By Chris Robinson
I honestly didn't know what to expect from WBA lightweight champion Brandon 'Bam Bam' Rios during a recent visit to trainer Robert Garcia's Boxing Academy in Oxnard, California recently. Typically a free spirit and an admitted prankster, I thought perhaps Rios' mood might be a bit more subdued because of the recent death of his friend and stable mate Gustavo Rodriguez.
Rodriguez was shot and killed nearly two weeks ago after a day of training at the gym and this past Saturday Rios and featherweight contender Mikey Garcia would show a softer side of themselves by hosting a charity drive with all donations going to his family. Despite the incident still fresh in his mind, the 25-year old Rios was adamant about moving forward.
"It doesn't affect me," Rios claimed. "We lost a friend and we all know that he is in a better place. Why would it affect us when I have to concentrate on my own business? We did a good deed for him and his family. We did a charity fund for him and his family to help out. It seems like nothing happened."
At the moment Rios is wrapped up in his training for his July 9th title defense against former title challenger Urbano Antillon, a man he admittedly has serious disdain for. The two fighters were scheduled to face off with one another thirteen months ago but Rios had to withdraw from the bout due to injury and Antillon was unrelenting with his claims that Rios was ducking him at the time.
The emotions boiled over during a recent press conference for the fight in which each man took their shots at the other and Rios hasn't taken a step back.
"To me, going into the ring, I feel the same way as I did at the press conference," Rios stated emphatically during our conversation. "The motherf*cker was talking a lot of sh*t saying that I've never been tested and that he's going to take me somewhere where I've never been. Even that I would be thinking about quitting. I'm a warrior, I don't quit. So for him to say some sh*t like that, it's stupid for him. I never quit and I won't quit and I hope he does take me somewhere where he's never taken me."
Rios's last fight was a trademark of his abilities as a fighter as he weathered an early storm against Miguel Acosta before turning up the pressure and stopping the Venezuelan inside of ten rounds at the Pearl Theatre inside of the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada. Asked what he felt he showed to everyone that night, Rios' pride shined through.
"That I have a great chin, a tremendous chin," stated Rios. "And that a puncher can always be a boxer and a brawler can take it to a boxer and see what they have. And see if they can maintain their boxing skills with the aggressive pressure. That's what I showed with Acosta and Acosta failed the test."
With Antillon things should definitely be different as the Maywood slugger has shown himself to be happy coming forward and applying pressure of his own. Pitting his style against Rios' figures to make for a barn burner and the young champion wouldn't have it any other way.
"This is the fight that I've been waiting for my whole career," Rios continued. "Hopefully he brings it to me like I've been wanting to do it. I've been wanting to fight so bad, I've been telling my friends and Robert that I have been wanting to go to war. Just go in there and bang the shit out of each other. Just beat the sh*t out each other until one of us falls down. That's the kind of fight I've always wanted. This fight is like that and hopefully he brings it like that."
Without looking too far into the future, Rios did make a point to mention fellow lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez as a man he would love to face soon. The Mexico City marvel has great timing and accuracy with his punches and it would be interesting to see him in there with Rios but for the moment Marquez has business of his own to handle in the form of a November 12th date with Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand.
Pacquiao and Marquez had two razor-thin battles previously but Rios is in the majority when believing that Manny is too much right now.
"I think it's going to be easier for Manny this time. No disrespect to Marquez, he's a Mexico but I think it's already time for him to hang up his gloves because Manny Pacquiao, I think he's just on a different level right now. He's been fighting at a heavier weight and he's been taking these heavier punches from heavier guys. So I think he will beat the guy easier this time."