By Francisco Salazar
Brandon Rios has left the boxing world with a number of memorable performances.
Remember the war Rios had with Urbano Antillon before he stopped him in the third round.
Then there was the time he was down early on the scorecards to Miguel Acosta, whom he eventually stopped in the 10th round to win his first world title.
Then who can forget his brutal back-and-forth brawl he had against Mike Alvarado in October of 2012, leading to a Rios seventh round stoppage win.
So it was awkward and head-scratching to see Rios no where near the fighter he was in those fights when he fought Manny Pacquiao on November 24, losing a one-sided unanimous decision.
While the boxing world has been used to seeing Brandon Rios with an aggressive, all-offense, take-no-prisoners mentality before the Pacquiao fight, the question is will that version of Rios ever show up again?
According to Rios, prepare for the return of "Bam Bam" on Saturday night. A mature, hungrier and more-focused Rios, which could spell trouble for his opponent.
Rios will face Diego Chavez in a 10 round bout at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nev. The bout will headline a Top Rank card and will be televised live on HBO, with the broadcast beginning at 9:45PM ET/ 6:45 PT.
While the fight with Chaves was signed weeks ago, there was doubt Chaves was going to enter the country fro his native Argentina. Because of a backlog of visa application with United States immigration, Chaves was not able to enter the country. Top Rank even had unbeaten, but untested Jose Zepeda as a replacement to face Rios, but word was HBO might not have approved airing the fight.
Allegedly with help with Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, Chaves was approved for a visa on Wednesday and flew in to Las Vegas later that night.
Rios (31-2, 23 KOs) will face a difficult challenge in Chaves, who gave Keith Thurman all he could handle before losing by knockout in the 10th round. While Rios has never been shy on whom he trades punches with, he acknowledges the difficult challenge at hand against the Argentine-fighter.
That was the only HBO date (available foe me, so i had to take this guy," Rios told Boxingscene.com over the phone last week. "So it is what is. To me , it's just another opponent and it's a dangerous opponent. We have to be 100% very prepared and that's what we're going to do.
Life was pretty good for Rios after his win over Alvarado almost two years ago. He was unbeaten, held a world title at a lower weight class, was beginning to make six-figure purses, and had a growing fan base.
Like a lot of fighters in his position, he was beginning to be surrounded by more people. The same people would ask for favors or to be included amongst Rios' circle of friends.
After the losses to Alvarado (in the subsequent rematch) and to Pacquiao, Rios noticed those same individuals who clamored to be a part of Rios' entourage were nowhere to be found. The people Rios opened up his camp to or had said yes to were long gone, gaining something from him while he was at the top.
It was an eye-opening experience for Rios, who vowed to never let it happen again.
"I realized too when you're on top of the (expletive) world, everyone comes out of the (expletive) blue," said Rios, who resides in Oxnard, Calif. and is trained by Robert Garcia. "Everyone wants to be your friend. Everyone wants to hug you. Everyone is kissing your ass. And when you're at the lowest point of your career, where the (expletive) are they at? It took me two losses to realize that. Now I see it. Now I'm like '(Expletive) all you guys.' I don't like that when they try to come in (my circle). So now I keep my ship tight and closed."
"I have the same people that have been with me. I barely seen that and I barely started realizing that. I seen that. I got too comfortable too quick. I was making money at a young age. I was acting stupid. I thought I was this and that. I thought I would never lose. I thought I was on top of the world. I thought I was better than a lot of fighters."
Rios may be a lot better than a lot of fighters, depending on who is in the ring with him. While Rios acknowledges Pacquiao was the better man that night, one has to wonder if the popular Mexican-American was in the right frame of mind for that fight.
Could Rios have been more aggressive against Pacquiao? Could he have thrown more punches? Was there a point where Rios could have gone for broke?
Those question may or may never be answered. What was answered by Rios was he admitted to having a difficult time dealing with the recent losses. As proud a man as he is, Rios admitted to getting professional help in dealing with the psychological effects of getting over the his last two losses in a row.
To his credit, he did have to go far.
"My wife (Vicky) is a clinician/ therapist. She understands (me) because she works with people with mental problems, people that have a wrong mindset. She does help me out. She does help set my mind straight and brings me back down to earth. That's always a big plus because she's a therapist and she knows how to talk to people. I feel great."
While it would have been understandable for Rios to fight a "safer" opponent than Chaves, Rios is compelled to prove that Brandon Rios of old is back.
Rios would have wanted a fight immediately after the loss to Pacquiao, but he admits the time away from the ring was a blessing in disguise, considering what he has done to get his confidence and psyche back to where it was before.
While Rios is eager to back on top and prove he is a force to be reckoned with at 147 pounds, he must take care of business on Saturday night. It may not easy, but he is eager to give another memorable performance, one to be added to the many he has already provided.
"The only thing on my mind is to win. I'm coming to Las Vegas on August 2nd to win. I can't think about losing. I can't think about anyone else. My mind is set on Diego Chaves and just get the win."
"That (expletive) is behind me. I'm ready for this, the future. I'm ready for August 2nd against Diego Chaves."
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, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing