By Keith Idec
It took Danny Garcia eight-plus rounds Saturday night, but he eventually overpowered Brandon Rios the way many people expected.
Garcia crushed Rios with a picture-perfect right hand to the jaw that dropped Rios with 54 seconds to go in the ninth round. A shocked Rios reached his feet, but referee Kenny Bayless didn’t like the way Rios responded to his commands and he stopped what had been a competitive welterweight fight at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.
Bayless halted the main event of a Showtime’s tripleheader at 2:25 of the ninth round.
Philadelphia’s Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs) became just the second opponent to knock out Rios (34-4-1, 25 KOs) in the former lightweight champion’s 39-fight, 13-year pro career.
“I just noticed when I was getting my punches off he was in front of me, and I just let [my right hand] go,” Garcia told Showtime’s Jim Gray in the ring. “I just let the straight right hand go. … I was using the lateral movement and that’s why I probably couldn’t get him out of there early, because I was giving him the benefit of the doubt by coming forward. But as soon as I got the fight in the middle of the ring, like I wanted in the later rounds, then I took it to the middle and landed good shots.”
Garcia was listed as at least a 20-1 favorite by numerous Internet sports books before a fight that drew intense criticism from fans and media. A motivated Rios made the Garcia’s perceived tune-up competitive, however, and proved he still has something left two-plus years after an embarrassingly one-sided, technical-knockout loss to Timothy Bradley.
Rios wanted to continue because he “was doing really good in there,” but somewhat understood the stoppage.
“I’m mad,” Rios said. “I’m a little mad because I don’t go out like that. I’m a warrior and I got back up, and I was ready to continue. But I guess the corner stopped it, but I’m f*cking mad, man. I’m mad. I’m mad. I know they love me and everything, but I was still breathing. I was still walking around. I got up fine. They can stop it when I’m almost f*cking dying. I’ll die in that ring. That’s the kind of warrior I am. I’m mad because I got up still. F*ck!”
Garcia, 29, fought for the first time since suffering his first professional defeat – a 12-round split decision to Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) in their welterweight title unification fight last March 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Rios, 31, hadn’t face a top opponent since Bradley battered him on his way to a ninth-round technical knockout victory in November 2015. The Oxnard, California, native promised his fight against Garcia would be different because he arrived at this training camp in much better shape and was able to focus on preparing for Garcia, not losing weight.
Rios indeed made the fight competitive before Garcia exploited one of Rios’ defensive deficiencies.
“I think I was doing really good in there,” Rios said. “I think I was breaking him down, little by little. He was ready to get tired. I was feeling it. But like I said, it was one of those things where I got lazy with my jab and he just caught me over with it.”
It was Garcia, however, who appeared to start breaking down Rios prior to delivering that spectacular knockout shot.
Garcia spent much of the eighth round picking apart Rios, but Rios’ overhand right got Garcia’s attention with under a minute to go in that round. Garcia drilled Rios with an overhand right that briefly stopped Rios from coming forward just before the midway point of the seventh round.
Rios connected with a straight right hand very early in the sixth round. Garcia hit Rios with some flush punches in the sixth, but Rios’ relentless pressure allowed the former lightweight champion to touch Garcia to the head and the body, including a right uppercut when Garcia’s back was against the ropes.
Rios responded to a hard right hand Garcia landed early in the fifth by connecting with a left hook that kept Garcia honest.
An aggressive Rios kept coming forward at the start of the fourth round. Garcia snapped back Rios’ head with a straight right hand around the 1:15 mark of the fourth.
Garcia began going to Rios’ body toward the end of the fourth. He added another perfect right hand that stopped Rios before the fourth round ended.
Garcia unleashed a combination early in the third round as Rios attempted to push him into the ropes. Rios responded by landing an overhand right that got Garcia’s attention.
Later in the third, Garcia drilled Rios with an overhand right as they stood in the center of the ring.
Rios began applying pressure in the second round and mostly kept Garcia on his back foot. Rios started slowly and wasn’t able to land many punches during the first round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.