From relatively early on in Brandon Rios’ professional journey, it was clear what kind of fighter he’d be. Don’t get me wrong, ‘Bam Bam’s rise to prominence was far from rapid but once he began to emerge on the world stage, his role was rather easy to read. Though he claimed the WBA Lightweight crown as a still undefeated fighter, Rios lacked the shine of your usual unbeaten American belt-owner. Instead his rugged style came with certain vulnerabilities but a consistent excitement nonetheless.
Either way, Rios only notched up one defense before disappointingly losing his title on the scales. Champion or not, Rios maintained his undefeated record opposite John Murray before meeting Richar Abril in a controversial affair. Whilst most onlookers felt that the Cuban deserved the 12 round decision win, Rios got the nod and contentiously kept his 0. Regardless of result, those aforementioned vulnerabilities that had long surrounded Rios’ success were seemingly now proven as undeniable. With the right opponent though, ‘Bam Bam’ was still a fighter capable of providing great entertainment and that’d soon become clearer than ever.
Matched opposite fellow undefeated contender Mike Alvarado, Rios did what he’s most comfortable doing and walked right into the fire, creating immaculate drama from the very first bell. After some highly competitive and action-packed opening rounds, Rios’ consistent attacks eventually began to break his foe down as he scored a dramatic 7th round stoppage win. The fight had been a superb one and after much acclaim, a rematch was soon booked in the hopes that these two ambitious warriors could put together a magical new boxing rivalry.
The pair’s rematch would start the same as its predecessor with both men being rocked early in some wild exchanges that enthralled the Las Vegas crowd. However, Rios’ inability to adjust left him limited in approach and Alvarado’s more focused movement exposed that more than ever. In the end, Alvarado had quite clearly won a majority of the rounds and came out the deserved victor, his more thoughtful approach had simply been too much for Rios on this occasion.
With his undefeated record now gone, Rios had built up more than enough goodwill to maintain a presence in the boxing world and his next fight would show that. Picked as Manny Pacquiao’s first opponent following that famous Marquez loss, Rios had the chance to defeat a legend and almost immediately erase his recent Alvarado loss. On fight night though, Rios simply couldn't made much of an impact at all as Pacquiao handily outscored him for a very wide unanimous decision win. Skill-wise he was outgunned and stylistically outmatched, Rios’ limitations had made him the perfect comeback opposition for ‘Pac-Man,’ not that there’s any real shame in that.
Rios wouldn't get straight back in the win column either as a post-fight failed drug test delayed things until an equally disappointing return to the ring. Nine scrappy rounds opposite Diego Chaves resulted in a controversial disqualification win for Rios, who’d been unable to regain much momentum at all. With his opportunities on the world stage seemingly dwindling and old rival Alvarado in a similar position, the rubber match now made more sense than ever and it was quickly made too, with Rios heading to ‘Mile High’s home-state of Colorado.
Though on paper the fight was clearly a good fit, it was quickly apparent that things just wouldn't be the same this time around. With some issues going on before the first bell had even rung, Alvarado simply looked like a damaged and declined version of himself and that translated to his performance too as Rios battered him, forcing a corner stoppage after just three rounds. The focus post-fight was very much on Alvarado’s saddening showing but Rios could only beat the man standing in front of him and he’d done that, quite impressively too.
However, any momentum Rios had gained from that validating night was soon lost as he took on Tim Bradley in November 2015. From round one Rios was outfought and in the end stopped after a flurry of body shots mercilessly brought an end to his night. Following the fight Rios announced his retirement and in doing so, sounded quite level-headed but just over 18 months later, he’d make his return. It’d be an initially successful one also, as he stopped Aaron Herrera and looked quite rejuvenated in doing so.
With that win under his belt, Rios now finds himself with one final shot at the big time as he takes on former champion Danny Garcia. Though he’s only 31, fighters with Rios’ approach don’t historically age too well, especially inside the ropes. Nonetheless, ‘Bam Bam’ has entertained boxing audiences enough to deserve this opportunity. With tremendous heart, an iron chin and a genuine penchant for wild brawls, Rios has been a fun fighter to follow on the world stage, especially with the highs and lows that typically come with a style such as his.
Can Brandon Rios beat Danny Garcia? I’m not sure but does he deserve the chance to find out? Absolutely.