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Rios Confident, Ready to be the “Bigger, Stronger, Faster Guy” vs Pacquiao

November 1, 2013

News

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If you take the 101 Freeway, you can leave the bright lights and bustle of Hollywood and arrive in Oxnard in about an hour. As you roll through open roads, surrounded by miles of arable farmland and vast industrial estates, you feel like you could be just about anywhere in the heartland of the United States, such is the low key and blue-collar feel of the area, and certainly a million miles from the craziness of Los Angeles.

Tucked away on the edge of town is Robert Garcia Boxing Academy where the former IBF Super Featherweight Champion trains an impressive clutch of current beltholders and contenders like Nonito Donaire, Marcos Maidana, his brother Mikey and the star of todays show, Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios. Rios and Robert hosted an open workout for the boxing media in advance of his PPV superfight with Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China on November 23rd.

Rios has never been a shrinking violet, and from his arrival in a frankly insane luminous orange off road vehicle that he parks INSIDE the gym, he’s obviously comfortable with the attention and clowns endlessly with TV crews, reporters, fans and family. From the welcome he got from fellow fighters and trainers, it’s clear he’s a popular and a central figure in the gym. Evidently, Rios thrives as the alpha dog role, which most certainly isn’t the role most onlookers have predicted that he will play in this, the biggest fight of his career so far.  An added dimension to this fight is that Garcia has been here before with Antonio Margarito, who he trained for his 2010 fight with Pacman, a lopsided defeat for the controversial Mexican fighter who Rios is often compared to stylistically.

Indeed, many think that, after two consecutive defeats including his devastating KO loss to Juan Manuel Marquez last year, that Pacquiao picked Rios specifically for that reason, an opponent who is the opposite of Marquez and Bradley, who will bring the fight to Pacquiao and present a much more static and perhaps predictable target. Margarito seemed tailor made for Manny and if the old “styles make fights” cliche is going to be used, some might use it here in Manny’s favour. Robert Garcia of course, disagrees. Garcia spoke to The Heavy Bag, and this is what he said, “That’s what everybody thinks because Brandon does fight similarly to Margarito, but listen, there’s many, many differences and there’s a few that I’m going to tell you, but there’s many more.” Robert continued, “First of all, they made that fight at a catchweight and those few pounds made a big difference to Margarito. Secondly, Brandon is ten years younger and fresher, and this was three years ago. A lot happens in 3 years and 5 fights, the knockout and all of that. Pacquiao hasn’t stopped anyone since 2009, I’m not making this up, it’s there for all to see. He’s fighting a young, hungry guy who wants what he’s got. When he fought Margarito , Antonio had already had huge fights, and he’d suffered a beating in his previous fight (to Shane Mosley) and there was the business with the handwraps. These were all negative things going into that fight, Brandon hasn’t had any of that negativity and he wants to be where Pacquiao is now. Brandon’s last fight he lost on a very narrow decision but it didn’t do him any damage, after the fight Brandon was healthier than Alvarado, you could see that on the night and in Alvarado’s last fight (with Provodnikov). Three years ago we wouldn’t have been ready for Manny, Brandon has admitted that himself, but three years is a long time and these things make a difference.”

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Robert makes a whole lot of sense and his logic seems to be spot on, but one of the things that could make a difference is Rios’ lack of experience with southpaw opponents and also with the blinding hand speed of Pacquiao, whether he’s seen anything like that before.  Alvarado seemed to confuse Rios when he turned lefty at times during their battle in March, but Rios isn’t worried about this. This is what Rios had to say when he sat down with The Heavy Bag. “Yeah I didn’t fight a southpaw since my 4th fight when I was just 19 years old, but that’s something that we’ve been working on with Robert and Eduardo. Against Alvarado I hadn’t prepared for that type of fight where he was going to box, I expected another brawl, but he stuck to his gameplan and I’m proud of him for doing it and that won him the fight. But this time we’ve prepared for someone who will move a lot and who will box and the southpaw thing isn’t anything I can’t handle. We’re ready for the Pacquiao that was wiping everybody out 5 years ago.” Garcia agreed and stated, “As soon as we heard we had this fight we started working with lefties. We brought in great sparring partners and for a little while Brandon was confused and maybe struggled a little bit, but he soon picked it up and became comfortable. We’ve had great sparring with fighters who are even faster than Manny so we’re ready. No problem.”

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This fight will be Rios’ first as a full blown welterweight, and after his well documented struggles making weight in the past, we asked him and Garcia whether they felt they’d finally found the right weightclass. “It’s actually helped me out a lot. In the past at this point I’d just be killing myself and cutting weight and struggling with energy, but you know I feel good and comfortable, I love the way everything feels, I’m still able to train my heart out which maybe I couldn’t do so much before.” Rios told The Heavy Bag. Garcia went even further and stated, “Brandon was a 147 cutting down to make 140/135. When I hear stories about Pacquiao weighing 142/143 or whatever I think this is good for us. We know he likes to do catchweights and this time if he’d insisted on a fight at 42/43 he might have had an advantage, at 147 Brandon is going to be the bigger, stronger faster guy.” Interestingly, Robert added, “My father, after Brandon lost his 135 lb title on the scales, told me, ‘take him straight to 147, even at 140 he’s going to have problems.  But then the Alvarado offer came, and Brandon wanted the fight and we all agreed, he got a good payday from it and we did two fights with him. The first one he showed what he could do and knocked him out and then we came back and maybe the training wasn’t the same, maybe we thought ‘we’ve knocked him out once and this time we’ll do it easier’ and we dropped a decision. But that was a learning experience for all of us and I tell you, at 147, Brandon is bigger than any welterweight out there, I guarantee that.”

