Action-loving fight fans who were disappointed by Wladimir Klitschko’s tactical dominance over David Haye last Saturday won‘t have to dwell on the heavyweight snoozer for very long.
The lightweight showdown between unbeaten beltholder Brandon Rios and top contender Urbano Antillon, which takes place on Saturday in Carson, Calif., will likely cure thier summer time blues.
Rios and Antillon aren’t anywhere near as articulate, talented or ring savvy as Klitschko or Haye, but the Southern California-based sluggers always deliver excitement once the bell rings.
“We’re going to give the fans what they want to see, two warriors going at it,” Rios told the media during a recent conference call.
Nobody doubts Rios (27-0-1, 20 knockouts), who won the WBA title with a hard-fought victory over talented veteran Miguel Acosta in February. His come-from-behind 10th-round stoppage, which was televised on Showtime as will Saturday’s bout with Antillon, was an instant fight-of-the-year candidate.
Antillon’s last bout, a close unanimous decision loss to beltholder Humberto Soto in December, was lauded as the 2010 fight of the year by both Yahoo! Sports and ESPN.com.
Even in his losses, Antillon (28-2, 20 KOs), who suffered a ninth-round TKO to Acosta in 2009, displayed the traits that make him special — relentless pressure and a ruthless body attack backed by a never-say-die attitude. Antillon is not known for his skill or technique but he’s comfortable with his ring identity.
“I have boxed in the past but it was more of a survival thing early in my career,” Antillon said during the conference call. “(Against Rios) you’re going to see the best Urbano Antillon out there, which is coming forward and putting on pressure. You’re not going to see any fancy footwork or the Ali Shuffle or any of that stuff.”
That’s music to the ears of any fan who was frustrated or bored to tears by Haye’s 12-round exercise in avoidance and Klitschko’s less-than-relentless pursuit of the smaller heavyweight.
It’s also music to the ears of Rios’ trainer, Robert Garcia.
“We know Antillon is not going to box, he’s not one of those slick boxers,” Garcia said. “We know he’s going to be in front of Brandon, which is what (Rios) likes.”
The two fighters couldn’t more different away from the ring. Antillon is shy and humble. Rios is bombastic and sometimes crass. However, their aggressive fighting styles are very similar.
Antillon said Rios style plays into his heavy hands.
“Brandon Rios is going to be right there for me and fighters who stand in front of me get broke down and taken out,” he said. “Brandon Rios is not a special fighter. He’s not like Soto. He’s a slugger. He’s there to get hit. He’s just like any other opponent.”
Garcia admits that no one is ever going to use the term “defensive wizard” when describing his fighter.
“Brandon gets hit, but hey, that’s his style,” he said. “He gets hit but he lands his punches. We work on blocking punches and moving his head but what he does is break fighters down.”
Rios goes about that brutal task much like Antillon, only with a slightly better technique and inside savvy.
“(Antillon) could give us trouble because he is a hell of a fighter,” Garcia said, “but I don’t see him hurting Brandon.”
That remains to be seen. Antillon may be a pussy cat outside of the ring but he’s beast during a fight. The 28-year-old resident of Maywood, Calif., is not above roughhouse tactics that include borderline fouls.
Rios has passed all of his tests to date, including an impressive seven-round DQ victory over then-undefeated (30-0) Anthony Peterson last September, but the 25-year-old Oxnard, Calif., resident has never faced a fellow pressure fighter as experienced and hardnosed as Antillon.
However, Rios does not seem intimidated by the veteran. THE RING’s No. 1-rated lightweight said proved his mettle during his fight with Acosta, who out-boxed him early and gave him a beating in the fourth round.
“I think I showed the world that I have a lot of heart and that I love boxing a lot,” Rios said of his performance against the classy Venezuelan. “That’s why I’m in this business.
“Acosta was doing his job early in the fight. He came in with his gameplan, but I was doing my job, too. My job is to put pressure on my opponent. I’m a late starter, so it takes me some time to get rolling. But I stuck to my gameplan and I came out victorious.”
Rios has no doubt that he will be victorious against Antillon. He said THE RING’s No. 8-rated lightweight provided him with all the incentive he needs train hard at their heated press conference in Los Angeles a few weeks ago.
“We were supposed to fight a year ago but I got cut in sparring and he’s been running his mouth that I was scared or chicken and stuff like that,” Rios explained. “He started running his mouth again at the press conference and he mentioned my wife. He said something like ‘Oh, did your wife find your balls?’ He brought my wife into the mix, so he set it off.
“I love it when (opponents) talk smack about me. It motivates me. I need that. I love that. The gym was getting a little boring before this. Now I’m mad and I come in and work that much harder.”
There were many harsh and vulgar words said at the kick-off press conference. Most of them came out of the mouth of Rios, who promised to retire Antillon with a career-ending beating.
The brash threats sounded a lot like the verbal arrows Haye directed at Klitschko throughout the build up to their mega-hyped event. However, unlike the British heavyweight, Rios means what he says.
Garcia said the rancor his fighter showed at the press conference was not an act.
“That was the best thing that could have happened,” Garcia said. “I know Brandon. I knew he’d train harder and better because he wants to kick his ass.
“Antillon tried to shake Brandon’s hand after the press conference and Brandon wouldn’t do it. He told him ‘Why are you going to shake my hand? I f__king hate you right now.’”
Antillon won’t reciprocate the hate, but that doesn’t mean he’s not going to give it his all.
“There’s nothing personal,” Antillon said. “He’s holding my title and I‘m coming to get it. That’s the only thing personal thing about the fight.”
It’s definitely personal for Rios, which all but insures a barnburner on Saturday.
“Two guys are going to go into that ring and beat the s__t out of each other,” Rios said.
Amen to that.