NEW YORK— Born in Texas, reared in Kansas and now “living the life” in Southern California, World Boxing Association (WBA) No. 1 contender Brandon Rios will fight for his first world title belt on the year’s first SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING telecast Feb. 26 LIVE on SHOWTIME at 10 p.m. ET/PT (delayed on the West Coast).
Rios (26-0-1, 18 KOs) faces current WBA lightweight champion Miguel Acosta (28-3-2, 22 KOs) in the 12-round main event while talented Mexican fighters Antonio DeMarco (24-2-1, 18 KOs) and Reyes Sanchez (20-3-1, 11 KOs) battle in the co-feature. The Rios-Acosta fight will take place at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas and the DeMarco-Sanchez affair will originate from the Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Neb.
The 24-year-old Rios, who has won eight fights in a row including seven by knockout, is currently living in Oxnard, Calif., and being trained by Robert Garcia.
Question: You really opened a lot of eyes back in September with your win over previously undefeated and favored Anthony Peterson. Was that your coming-out party?
Rios: “Yeah, that Peterson win brought me out into the world and showed people what I could do.
I think the way I showed no mercy in coming forward and just duking it out with the guy; people liked that. And I think people follow me now more because of that.”
Question: What do you think about Miguel Acosta? Was he the opponent you wanted next?
Rios: “He’s a very physical fighter and moves around very well. To tell you the truth, I really wanted to fight (current World Boxing Council lightweight champion) Humberto Soto next for the WBC world title. After he fought on Sept. 4 and won he was supposed to fight me but then he decided he didn’t want to and I don’t know why. Instead they gave me another world title shot with the WBA champion so I’m OK with that.”
Question: Are you pumped to be fighting for the first time on SHOWTIME?
Rios: “I’ve never fought on SHOWTIME or ShoBox. I’ve fought a couple of times on the Spanish channels so I feel good coming back to an American channel so that everyone in the U.S. can see me. A lot of champions have fought on SHOWTIME and I want to be the next one. On Feb. 26 you’re going to see some of the world’s best lightweights. This is like our little SHOWTIME Tournament. Maybe the winners might meet up next time. You never know.”
Question: How did you meet your trainer Robert Garcia?
Rios: “I met Robert at the 2004 Olympic Trials in Mississippi. He brought me to California and said let’s do this. I met the Top Rank guys and went out to Vegas and met with Cameron (Dunkin, his manager).”
Question: If you could fight anywhere in the world where would it be?
Rios: “This is my third time fighting in Vegas and so I’d say Vegas. Everyone loves going to Vegas and everyone gets excited when you tell them you’re fighting in Vegas. I’ll fight anywhere. Just name the place; huge stadium, a little building. Just name it and I’ll be there. But Vegas is cool and it’s more like a party town and where I’d prefer to fight.”
Question: You grew up in Kansas but have lived in Oxnard the past six years. Do you consider yourself more a Kansan or Californian?
Rios: “I’m more a Californian now. Don’t get me wrong, my roots are in Kansas and my family is still there. That’s my hometown and where I lived all my life. I still represent and go back there and go to the gym and talk to the kids. I never forget my roots and where I came from but I consider myself a Californian now because I met my wife and got married here and her family is from here. I live here and my camp is here so I’m both. I’m half redneck and half Californian.”
Steve Albert will call the action with Al Bernstein serving as color commentator and Jim Gray reporting from ringside in Las Vegas. Curt Menefee will handle the lead role from Nebraska and will be assisted by expert analyst Steve Farhood.
The fights are being promoted by Top Rank Inc. and Gary Shaw Productions.