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Brandon Rios wants to get back to the top

Brandon Rios

By Dan Ambrose: Former WBA lightweight champion Brandon Rios (33-3-1, 24 KOs) will be fighting this Sunday against Aaron Herrera (32-6-1, 21 KOs) in a 10 round fight in what Rios hopes will take him back to the top of the welterweight division. Rios-Herrera will be televised on Premier Boxing Champions on FS1 & Fox Deportes this Sunday on June 11 at The Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California. The start time for the Rios vs. Herrera is at 10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT.

(Photo credit:Mikey Williams/Team Rios)

Rios wants to get to the top again. If his goal is to get a world title shot against of the welterweights or junior middleweights, he can probably accomplish that within a short time if he can put together some wins and look good. However, it’s not realistic for Rios to beat the champions at 147 or 154.

If you throw Rios into the ring with Keith Thurman or Errol Spence at welterweight, he’s going to have problems. Likewise, if Rios fights some of the junior middleweight champions, he’s going to have even worse problems. Rios doesn’t have the frame to compete against the big junior middleweight champions like Jermell Charlo, Erislandy Lara or Demetrius Andrade. Despite Rios’ still young age at 31, he might be over-the-hill whether he wants to acknowledge it or not. His best years were 6 years ago, and he’s gotten steadily worse since then.

This is a fight that Rios is supposed to win. Herrera is not in his league or at least he’s not supposed to be in his league. The problem with Rios is he’s not the fighter that he once was 6 years ago when he held the WBA title from 2011 to 2012. When Rios ate his way out of the lightweight division, he stopped being an effective fighter.

Rios has won only 2 fights in the last 4 years of his career, and one of those fights was his controversial 9th round disqualification win over Diego Chaves in 2014. That’s a fight that arguably shouldn’t have been stopped. If it had gone to the scorecards, Rios would have lost the fight. Fortunately for Rios, the referee disqualified Chaves for throwing an elbow in the 10th. I’ve seen that round in slow motion, I never saw Chaves throw any elbows. It was a very odd fight.

Rios, 31, hasn’t fought in 19 months since his 9th round knockout loss to Tim Bradley on November 7, 2015. Rios looked terrible in that fight after he rehydrated 20 pounds. Rios made weight at 147, but he then ballooned up to 170, and was slow and sluggish. Rios had a big weight advantage over Bradley, but he was too slow to take advantage of it. Rios isn’t old at 31.

It seems like he’s been around forever. Rios has had some high profile fights against the likes of Manny Pacquiao, Mike Alvarado and Tim Bradley. A lot of boxing fans gave up on Rios after the way he was pounded by Pacquiao in a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision loss in 2013. Rios lost by a wide decision, and he seemed more like a punching bag for Pacquiao than a fighter. Rios did win 2 fights in a row after that in beating Mike Alvarado and Diego Chaves. Things were looking good for Rios until he lost to Bradley in 2015. Instead of getting back into the ring, Rios has been inactive 1 ½ years.

“I’m just ready to get back to the top. I know that I have to climb the ladder and that’s what I’m here for,” said Rios. “I’ve always been a brawler, but I’m capable of boxing, especially with my inside game. The way I can deflect punches is a strength.”

Rios replaced his trainer Robert Garcia with Ricky Funez. It’s unclear whether Funez will be able to get more out of Rios than Garcia did. Rios has got to want to be able to put in the effort to make his boxing career work, because it doesn’t matter who trains him. If Rios isn’t willing to put in the effort to do well, then he’s going to continue to struggle.

The fact that Rios is facing a junior middleweight instead of a welterweight tells you a little bit about his weight. There hasn’t been anything said about the weight for the fight, but you have to imagine that it’ll be at 154, because Rios struggled to make 147 in his last fight. I don’t know if Rios can make 147 at this point in his career without him having a lot of problems.

If Rios loses to Herrera, then he might need to hang up the gloves, because this is someone that he’s supposed to beat without any problems. Herrera, 28, has lost 3 out of his last 6 fights in defeats against Mike Reed, Regis Prograis and Pedro Campa. The only thing you can say about those losses is Rios would have a hard time beating those guys too. Herrera was also beaten by Selcuk Aydin by a 8th round knockout in July 2013, Jason Pagara and Fernando Garcia. The only good news about those fights is Herrera lost to quality opposition. As of late, Herrera has won his last 3 fights in beating Mario Alberto Cruz, Humberto Ocampo and Jesus Lopez.

Rios doesn’t match up well against any of the welterweight champions in the division right now. It’s too bad Rios didn’t return to the ring over a year ago when Danny Garcia was still the WBC champion. That would have been a fight that Rios would have had a chance to win if he had brought his A-game. Garcia was a good fighter at 140, but he’s not been the same guy since he moved up to 147. Rios would have had a decent chance of beating him.

”My nutritionist is with me 12 hours a day and it’s had me feeling great heading into this fight,” said Rios.

It’s good that Rios is working hard on his diet for the fight, because it would be a pity if he can’t make weight or if he’s sluggish after he makes weight like he was against Bradley.

Herrera is likely going to be going after Rios in looking to take him out with body shots the way that Bradley did. That was the first time in Rios pro career in which he took on someone that focused exclusively to the body.


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