By Jake Donovan
What a week it has been for Brandon Rios and especially Diego Chaves.
The uncertainty surrounding the potential Fight of the Year candidate being able to come off had to have taken its mental toll on both fighters. Rios had the easier part of the two – simply wondering who we will be fighting this weekend.
Chaves’ journey has physically and mentally been far more taxing. The Argentine brawler was stuck at home while U.S. Immigration courts have struggled to sort out hundreds of thousands of visa applications backed up in their malfunctioning system. The good news came on Wednesday when Majority Senate Leader Harry Reid aided in saving the day, with Chaves picking up his visa in time for a 15-hour journey to Las Vegas.
Now that we have a fight – how will it all play out?
The scheduled 10-round bout takes place at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, and airs live on HBO. Packaged with the bout is a 140 lb. title fight between unbeaten champ Jessie Vargas and undefeated challenger Anton Novikov.
Chaves (23-1, 19KOs) is a quality welterweight, however best known for his lone loss – a spirited effort before falling prey to the relentless pressure of unbeaten American contender Keith Thurman last summer in San Antonio. He’s since rebounded with a knockout win at home, and hopes his second trip to the United States produces a far more favorable result.
Meanwhile, Rios (31-2-1, 23KOs) comes in on the heels of a two-fight losing streak following a lightweight title reign that ended with failed trips at the scales in back-to-back fights. His last win came nearly two years ago, stopping Mike Alvarado in the 7th round of their Oct. ’12 war.
A loss to Alvarado in their rematch last March was followed with a 12-round landslide loss to comebacking Manny Pacquiao last November. Rios suffered double damage in the latter defeat, having also tested positive for a banned substance during post-fight drug testing, resulting in a six-month suspension.
Both fighters boast styles that suggest fans will continue to tune in whether they win or lose. That said, they have both reached must-win status, at least if they want to continue in their careers as something other than just TV-friendly fighters without championship aspirations.
Will Chaves come in fully rejuvenated following the craziness of fight week? Will Rios find a way to salvage his suddenly free-falling career? Perhaps most important to the fans, will the scheduled 10-round welterweight clash live up to pre-fight expectations as a can’t miss Fight of the Year contender?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight’s action will go down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: BRANDON RIOS vs. DIEGO CHAVES
Ryan Burton (Rios TKO9):
“I think this is a back and forth fight but Rios has the better chin and all the drama surrounding his visa will affect Chaves.”
Jake Donovan (Rios Dec.):
“In a fair fight, I’d say this would be akin to Joshua Clottey-Diego Corrales, where size truly matters, and Rios, weight-wise, is a man without a country. Given Chaves’ lingering visa issues during fight week, you have to factor in how that will potentially weigh against him. If the fight is relatively close over the course of the night, I expect Rios to escape with – and perhaps “steal” – a decision.”
Keith Idec (Rios SD):
“Waiting anxiously in a Buenos Aires hotel room for a visa until Wednesday cannot have been good for Chaves, mentally or physically. He’ll still make what should emerge as an action-packed slugfest highly competitive on Saturday night. Considering the defensive deficiencies and the will of both Rios and Chaves, HBO subscribers should get plenty of entertainment value out of this one. Expect Rios to be a little busier, though, enough to edge Chaves on the scorecards.”
Cliff Rold (Rios KO):
“Chaves is a tough character but Brandon Rios is too and he’s far more proven. Rios needs a win after a lackluster showing against Pacquiao last year and he’ll get it.”
Francisco Salazar (Rios TKO10):
“Rios has lost two fights in a row and knows his back is against the wall. He’s ditched strength-and-conditioning coaches in favor of doing what he knows best: Fighting with a reckless abandon and being a badass. While it may not always work, it should work against the likes of Chaves, who put up a valiant effort before being stopped by Keith Thurman. The ebb and flow of the fight will be tremendous as both will throw and land ridiculous amounts of punches and combinations. Expect a flash knockdown between the two during the fight. Chaves flew in late Wednesday, which will make some wonder about jet lag. Regardless, Rios does enough to stop Chaves just before the final bell.”
Reynaldo Sanchez (Chaves UD):
“Chaves gave a strong fight against Keith Thurman, which I had 85-85 going into the 10th round. Chaves showed be strength and intelligence in the early rounds and forced a strong puncher like Thurman to fight in reverse. Rios comes in from two straight losses and it seems like his power at welterweight isn’t as strong as it was at 140 (and 135). More so, in every fight Rios takes many punches looking to land his own. Against an opponent with two-fisted power like Chaves, Rios will take too many punches due to his weak defense, thereby nullifying his power in the later rounds.”
Alexey Sukachev (Rios TKO7):
“One prediction I have a great chance to regret in future. Believe it or not - it's all about power. I'm not sure that Brandon's power is enough for elite welterweights but Chavez isn't an elite welterweight. He is a hard-punching boy from Argentina with questionable chin. He reminds me Matthysse - but Walter Dario rather than Lucas Martin. It'll be a firefight, and in the end Rios power will prove too much for the Argentinean.”
Anson Wainwright (Rios Dec.):
“It’s an interesting fight that was thrown into some doubt when it looked as though Chaves wouldn’t be allowed into America due to visa issues. That won’t have helped his focus on the bout. I expect Rios to look to engage the Argentinean, who I think will happily oblige. It could well be a battle of wills. We saw Keith Thurman finally break Chaves when they fought last summer. All told, I see Rios pushing Chaves back in the late stages to win a close, spirited fight.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox