least take a ride around the block. You get the point.
“Yeah,” agreed Rios, who has a mark of 19-0 (with nine stoppages), “I believe it's my big step up. [Ramos] has a lot of experience; he fought a lot of good fighters and I know a lot of people are seeing if I'm going to be able to make the jump. So I'm really looking forward to showing people that I am.”
His manager, Frank Espinoza, told Maxboxing, “We think 2013 is a pivotal year for Ronny. Last year, he got some rounds in and continued to learn. But this year is where he's going to really show us where he is. Ramos is a former world champion and when they offered us this fight, I thought long and hard about it. But I felt it was time to take the jump and see where we were with [Rios].”
Rios says as he was offered this fight, there was no hesitation in accepting it. You get the sense that he wants to find out just where he stands in this business. Last year, Rios got in 21 rounds against the likes of Jeremy McLaurin, Guillermo Sanchez and David Rodela. During this stretch, he says he never got impatient with the process.
“No, because I can't do anything about the fighters I fight or anything and I never felt I was being short-changed or anything because the people I fought, I wouldn't say they were steppingstones or anything. They do possess some type of threat because anyone with two hands is going to present some kind of threat. And no, I never got anxious or anything. I was just being patient and taking my time,” he said. Rios is still just 22 years old but lost the first part of 2011 while sitting out because of a false-positive for hepatitis. Since then, he's reeled off six straight victories. “I fought a lot of people who had a lot of experience, especially Rodela. He was Manny Pacquiao's main sparring partner and he fought a lot of great fighters out there, especially in the higher weight class. So yeah, I feel like I learned a lot last year.”
And as the calendar turns to 2013, Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez says, “This is the year; this is the year and I think this fight is going to be a great fight with Rico Ramos. A former world champion and it's going to be a test for him but that's what we talked about. We spent the last two years building this guy; this is going to be a breakout year for him.”
According to Gomez, the previous litmus test for Rios was a tough, hard-fought, eight-round verdict over “Speedy” Gonzalez in September of 2011. “That was a very, very tough fight for him but he showed a lot of heart, a lot of guts, a lot of grit and I think that proved to me – and, obviously, the Rodela fight was just icing on the cake. I mean, he handled it very easily - but Roger's a tough veteran fighter. He's one of those guys who's all over the map in gyms and he spars with some of the best fighters and he showed a lot in that fight. [Rios] might have been down in some rounds and he just came back with a lot of determination and he pulled that victory off. So it showed me we can take some chances with him.”
Espinoza, who has managed numerous world champions, says, “That's always the question with young fighters - when do you take that risk and see what they have? With Ronny, he's been a pro for awhile and this will be his 20th pro fight. I thought this was the right time. You can only protect a boxer for so long. There comes a point in every fighter’s career where you have to see what they have. Ramos is a former world champion, so maybe he has the advantage in experience but this fight is at Ronny's weight. So there are a few things that might be in our favor but ultimately, it will come down to Ronny and how he performs.”
Ramos had the misfortune of facing the talented Guillermo Rigondeaux 12 months ago after capturing the WBA super bantamweight title from Aki Shimoda in July of 2011. He was stopped in six by the Cuban southpaw but has since rebounded with a victory over Efrain Esquivias last June.
In the past, Ramos has been more of a boxer who relies on movement but Rios says, “There's two things we're expecting from Rico: He's either going to box like he does or he's going to come forward and try to show us a statement that he's not the little guy. So there's two different things that we're preparing for. I'm going to go off of what's in front of me because there's a lot of fighters out there that practice for certain people and they watch tapes and once they get in that ring, they use a whole different strategy. As far as I know, [Ramos] hasn't fought in six months. He might have developed a new strategy and I'm not going to depend on what he went off of before.”
Another factor is this will only be Rios' second scheduled 10-rounder (his last bout, against Rodela, was a 10-rounder, ending in a ninth round stoppage victory for Rios. It was also the longest fight Rios has engaged in as a professional). If this fight goes just as deep, how will he react in the late rounds?
It could be the start of a significant year for Rios.
But he states, “Right now, I'm not focused on the year; I'm focused on Rico. We're taking this fight very seriously. We always take every fight serious.”
Promoter Yvon Michel confirmed to Maxboxing on Thursday morning that the fight between Chad Dawson and Jean Pascal would not be taking place on March 9th when it was scheduled to go on HBO as a co-feature to Tavoris Cloud vs. Bernard Hopkins. But with his lingering shoulder injury and perhaps more importantly, the NHL getting back into the swing of things, the Bell Center may no longer be available on that date (I guess the Canadiens and hockey are kind of a big deal up there).
Michel says that the fight will be rescheduled for sometime in May and will stay at the Bell Center. So with that, the word is the heavyweight bout between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne, currently slated for March 2nd, could be pushed back a week and be part of a split-site card featuring hard-hitting prospect Gary Thurman, who says he is ready to tackle the whole world of boxing.
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