By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Want to know if underdog Brandon Rios has a real chance to defeat top-end welterweight Danny Garcia on Feb. 17 in Las Vegas?
Rios has a simple piece of forecasting advice.
Check out the weigh-in on Feb. 16.
Already one win into a comeback that followed a 19-month ring sabbatical, the brash Californian insists he'll get to 2-0 if the pre-fight scales are heavy on ceremony and light on drama.
In other words, if he's at or below 147 pounds right off -- not always a guarantee where Rios is concerned -- prepare to cash in with a bet against the favorite.
"When I make weight perfectly then it's going to be 'OK, he's ready. He ain't f***ing around,'" Rios said. "I always had trouble on the scale. In the past, I didn't give a f*** and I'd do the weight at the last minute. This time it's a different story. My last fight I came in under the weight. When the weight is perfectly fine, then you know I had a good-ass training camp and I'm ready to show the world that I'm not done yet.
"All the critics out there that are calling me a cherry and saying Danny's a cherry picker for fighting me, all I've got to say is 'F*** you.' Don't jump on the d*ck after I win this fight. I don't want you to say this and that, 'Oh, Danny was done already, he's a done fighter.' I don't want them to say that."
Rios, now 31, was widely considered a spent commodity at age 29 after he was dropped twice and stopped in nine rounds by Timothy Bradley in November 2015. He stepped away following the fight and insists that he intended to stay retired, but began feeling the familiar itch after several months and found spousal support for a return from wife Victoria -- so long as he promised to maintain a more mature approach as "Bam Bam 2.0."
That change is evident, he says, amid a streamlined and serious training regimen that includes more emphasis on preparation and less on impressing a legion of hangers-on.
He came in at a comfortable 146-1/4 pounds for a seventh-round KO of journeyman Aaron Herrera in mid-June and said he's been readying for Garcia since the fight was first discussed several weeks ago and planned for January before shifting back a month.
Garcia hasn't fought since dropping the WBC share of the 147-pound championship to Keith Thurman last March.
Rios held a regional title at 140 while Garcia was the WBA/WBC kingpin in that weight class, but their paths diverged after Rios moved to welterweight and was beaten by Manny Pacquiao in November 2013. Garcia stayed at 140 for a few more months before climbing and had been 5-0 with 2 KOs at 147 before the split loss to Thurman at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Rios was 31-0-1 to begin his career -- winning a world title at lightweight and reaching the pay-per-view stage with Pacquiao -- but is 3-3 since and minus much of the earlier fanfare.
"There's no pictures of me training. There are no videos of me f***ing around in the gym," he said.
"It's perfectly fine. I like it like that. There are only three guys in the gym. That's all we need. We don't want any of that crowd. I had them. And when I lost the Pac fight, where the f*** were they at? They were gone. When I announced the Bradley fight, they came back. When I lost, they were gone. Where are they now? Nobody's calling me. Nobody's messaging me. I don't give a f***. Just leave me alone. We're just focusing on this fight."
Once the bell rings, Rios is expecting Garcia to move some before settling into a rhythm which will prompt viewers to, in his words, realize "there's a brawl going on." That'll play to his strengths, he insists, and he'll be ready with a simple message for sycophants following the fight when it's he who's perusing lucrative options and Garcia who's licking ego-denting wounds.
"They're gonna come back," Rios said.
"I'm gonna give them the middle finger and that's all I'm gonna give them, and then walk away. That's all you can do. If you let these guys get in then they're in. I'm not focusing on the fame or none of that s**t no more like I was, the yes men. I'm focused on fighting Feb. 17 with Danny Garcia. My main goal is to focus on Danny Garcia and fight Danny Garcia and beat him.
"To the ones that doubted me and say I'm a cherry pick and whatever, I put up my middle finger and say 'F*** it' and say 'Don't jump on the bandwagon.'"
* * * * * * * * * *
Weekly title-fight schedule:
WBC light flyweight title -- Yokohama, Japan
Ken Shiro (champion/No. 1 IWBR) vs. Gilberto Pedroza (No. 11 WBC/No. 10 IWBR)
Shiro (11-0, 5 KO): Second title defense; Decision wins in both title fights (2-0, 0 KO)
Pedroza (18-3-2, 8 KO): First title fight; Second fight outside Panama (1-0, 0 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Shiro hasn't exactly been devastating as champion, but he's in a good place here against a challenger without a single career-defining win. Shiro by decision
WBO junior bantamweight title -- Yokohama, Japan
Naoya Inoue (champion/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Yoan Boyeaux (No. 6, WBO/Unranked IWBR)
Inoue (14-0, 12 KO): Seventh title defense; Six KOs in seven title fights at 115
Boyeaux (41-4, 26 KO): First title fight; Six KOs in six 12-round fights (25 total rounds)
Fitzbitz says: The French challenger has respectable numbers, but nowhere near the big-stage cache as the champion. It won't be long before the disparity is apparent. Inoue in 7
IBF/WBA junior/light flyweight title -- Tokyo, Japan
Milan Melindo (IBF champ/No. 2 IWBR) vs. Ryoichi Taguchi (WBA champ/No. 8 IWBR)
Melindo (37-2, 13 KO): Second title defense; Second fight in Japan (1-0, 1 KO)
Taguchi (26-2-2, 12 KO): Seventh title defense; Fifth fight on Dec. 31 (3-0-1, 1 KO)
Fitzbitz says: Melindo, at 29, took a long time to reach the highest level, but it seems he's a better fighter now that he's arrived. He'll be tougher and grittier here. Melindo by decision
IBF mini flyweight title -- Tokyo, Japan
Hiroto Kyoguchi (champion/No. 4 IWBR) vs. Carlos Buitrago (No. 3 IBF/Unranked IWBR)
Kyoguchi (8-0, 6 KO): First title defense; Third fight at Ota-City venue (2-0, 1 KO)
Buitrago (30-2-1, 17 KO): Second title fight (0-0-1); First fight in Japan
Fitzbitz says: Kyoguchi is just 24 and looks like a kid, but he's the latest in a precocious wave of fighters winning titles in their first 10 fights. Expect a strong defense. Kyoguchi in 10
WBO flyweight title -- Tokyo, Japan
Sho Kimura (champion/No. 22 IWBR) vs. Toshiyuki Igarashi (No. 1 WBO/No. 35 IWBR)
Kimura (15-1-2, 8 KO): First title defense; One career loss in Japan (9-1-2, 3 KO)
Igarashi (23-2-3, 12 KO): Fourth title fight (2-1); Held WBC title at 112 (2012-13, one defense)
Fitzbitz says: This fight is pretty even in terms of resumes, but Shiro may be at a better spot at this point -- given his title-winning defeat of Shiming. Close one. Kimura by decision
Last week's picks: None
2017 picks record: 95-29 (76.6 percent)
Overall picks record: 917-303 (75.1 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.