By Francisco Salazar
Brandon Rios has come across a lot of significant men in his life. Some have done wonders for his boxing career, while others he wants nothing to do with.
There are a few men though who have stuck by his side when it was at its lowest point, in and out of the ring. Two men in particular have been there for Rios, giving him the drive to succeed when others were quick to give up on him.
Of course, both men have given Rios a good amount of tough love, something that was necessary at times in his career.
Manuel Rios and Robert Garcia may not be fighting in the ring against Manny Pacquiao on Saturday night, but both have instilled a drive and commitment that few can match.
Brandon Rios will be in the biggest fight of his career, on the biggest stage of his career, when he faces Pacquiao inside the Cotai Arena at the Venetian Resort in Macau, China on Saturday night.
The scheduled 12 round bout will headline a Top Rank card and will be televised on HBO Pay Per View.
Fight fans and media have come to respect Rios for his aggressive and fan-friendly style. His outgoing personality outside of the ring attracts fans to him, whether it be an autograph or to engage in colorful conversation.
The Rios that has been documented on television or has come across in person almost did not happen. While growing up in Garden City, KS, Rios threw mean left hooks to someone on a street corner than in the corner of a ring.
Throwing hands was something Rios got a thrill out of, but it took Manuel Rios, Brandon’s father, to convince him that working in the gym was more relevant than fighting on the streets. However, Manuel Rios was not about to give his son a free pass.
”I remember coming to the gym when I was a kid and there were times he told me to get out,” Rios recalled to Boxingscene.com at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard last week before leaving for Macau, China. “He would tell me, ‘Don’t waste my time if you’re not serious about training.’”
“The thing about that was that it made me strong-minded. The more I worked in the gym, the more I wanted to be there. There were times when I would feel really tired, but my Dad motivated me. I feel that he pushed me forward.”
Rios’ father made the trip to Macau with his son. He also was in the corner when his son won a world title belt from Miguel Acosta in February of 2011.
“Having my Dad here with me has given me more confidence. Having him here is like when I fought Acosta. My Dad’s a great person. I play around like he does, but when we do something in the gym, we focus and we do it right.”
A former fighter himself, Robert Garcia has been in charge of the Rios ship since he made his professional debut in July of 2004. Garcia has been described as a fighter’s trainer, one who understands the fighters he trains, but instilling discipline and structure in the gym.
Few people outside of Rios’ team envisioned he would not only become a world title holder, but to face one of boxing’s top fighters. When fighters are quick to blame trainers, or leave trainers for that matter, Rios has been loyal to Garcia.
The bond both have showed for each other in the gym has also affected them outside of it. Garcia served as Rios’ best man at his wedding a few years ago.
While Garcia also trains world title holders and contenders such as Marcos Maidana, Nonito Donaire, Miguel “Mikey” Garcia, and Evgeny Gradovich, he makes sure to accommodate all fighters equally.
While Rios and Garcia have formed a strong alliance as trainer-fighter, they will again count on each other to devise and execute a game plan to beat Pacquiao. Rios is focusing on the best of what Pacquiao brings, not the fighter who has lost his last two bouts.
“I want to fight the best Pacquiao. I’m not even thinking about his last fight. We had a great camp bringing in and sparring against lefties. It’s given me more confidence and I’m taking this this fight as if it’s a world title fight. Robert devised a great game plan and I’m going to execute it.”
“It’s like a test. I want to ace that test. I feel like I fight better when my back is against the wall and the pressure is on.”
As the fight is now hours away, the magnitude of the event has finally hit Rios. While he had his build-up of fights, in and out of the ring, the young boy from Garden City, KS has finally arrived. While he has made fans in and around his adopted hometown of Oxnard, CA, Rios could build upon the success of a very good career with a victory over Pacquiao.
Not only would a victory over the favored Pacquiao be something special, but it could bring Rios into the light of superstardom in the sport and even casual boxing fans. He has not had the easy road to where he currently is in the sport. Then again, he is never one to expect boxing to give him something easy.
While there are those who pick Pacquiao to win, Rios feels that those who pick against him motivate him that much more. While fans may root for him, he feels complete and ready that two of the most important people in his life and career will be there ringside for him.
“This is the biggest fight of my career. I’m blessed to be where I’m at and I know that I’m going to get the job done. I’ve had a long camp, but I’m ready and I’m going to give it 100%.”
“I’m in shape and feel unstoppable. I came to win and not to lose.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Knockout Nation, and RingTV. He could be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter at FSalazarBoxing