By Francisco Salazar
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
A pre-fight shoving match that has tens of thousands of views on YouTube. Check. Trash-talking between two opponents. Check. A lesser-known fighter who is characteristically stirring the pot against a fighter who is known to never back down. Check. Just another buildup to a Brandon Rios fight.
Within the past few weeks, members of the media and boxing fans alike have wondered if Richard Abril awoke a sleeping giant in unbeaten and former world title holder Brandon Rios. During a press conference in Miami last month, a shove to the face of Rios by Abril that set off the popular Mexican-American into a tirade that almost started a brawl. From there, the debate began: did Abril sign his own death wish with the popular Rios or did he win a battle of getting under the skin the Oxnard, CA fighter?
Rios will seek to detonate a number of weapons of sorts at the expense of Abril when the two battle in a 12 round bout at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, NV on Saturday night.
The fight will headline the Las Vegas card, but will precede the Juan Manuel Marquez-Sergey Fedchenko bout, which will take place at the Nuevo Arena Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico. Both fights will be a part of the Top Rank Pay Per View card.
Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs) is never at a loss of words in the buildup to a fight. From press conferences to training sessions, Rios is quick to appease boxing writers for quotes in regards to the sport. So it is no surprise that Rios is eager to back up the talk about what he would do in the ring against Abril.
Originally, Rios was to face former unified featherweight champion Yuriorkis Gamboa this Saturday night. Although both reportedly agreed to the fight, Gamboa decided to not go through, fueling initial rumors he had been influenced by the Floyd Mayweather camp, which Gamboa later denied. Gamboa had been training at the Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas prior to the announcement of the fight.
Unbeknownst to Rios or Top Rank, Gamboa did not show up to a Miami press conference to promote the fight. However, Cuban-born Richard Abril was there and a war of words began between the two. It culminated with Abril shoving Rios to the face with his right hand and eventually both men had to be separated.
As Rios prepared for his fight at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, he is eager to put a hurt on Abril.
“I haven’t forgotten what he did to me and I hope he’s ready,” Rios told Fightnews.com last week. “I’m ready. I’m going to make him fight. This guy thinks he’s can beat me or is going to brawl with me, but the only two guys to brawl with me were (Urbano) Antillon and John Murray.”
“He’s not under my skin. He pushed me at the press conference (in Miami) and it was disrespectful. You don’t put your hands to the face of another man. He’s just a shadow. It’s (Saturday night) going to be explosive.”
Rios is coming off an 11th round stoppage victory over Murray at Madison Square Garden in New York City on December 3rd. Although he was the victor, Rios lost his world title belt the day before when he failed to make weight on three separate attempts.
Rios trained alongside Antonio Margarito in the Otomi mountains in the state of Mexico, located northwest of Mexico City. Although Rios trained hard for the fight, he had difficulty losing the last few pounds. In an attempt to lose weight, Rios reportedly did not eat solid foods for five days straight before the weigh in, save for a few glasses of water.
Rios’ camp brought in nutritionist Cicilio Flores, who has worked in training camps with Sergio Martinez. It has made a plus thus far for Rios, who feels a noticeable difference in this training camp.
“My weight has been very good,” said Rios, who will turn 25 at the end of April. “Cicilio has done a good job. I don’t feel drained like I did going into my last fight. It’s been going great.
His trainer, Robert Garcia, agrees.
“It’s been a great training camp,” said Garcia, who has trained Rios since his amateur days. “We’ve added a few things to this training camp that has been a plus. Brandon looks great and looks better in the gym than in his last fight.”
Rios is considered the favorite to defeat Abril on Saturday night. Should he be victorious, there are preliminary discussions of Rios fighting Juan Manuel Marquez in July, should Marquez defeat Fedchenko. Top Rank boss Bob Arum has expressed an interest in the fight taking place at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.
While it could be a lucrative and tantalizing opportunity to face Marquez, Rios is not looking past Abril.
“I know that my name has been mentioned against Marquez. My main focus is on Abril. If we both win, I’m more than happy to face him (Marquez).
While a Marquez fight is a possibility, Rios has to take of things first with Abril. An impressive victory by Rios could put him in that position to fight in big money bouts later this year and into 2013.
His fan-friendly and aggressive style not only attracts Mexican-Americans, but Rios’ following includes other Latinos and Europeans as well.
One only wonders whether Rios will follow through with his aggressive style on Saturday night. Or will Rios attempt to make a statement and end matters early?
Rios is definitely “awake” for this fight and is eager to drop bombs of sorts on Abril. A victory over Abril would be another battle won by Rios in a campaign to conquer the lightweight division.