Crowd-pleasing lightweight champ Brandon Rios is star on ascent
NEW YORK -- Generally speaking, words from Bob Arum should be taken with a grain of salt. The 79-year-old promoter -- whose career dates back to the days of Muhammad Ali -- is a master linguist who has been known to embellish a time or two (or three, or four) when asked about one of his fighters. It's normal. All promoters do it. Arum is just
But when Arum stood in the ring at the Home Depot Center and declared Brandon Rios to be a future star, one worthy of a lucrative showdown with Manny Pacquiao in 2013, well, he might have been on to something. Last Saturday Rios (28-0) defended his alphabet lightweight title in an entertaining -- and savage -- third-round knockout win over Urbano Antillon. It was Rios's first defense of the belt he won in an equally entertaining -- and savage -- knockout victory over Miguel Acosta.
Rios is a brawler; he comes straight ahead, winging powerful combinations. He is perfectly willing to eat two or three shots if it means he can deliver three or four. Against Antillon -- who most recently went the distance in a brutal, Fight of the Year-caliber contest with Humberto Soto last December -- Rios stood in the middle of the ring and simply wore Antillon down with his power. He ripped Antillon's head back with uppercuts and put him down twice in the third round before the referee stepped in.
There's a lot to like about Rios. He's television-friendly with no interest in putting a decision in the hands of the judges. His last 10 fights have ended early -- nine by knockout, one a disqualification win over an about-to-be-knocked-out Anthony Peterson. Perhaps more impressively, his best wins have come as the competition has improved.
Rios says he is interested in anyone at 135 pounds; there are already candidates lining up to face him. The bulldozing Michael Katsidis is a possibility, assuming he gets through a tune-up fight against journeyman Michael Lozada next month. Katsidis, 30, is on the downside of his career and has been crushed in his last two fights, a ninth-round knockout by Juan Manuel Marquez and lopsided decision defeat to Robert Guerrero. But Katsidis doesn't back down from anyone, so it would be a good fight as long as it lasted.
The most interesting bout for Rios would be against an opponent who isn't available for a while: Marquez. The 37-year-old Mexican (currently No. 4 in
A move to 140 pounds is also a possibility for Rios, whose 5-foot-8 frame suggests he can support it. Junior welterweight is boxing's money division, with names like Amir Khan, Tim Bradley and Marcos Maidana bankrolled by HBO's checkbook. Another televised win or two should make Rios marketable enough for one of the top 140-pounders to take him on.
The bottom line: Arum's praise of Rios is real. Boxing needs good, young American fighters and Rios fits the bill.
A lot of people are clamoring for Paul Williams to retire in the wake of his controversial decision win over Erislandy Lara on Saturday, speculation fueled in part by HBO's Roy Jones comments and analyst Max Kellerman asking Williams's trainer, George Peterson, if he would recommend Williams retire
That's premature. Williams, 29, does not show any of the classic signs of a fighter starting to slip. His speech is normal and his work rate -- he threw 1,047 punches, nearly double Lara's output -- is still staggering. He has taken some heavy shots (most notably the not-soon-to-be-forgotten left hand from Sergio Martinez that sent him planking) but he is hardly a punching bag.
What Williams (40-2) may need, however, is a new trainer. For the second straight fight Williams could not stay away from the overhand left, the same punch that Martinez put him down with. Lara doesn't have much power at 154 pounds, less when you factor in having to punch up at the 6-foot-1 Williams. But nearly every one of his shots landed cleanly, a puzzling outcome consider Williams had to know those punches were coming.
Worse, Williams' strategy in his last few fights has been
It's on Peterson to make those adjustments. If he can't, there are a handful of accomplished trainers (see: jab master Manny Steward, Freddie Roach, Ronnie Shields) who would undoubtedly love the chance to work with a talented fighter who has established himself on HBO's stage.
Five fighters who could succeed at a higher weight class.