BRANDON RIOS vs. URBANO ANTILLON
When: Saturday, July 9
Where: Carson, Calif.
TV: Showtime, 10 p.m. ET (live) / PT (delayed)
Title(s) at stake: Rios’ WBA
Also on the card: Kermit Cintron vs. Carlos Molina, 10 rounds, junior middleweights; Mercito Gesta vs. Jorge Pimentel, 10 rounds, lightweights; Matvey Korobov vs. Lester Gonzalez, 8 rounds, middleweights.
Height / Reach : 5-8 (173cm) / 68 (173cm)
Hometown: Oxnard, Calif.
Nickname: Bam Bam
Turned pro: 2004
Record: 27-0-1 (20 KOs)
Trainer: Robert Garcia
Fight-by-fight: Click here
The Ring rating: No. 1 lightweight
Titles: WBA lightweight (2011-current)
Biggest victories: Anthony Peterson, Sept. 11, 2010, DQ 7; Omri Lowther, Nov. 13, 2010, TKO 5; Miguel Acosta, Feb. 26, 2011, TKO 10 (won title).
Draw: Manuel Perez, Oct. 3, 2008, MD
Height / reach: 5-7 (170cm) / 71 (180cm)
Hometown: Maywood, Calif.
Turned pro: 2000
Record: 28-2 (20 KOs)
Trainer: Abel Sanchez
Fight-by-fight: Click here.
The Ring rating: No. 8 lightweight
Biggest victories: Daniel Attah, Sept. 5, 2008, KO 4; Tyrone Harris, May 1, 2009, TKO 5; Rene Gonzalez, May 8, 2010, UD 10 (title eliminator).
Losses: Miguel Acosta, July 25, 2009, TKO 9 (for interim title); Humberto Soto, Dec. 4, 2010, UD (for title)
HEAD TO HEAD
Skills: Rios was only half joking when he said that he and Antillon have “the same skills. No skills.” What he meant was that he and Antillon are fighters, not boxers. They know what made them top contenders and it wasn’t the finer points of the Sweet Science. It was their resilience, relentless pressure and hard punches. However, they are more than just sluggers. Both possess good offensive technique (especially to the body) and a degree of ring generalship. Rios has an underrated jab and counter-punching ability. Antillon is very good at cutting off the ring. Rios does a better job of blocking shots and putting punches together than Antillon.
Power: Neither fighter possesses one-punch KO power but both wield heavy hands that wear down most of their opposition. Rios finishes more fights with head shots. Antillon has stopped more fighters with body shots. Rios has a slightly higher KO percentage (71.4 to 66.7) having stopped 20 of his 28 opponents. Antillon has stopped 20 of 30.
Speed and athletic ability: Rios and Antillon posses brute physical strength and good endurance but both are average in terms of speed, reflexes, balance and coordination. These guys aren’t speed demons, they’re just demons.
Defense: Seriously? We might as well skip this category. Neither fighter has met a punch that he didn’t like. Rios is painfully open for jabs and right crosses. Antillon eats so many flush uppercuts from either hand that he often resembles a PEZ dispenser in the ring.
Experience: Rios, who won the 2004 U.S. championships and was an Olympic alternate that year, has a more extensive and accomplished amateur background than Antillon, who only had around 50 bouts but finished his so-so amateur career with a 2000 National Golden Gloves title. Antillon has fought more professional rounds (44 more, to be exact, 151 to 127). The older fighter (by just three years) has also faced more seasoned pro opponents than Rios, the best of whom is titleholder Humberto Soto.
Chin: Rios has been down twice in his pro career. Both knockdowns occurred in the first round against journeyman Joel Ortega in his ninth pro bout in 2006. However, those knockdowns were the result of body shots, not punches to the jaw. Antillon has been down only once, against Miguel Acosta, but that knockdown became a TKO loss when he wasn’t able to continue in the ninth round of their fight in 2009. Antillon was never officially off his feet in his 10-round barnburner with Ivan Valle back in 2003, but he was badly rocked a few times in the early rounds.
Conditioning: Both fighters are known for giving their all in tough sparring sessions but not necessarily for their work ethic in the gym, at least not until recently. Antillon was always willing to work hard in the gym but often skipped the floor exercises during his prospect days. Rios was a total goof-off for many years. It was common for him to put in as little as just two weeks of honest work in before a fight. Recently, however, both fighters have stepped up their conditioning in order to compete on the world-class level. Antillon is a little more dedicated, having moved to Big Bear, Calif., to train in the high-altitude isolation of the mountain town.
Wear and tear: Antillon, 28, is only three years older than Rios, but the 10-year veteran was engaging in bona-fide ring battles when Rios was still an amateur, such as the 10-round slugfest with Valle (20-2-1 at the time) in only his 10th pro fight. Antillon’s 10-round bouts against Adan Hernandez (12th pro fight) and Fernando Trejo were also hard-fought contests. Rios has had his share of tough fights, including a 10-round decision over Ricardo Dominguez in 2008 and his title-winning effort against Acosta. However, there’s no telling how much Antillon’s previous two title bouts, against Acosta and the 12-round fight-of-the-year candidate against Soto, have taken out of him.
Corner: Both fighters are blessed with excellent world-class trainers. Antillon’s trainer, Abel Sanchez, is more experienced and accomplished than Rios’ longtime coach, Robert Garcia, but he hasn’t been with Antillon for very long. Sanchez, who has trained 10 fighters who held one or more world titles, most notably hall-of-famer Terry Norris, hooked up with Antillon about six months after the fighter's loss to Acosta, three fights (including the title shot against Soto). Garcia hasn’t trained fighters as long as Sanchez but he has a terrific foundation of knowledge having been a world-class fighter and later serving as an understudy to his father, Eduardo. Garcia’s strength with Rios is that he’s trained the wayward warrior since his amateur days and enjoys a special rapport with him.
Outcome: No surprises here, folks, both Rios and Antillon will march to the center of the ring and slug it out like the card-carrying badasses they are. Rios will be a little surprised by Antillon’s physical strength and will power in the early rounds as the seasoned challenger moves the unbeaten titleholder back on his heels with hard straight rights and left hooks to the body. Rios will return fire (of course) and snap Antillon’s head back with stiff jabs and well-timed uppercuts. The two bulls will engage in phone-booth warfare in the middle rounds, bringing the packed crowd at The Home Depot Center’s outdoor tennis arena to their feet. Rios will score with combinations that rock Antillon back on his heels. Antillon will double the beltholder over with wicked body shots. Antillon will force Rios to the ropes where he will continue to work the body and score with right hands in the late rounds. However, Rios will counter well off the ropes, especially with uppercuts and some body shots of his own. With the fight up for grabs, and both fighters bloody from their brutal exchanges, Rios will finally break through with a senses-shattering uppercut sometime in the championship rounds that brings the fight of the year to a thrilling conclusion.
Prediction: Rios by late technical stoppage.