By Keith Idec
Brandon Rios knows what’s being said and written about him.
Skeptics consider him a shot fighter, entirely too tattered to legitimately compete with Danny Garcia when they square off February 17 in Las Vegas. Those critics have dismissed Rios as a glorified punching bag, a hopeless underdog in way over his head against a former WBC welterweight champion who remains in his physical prime.
Rios has used such criticism as motivation while preparing for what appears to be his last shot at getting back into title contention.
“Before it used to bother me, but it’s all good,” Rios told BoxingScene.com on before a press conference Tuesday in Los Angeles. “It’s adding fuel to the fire. That’s the way I see it – they’re adding more fuel to the fire. Everybody has their own opinions and it’s OK. I don’t really care what people say. I’ve just gotta do what I’ve gotta do and just leave it alone.”
The 31-year-old Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) made sure to arrive at training camp in much better shape for this fight than he did for his last fight against championship-caliber opponent. Rios estimates that he was 190 pounds at the start of camp for his WBO welterweight title fight against Timothy Bradley in November 2015.
Spending all of training camp shedding pounds cost Rios during that bout, in which Bradley beat him badly and dropped him twice before it was stopped during the ninth round. In Philadelphia’s Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs), he’ll encounter an opponent who won’t have fought for 11½ months.
“I’m motivated and excited just to get back in the ring,” Rios said. “I don’t care who it’s with. I’m just ready to show the welterweight division that some of the losses I have, my three losses, were my fault. It wasn’t because of nobody else. It was my fault.
“People are saying I’m a done fighter, I’m a washed-up fighter, I’m a bum, I’m a punching bag. At the end of the day, it was because those were my mistakes. I got caught up in my own mess. Now I feel rejuvenated, I feel great and I’m ready to get back to the top.”
Rios is confident it isn’t too late for him to win against a top opponent, particularly now that he is more committed to training and focused on what’s important. The former WBA lightweight champion got back on the winning track by knocking out Mexico’s Aaron Herrera (33-8-1, 22 KOs) with a body shot in the seventh round of his last fight, June 11 in Lancaster, California.
“I’ve been to the mountaintop,” Rios said. “It’s nice up there. I’ve been up there already and I got caught up in my own mess. I got caught up in the fame, the drama and sh*t like that, the bullsh*t. And now, I learned that in order to stay on top, just remain the same way so that you can be on top. That’s what I mean by getting caught up in my own mess. I was being something that I wasn’t.”
Showtime will broadcast Garcia-Rios as the main event of a doubleheader from Mandalay Bay Events Center. The telecast will start with a rematch between WBC super middleweight champion David Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) and Ronald Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs).
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.