Michael Rosenthal

Rios leaves us in awe again


CARSON, Calif. – Bam. Bam.

With two big punches in the third round, Brandon Rios once again lived up to his apt nickname and enhanced his reputation as one of the most-exciting young fighters in the world Saturday night at Home Depot Center.

The first punch, a right cross, put always-game Urbano Antillon down mid-way through the round. The second, another right, finished the job with only 11 seconds on the clock.

It was Rios’ second consecutive spectacular knockout, the previous one being a 10th-round TKO that gave him the WBA 135-pound belt and raised awareness of his unusual ability.

The hyperbole flowed quickly immediately after the fight on Saturday, which was televised on Showtime.

“Rios is the kind of guy who can match the power and intensity of Manny Pacquiao,” said Bob Arum, who promoters both fighters.

That’s a stretch at this point, Pacquiao being a welterweight and the No. 1 fighter on the planet. No one who saw Rios’ performance on Saturday would dismiss it entirely, though.

Rios (28-0-1, 21 knockouts) and Antillon (28-3, 20 KOs) gave us a breathtaking show for two-plus rounds, exchanging hard, accurate punches with abandon as an appreciative crowd roared.

Fight of the year?

Nah. Rios' first big right sent Antillon to all fours and set in motion his opponent’s demise. Antillon, stunned but not badly hurt, got up with a smile and the brawl resumed as Rios jumped all over him.

Then came a right cross to Antillon’s chin that rearranged his brain cells. Antillon, who fell face first, got up but had a look of confusion on his face, one that shouted, “Where am I?" He survived for a bit on instinct but, untouched by Rios, suddenly stumbled across the ring.

That was all referee David  Mendoza had to see. He stopped it at that point, saving the loser from unnecessary punishment.

Rios’ performance was awesome in the most-literal sense of the word, the kind that leads the most-jaded observer to shake his head in amazement and relish what might lie ahead.

The resident of Oxnard, Calif., seems to have superhuman strength for a lightweight. He took many serious blows – including a number of uppercuts — from a good puncher in Antillon but walked through them.

He also never stopped pursuing his prey. He’s like a horror-film monster, a terrifying and possessed creature bent on destruction who never stops coming until he gets you. And he always gets you.

Rios has stopped eight of his past nine opponents and the ninth, Anthony Peterson, would’ve been KO’d if he hadn’t given up by landing a series of intentional low blows that led to his disqualification.

That’s one of the most-impressive runs in a sport that sorely needs captivating runs.

But is he good enough to give Pacquiao trouble?

First things first. The best fighters in the 140-pound division, where Rios will soon end up, had better beware.

Rios doesn’t have the boxing gifts of an Amir Khan. He isn’t the athlete Tim Bradley is. He probably doesn’t punch quite as hard as Marcos Maidana does. But let’s be clear about something: No one in the division brings the mayhem that Rios brings, mayhem that will leave many more fighters in the state Antillon was left in.

He mentioned Khan and Maidana but no one is safe. The guess here is that he'll be as successful at 140 as he has been at 135. And then we can talk about Pacquiao.

"I did what I told everybody that I was going to do and that's knock him out," Rios said afterward. "Urbano Antillon was once a very good fighter, but not tonight. I figured it was going to be more of a war because of how long it took (Miguel) Acosta to knock him out. I thought it would take me until the 10th, 11th or 12th round
to take him out.

"But I guess it was my power. I’m stronger than I’ve ever been and I’m going to continue to get better. I’m on to bigger and better things. I’m going to the top."

It appears that way.

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