So it looks like Rios will carry a decent size advantage into the fight and he’s added Pacquiao’s former strength and conditioning coach, Alex Ariza to his team for this bout. During the workout you could see the ferocity in Rios’s punching, particular his hooks to the body which looked brutal both on the heavy bag and in the ring where he wailed away on one of Garcia’s assistants holding a body guard. After a warm up round on the pads with Garcia, another assistant took over for a more aggressive and purposeful round, where you could see improvements in Rios footwork as he cut off the ring consistently and threw punches in volume that Pacquiao will have to withstand at some point during this contest, if he’s to get his own career back on track.

We asked Rios if Pacquiao’s speed and past firefights had him reconsidering his own approach to the fight, without any hesitation stated, “Honestly, no! I’ve fought people with handspeed before and hey if we’re going to go to war and trade, I’m happy to do that. No problem, but you know, none of us can look at the Marquez fight and take anything from that because you know, that punch could have taken anyone out, that could have happened to me and I could have been knocked the fuck out so I’m not even looking at that. I’m ready for the Manny Pacquiao that was destroying everyone, that’s the guy we’re getting ready for. We don’t know if he’s damaged goods, old or whatever, we’re ready for the man that was dominating the game.” Garcia added by stating, “Again, a few years ago this might have been a bit different, but if he gets into trading with Brandon, then I honestly think that works for us, Brandon’s going to have the power advantage. But look, we’re excited to do this fight and it’s an honour to get into the ring with Pacquiao, he’s one of the best fighters of the last ten years if not the best. Not many people get to say they shared a ring with him and not many people get to say they’ve beaten Pacquiao. Brandon will.”

As far as how Rios feels about getting in the ring a future hall of famer, “Look, I dreamed about this, I always wanted the megafights and now they’re coming. We’ve been around them and now it’s my turn and my pops is going to be with me and it’s been his dream, too. The crowd might be mainly for Pacquiao but that doesn’t concern me, I’m not nervous, the only time I get a little nervous in when I’m walking to the ring, but that goes quick. Every camp, every fight we have is to get to this and this will be my first, but I can’t wait man, I’m ready!”

As an added bonus, this fight also puts Garcia against Freddie Roach, in a battle of arguably the top two trainers in America and even Southern California. Roach recently said that he was more fearful of Eduardo Garcia,  an active part of Team Rios, who, like his son is an eloquent and cerebral boxing man. Robert, though, holds Roach in high regard. “There’s no rivalry there, Freddie’s a great trainer and, of course, I want to work against the best. There’s competition of course, he doesn’t want to get beaten by this 38 year old guy who’s like a young up and coming trainer, I know I wouldn’t want to, and Freddie will be the same. But he’s a real boxing guy and we see each other at local shows and there’s respect there. Before we had a wide stable of fighters we would travel to Freddie’s gym and he’d help us out with sparring partners – the media want there to be more of a rivalry but what it is, we’re both competitors and we both want to win and if you want to be the best you have to face and beat the best.”

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Even during the workout, Rios plays to the crowd and the camera, throwing in some dance moves, inviting boxing scribes into the ring for a spar and even bringing his kids up into the ring. Of course, you need that sort of confidence going into this sort of event and looking at him in action, and with a bright and wily corner behind him, it’s clear that the only kind of dog that Rios is going into this fight, is a live one.

The Heavy Bag would like to thank Team Rios, Robert Garcia and everyone at the Garcia gym for their fantastic hospitality. It was an honour to be present at one of the most prestigious gyms in boxing and we’d like to wish all involved safe travels and a great fight. We’d also like to thank Top Rank and Nancy Rodriguez for access to the event as we work on bringing even more coverage to the sport we all love. Long Live Boxing!

Tim Vigon

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About goldenears71

Tim Vigon. I was born and raised in the UK but moved to Los Angeles in November last year. For years I’ve been addicted to attending live sports, mainly soccer (i followed Manchester United far and wide since 1985) , basketball and boxing. Boxing is in my family, my grandfather worked corners for fighters in London in the 40′s and 50′s and I remember Barry McGuigan’s victory over Eusebio Pedroza when I was 14 years old hooking me into the sport. I was lucky to live through a golden era of British boxing with fighters like Benn, Eubank, Watson, Collins and Hamed, but it was the performance of Marco Antonio Barrera beating Prince Naz that really opened me up to the worldwide game. Ever since i’ve attended hundreds of fights throughout the UK and the USA. I lean towards technical fighters with a warriors’ heart and Juan Manuel Marquez is my favourite active fighter. Twitter - @goldenears

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