In a fight that lived up to its “Fight of the Year” expectations, Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, 27-0-1 (20), ripped the WBA lightweight belt from the clutches of what looked like an early lopsided defeat by knocking out Miguel Acosta, 28-4-2 (22), cold in the tenth round.
“Dreams are possible,” Rios said afterward.
Rios’ dream started off like a nightmare as the mobile and powerful Acosta was having a right hand festival on his face. Skating around the large ring, Acosta could not miss with the right hand either down the pipe or looping it around Rios’ guard. The younger challenger kept his pressure on without a jab but instead walked to Acosta behind his guard, much to his detriment.
For much of the first four rounds, it was all Acosta, boxing, moving and landing bombs on the move. Rios kept the pressure on and ate shots as he dug to body in spurts, eating more than he or his trainer Robert Garcia wanted him to. Garcia urged Rios to get close and work the body as he stayed at long range. That was never more evident than late in the third round when Acosta landed a brutal combination of two shots to the body and two to the head, followed by a hard right hand that rocked Rios’ world. Rios reeled and ducked under the rest of the incoming salvo, smiling as he came back but he was clearly very hurt.
Rios would later say, “Now I know I have a good chin.”
Despite Garcia’s advice, Rios began to back up in the fourth round and seemed on his way out. Rios was confused by the speed, power and combinations of Acosta, who was coming downhill and pursuing Rios instead of boxing smartly like before. As the round wore on, Rios began to find a bit of rhythm and press forward, digging to Acosta’s body, his head seemingly clear now. Acosta did not know it yet but the first four rounds were as good as it was going to get for him.
“I kept my game plan and kept doing pressure and pressure,” Rios explained.
It paid off. In the fifth round, Rios started digging into Acosta more and more. What was worse for Acosta was that Rios seemed accustomed to his power and began walking through shots. Rios took the action to the ropes, bullying Acosta into the corner and pressing him around the edges of the ring.
“I wanted him on the ropes,” said Rios. “I had to get him on the inside.”
By the sixth, the fight was still white-hot with both men giving as well as they got but Rios shocked us all by landing a left hook to the neck, dropping Acosta out of nowhere with a hard jab to follow. Acosta got up onto his bicycle but was clearly buzzed by the shot. Acosta was in survival mode by the seventh, trying to clear his head by moving and holding. Still, it was hard for the defending titlist to ignore his instincts and fight, which is indeed what Acosta did. Rios stayed on him and kept working that body as hard as possible.
Rios was more economical in the eighth, working inside behind his guard while working the body. Acosta’s shots had lost their steam and snap but kept coming in volume. Instead of positioning himself on the ropes, Acosta laid back and let Rios have his way. Again, Rios hurt Acosta but this time, they were trapped in the corner. Rios got to the body and hurt Acosta and as he tried to skate to his left to escape and Acosta got caught with a Rios left hook that dropped him once again. Acosta rose and made it out of the round but the end was near. All that was left was one last stand from a proud champion.
The ninth round is a clear “Round of the Year” candidate as Rios closed in and went for broke, hoping to end things. Acosta sensed this and responded with hard, heavy leather of his own despite an early slip that showed fatigue. Right hands and left hooks came from both sides like volleys of missiles in a brutal blood feud between warring factions. Neither man gave quarter though it was evident Rios was landing the more meaningful, heavier shots. This type of fight and this type of round is what every young fighter who wants to be a champion should have go through to lift a title. It was humbling to watch.
The tenth round was the end. Rios came out looking as fresh as he ever would. Acosta had a look in his eyes like a man who wished desperately for the clock to run out. Rios ended it quickly by moving Acosta into the corner and unloading a jab to the body followed by a one-two upstairs, followed by another. Acosta began to lose consciousness before a right by Rios finished the job. As he landed, Acosta’s corner immediately draped him in a towel, mercifully signaling the fight was over.
While Rios’ style of taking to give may not make for a long career, it will be exciting while it lasts.
In the co-feature from Nebraska, Antonio DeMarco, 25-2-1 (18), scored a unanimous decision win over Reyes Sanchez, 20-4-1 (11), to become the WBC lightweight mandatory challenger. It was an odd bout featuring a cut over Sanchez’s right eye from the first blow landed by DeMarco. High volume from the awkward Sanchez was overcome by the precision of DeMarco and early on, it was all DeMarco who boxed smart, moving to his right, utilizing his jab and sending in accurate left hand leads. But as the fight wore on, Sanchez began to unload tons of shots. DeMarco stayed passive, throwing single shots and allowing himself to be bullied to the ropes. To someone in the cheap seats, it might appear that DeMarco lost (as boos when the scores were announced would lead us to believe) but this is pro boxing. Clean effective punching beats volume almost every time and that is what DeMarco did best.
Scores were 116-112, 117-111 and 115-113 for DeMarco.