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Brandon Rios Arrives With A Vengeance

By Jake Donovan

For years, the lightweight division has been in search for youth to be served at the top.

Brandon Rios may not be the man just yet, but he certainly arrived with a vengeance.

The 24-year old overcame a deep hole early on to eventually overwhelm streaking Miguel Acosta via 10th round knockout in their alphabet title fight Saturday evening at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas.

Not only did Rios pick up his first major title with the win, but provided boxing fans with yet another Fight of the Year entry to come from the lightweight division.

The win comes less than three months after Humberto Soto and Urbano Antillon thrilled fans for 12 rounds in a bout hailed by several publications as the best of 2010.

It comes almost two years to the date of lineal lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez’ ninth-round starching of Juan Diaz.

In both fights, experience overcame youth, as thirtysomethings Marquez and Soto continue to reside at the top of the lightweight division.

On this Saturday night in Las Vegas, youth prevailed in a big way as Rios (27-0-1, 20KO) became the first fighter in more than seven years to hang a loss on the 32-year old Acosta.

It was no easy feat, as Acosta (28-4-2, 22KO) sprinted out to a huge lead. The concern going in was whether or not Rios could cut off the ring and neutralize Acosta’s speed and range. Those worst fears were realized in the first four rounds as Acosta was putting on a clinic.

Then came the fifth round, in which Rios would work his way back into the fight. By the sixth, the Oxnard native took over for good, scoring the first of three knockdowns on the night, courtesy of a left hand.

Things would go from bad to worse for Acosta, who managed to watch a huge lead dissolve in a manner of three rounds. The Venezuelan found himself on the canvas for a second time, caught off balance as he was nailed with a right hand shot from Rios.

Acosta tried his damnest to make a fight of it in the ninth, with terrific two-way exchanges taking place. However, the fact that he went from boxer to brawler only underlined Rios’ ability to change the dynamic of a fight. Once forcing Acosta out of his element, it was just a matter of time before the Oxnard-based puncher would have his arm raised in victory.

That moment came midway through the tenth, when a right hand from Rios put Acosta down and out for good. The shot came after a flurry of punches that completely sapped the soon-to-be-dethroned titlist, with enough damage applied to where Acosta was unable to leave the venue under his own power, taken to a local hospital afterwards.

To say it was the biggest win of Rios’ career would be a complete understatement. What it instead spells out is his newfound commitment to the sport.

By his own admission, Rios’ heart wasn’t truly into the game until a couple of years ago, when he forever left in the rearview mirror his old hometown of Garden City, Kansas. It’s where his family and friends reside, and where trouble awaits almost every time he went home, racking up numerous arrests and sacrificing time that should’ve been instead spent in the gym.

The promise to his handlers – which include two of the very best in the game, in Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum and renowned boxing manager Cameron Dunkin – to spend all of his time and focus on the sport has reaped major dividends.  His last nine fights have all ended inside the distance, with only a DQ win over Anthony Peterson standing in the way of an otherwise clean knockout streak.

The win over Peterson – a battle of unbeaten Top 10 lightweight contenders last September – was the first true sign that Rios was ready for prime time. The event was believed to be a coronation for Peterson, nine months after watching older brother Lamont fall short in his 140 lb. title bid.

Instead, it turned out to be the worst night of his boxing life and a breakthrough moment for Rios, who scored a fifth round knockdown and absorbed numerous low blows before Peterson was tossed in the seventh.

It was the last time Peterson has been heard from, having not fought since then.

Meanwhile, Rios continues to build on the momentum, even if he still finds the occasional way to shoot himself in the foot.

A video of he and stablemate Antonio Margarito mocking Freddie Roach went viral at the worst possible time, drawing scorn and ire from many in the boxing media ahead of the November 13 pay-per-view event on which they would both appear.

Margarito would go on to take a major beating that night at the hands of pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao. About two hours prior, Rios managed to provide the back end of in and out of the ring damage control.

A press conference held earlier that week saw Rios take the stand and apologize for his actions, even if claiming that he was unaware of Roach’s well-documented Parkinson’s disease. But his fifth-round destruction of Omri Lowther proved to be a far more effective method of winning over the boxing public.

As the saying goes, winning cures many things.

In that vein, his emphatic knockout win over Acosta on Saturday night only adds to the continued progress of his career and his arrival comes at a time when a complete changing of the guard isn’t completely out of the question.

Marquez continues to serve as the division’s true champion, ruling the roost since his 11th round knockout of Joel Casamayor more than two years ago. However, the fights having been requested by the Mexican – grudge matches with Morales (140 lb) and Pacquiao(147) suggests that extending his title reign with future title defenses isn’t how he plans to spend the remaining twilight years of his career.

Not far behind Marquez is Soto, who has looked vulnerable in recent years but still finds ways to win. Up next for the combat-ready Mexican is a May rematch of his Fight of the Year entrant with Antillon, with the rest of his future not immediately clear.

It remains to be seen if Rios can continue to deliver statement-making performances as the level of his opposition continues to improve.

If one thing that’s certain, it’s that it will be fun to watch for however long the ride lasts.

With youth and power on his side, there’s no reason to believe that it can’t last as long as Brandon Rios wants.

Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]
User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by StrangerInTown on 02-27-2011

Gotta give Rios credit. He hung in and chopped Acosta down. Very exciting stanzas all the way through. Rios reminds me of an '80's lightweight named Kenny 'Bang Bang' Bogner. The kid was aggressive, tough and durable. The problem was…

Comment by JakeNDaBox on 02-27-2011

[QUOTE=simonsez02;10165140]I agree with this one. JMM has the edge but not impossible for Rios to beat him.[/QUOTE] To add to what I was saying before, my take is that the longer it takes for the fight to happen, the greater…

Comment by simonsez02 on 02-27-2011

[QUOTE=El 7 Mares V.2;10165071]I agree Jake, JMM is too technical and too methodical even at this stage of his career. However even though Katsidis is as tough as Rios he is not the power puncher Rios is and Katsidis has…

Comment by El 7 Mares V.2 on 02-27-2011

[QUOTE=JakeNDaBox;10164936]Sadly, I don't see it happening. If Marquez stays with Golden Boy, he'll most likely vacate his belt(s) and search for bigger money fights at higher weight classes. If he bolts from Golden Boy, my guess is that all of…

Comment by JakeNDaBox on 02-27-2011

[QUOTE=kadyo;10164824]Hey jake, you think Rios-Marquez has a chance of ever happening? Promotion hindrance is a big issue here. I see, Rios eventually fighting the winner of the soto-antillon rematch.[/QUOTE] Sadly, I don't see it happening. If Marquez stays with Golden…

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