By Jake Donovan
Make no mistake, Brandon Rios would’ve been completely understanding had Diego Chaves not been able to make it to town for their scheduled welterweight fight this weekend at The Cosmospolitan in Las Vegas. It’s just the thought of not being able to fight that would’ve had the American brawler down in the dumps.
A massive backlog with the U.S. Immigration courts left Chaves’ visa status in limbo up until Wednesday afternoon when he was finally cleared to leave Argentina for the United States.
The bout airs live on HBO, paired up with a battle of unbeaten welterweights as Jessie Vargas defends his 140 lb. title versus Anton Novikov. On the other side of the country, Sergey Kovalev defends his light heavyweight title versus Australia’s Blake Caparello, to round out the -site tripleheader.
Rios (31-2-1, 23KOs) continued to train as if fight night was still on, while promoter Top Rank sought a Plan B, and then a Plan C once that fell through until realizing the original matchup was restored. A former lightweight titlist, Rios hasn’t won a fight since scoring a 7th round stoppage of Mike Alvarado in their Oct. ’12 war, regarded by many as high among the best fights of that year.
Two losses have followed, dropping a close but clear decision to Alvarado in their rematch last March, and then coming up well short in a 12-round whitewash versus a comebacking Manny Pacquiao last November in Macau. The latter loss was doubly damaging, as Rios tested positive for a banned substance, resulting in a six-month suspension, which explains why his 2014 debut comes more than seven months into the year.
While Chaves understandably skipped the pre-fight press conference to rest up following 15 hours of flying, Rios believes his opponent will be rested and reloaded on fight night.
“I know he's ready 100%. I'm ready 100%. We're going to give the fans what they want to see, a nice little war for as long as it lasts,” Rios assured the assembled media on hand for the press session. “He has nice punching power and I have nice punching power as well. I have skills… kind of. We’ll see.”
Rios had a full-time strength and conditioning coach for his past few fights, but for this fight returns to basics. The California-based slugger got what he wanted out of separate camps with Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia and Alex Ariza, but his team made a conscious decision to keep things tight and simple for this fight, which he fully recognizes as must-win.
“This is the first camp I've been fully disciplined, from the training to my diet,” Rios insists. “That's the thing I hate the most is the diet part. But I've been on a straight path and going to make this a “do” instead of “die” type of fight.
“This is the fight where everyone is going to see the old Brandon Rios back.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as the Records Keeper for the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and a member of Boxing Writers Association of America.