By Keith Idec
NEW YORK — Brandon Rios realizes he isn’t in a position to underestimate John Murray.
The unbeaten WBA lightweight champion is taking Murray much more seriously than the handicappers who’ve installed Rios as about a 10-1 favorite entering their 12-round fight on the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito undercard Saturday night at Madison Square Garden. Higher-profile fights against Yuriorkis Gamboa or Juan Manuel Marquez, Rios’ preferred opponents in 2012, will remain realistic possibilities only if Rios overcomes Murray.
“He’s coming over here, trying to take my title away, which is never going to happen,” Rios, 25, said. “John Murray has a long night ahead of him. I’m ready for him. He thinks that I’m not preparing myself for him, but he has something else coming.”
Murray (31-1, 18 KOs), of Manchester, England, lost his last bout by eighth-round technical knockout against fellow Brit Kevin Mitchell (32-1, 24 KOs) on July 16 in Liverpool. Rios ravaged Southern California rival Urbano Antillon (28-3, 20 KOs) in his last fight July 9 in Carson, Calif., an impressive third-round TKO that marked Rios’ 10th straight win since his 10-round majority draw with Denver’s Manuel Perez (16-7-1, 4 KOs) in October 2008.
“I might talk about [facing other fighters], but I do take my opponents seriously,” Rios said. “Every opponent I face I take seriously, so if he doesn’t think I’m taking him seriously, it’s OK. Let him think that.”
The rugged Rios (28-0-1, 21 KOs) is quickly becoming must-see TV because his fan-friendly style usually initiates entertaining fights. The Oxnard, Calif., resident expects to make quite an impression in his Madison Square Garden debut because Murray, 26, won’t be hard to find.
“He’s a very tough fighter,” Rios said. “He’s a very straight-forward guy. I know he throws body shots very well. But that’s about it. I think I have more defense than him, but we’ll find out Saturday. We’ll see what he’s going to be able to handle because I’ve already changed up tactics a little bit. I’m ready for whatever he brings.”
Robert Garcia, Rios’ trainer, expects plenty of action in the co-featured fight that’ll immediately precede Cotto-Margarito II on HBO Pay-Per-View.
“It’s a helluva fight,” Garcia said. “Murray’s a great fighter. I’m sure he’s in the best shape of his life. That’s what we want. Brandon loves those type of fights, somebody that stands in front of him. He’s ready for it.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.