NEW YORK–RING No. 1-rated lightweight Brandon Rios lost his WBA belt on the scales, but he won Saturday night’s HBO Pay Per View-televised war with John Murray before a sellout crowd of 21,239 at Madison Square Garden.
The 25-year-old Rios (29-0-1, 22 KOs), of Oxnard, Calif., battered his game, 26-year-old rival Murray (31-2, 18 KOs), of Manchester, England, until his face was bloody and his eyes were nearly shut on the way to scoring an 11th-round technical knockout at 2:06 of the final session.
Rios landed 41 of 66 power shots in the final round before referee Earl Brown stepped in to protect Murray and call an end to the bout.
Rios led, 96-93, 97-92, and, 98-91, respectively, on the cards of Nelson Vasquez, Glen Feldman and Tony Paollilo, respectively, but out-landed Murray, 371-to-298 overall. Rios out-jabbed Murray, 74-26, and only had a slight edge in power punches, 297-to-272.
During Thursday’s press conference, Rios had said some nasty things about Murray and had refused to shake his hand. But it was apparent following Saturday night’s battle, that Murray had gained Rios’ respect.
“Murray is a great warrior,” said Rios. “He deserves a lot of respect. I’m sorry for the things I said to him before the fight.”
Rios earned the win, but after having failed to make weight on Friday evening, he already had forfeited his WBA title and paid $20,000 to Murray for missing the contracted 135-pound weight limit after three tries on the scale.
The knockotu was Rios’ fourth straight, and his 10th in his past 11 victories since battling to a draw with Manuel Perez in October of 2008.
Rios-Murray took place on the undercard of a 10th-round knockout victory by RING No. 1-rated junior middleweight and WBA beltholder Miguel Cotto (37-2, 30 KOs) over ex-beltholder Antonio Margarito (38-8, 27 KOs).
Rios weighed 146.4 pounds at a 9 a.m. weigh-in on Saturday, in agreement with a deal struck with Murray’s camp.
Rios had weighed 136.6 on his last of three tries on Friday, and, as a result, had agreed to weigh no greater than 10 pounds (147) when he was checked on Saturday at his hotel.
Rios had effectively vacated his belt and promised to give $20,000 of his $325.000 purse to the Murray, who could have earned the vacated title with a win.
Murray’s original purse is $50.000, plus additional upside money from United Kingdom television. Murray is coming off of the first loss of his career in July, an eighth-round knockout loss to Kevin Mitchell (32-1, 24 KOs) during which Murray was floored in the final round.
Murray had won six of his previous seven victories by knockout before falling to Mitchell.
Rios was coming off July’s third-round knockout of Urbano Antillon (28-3, 20 KOs), the first defense of his belt. Prior to that, Rios came up with a 10th-round stoppage to take the be title from Miguel Acosta (28-4-2, 22 KOs) in February.
Rios dropped Acosta during the sixth, eighth and last rounds on the way to ending a 19-fight winning streak that had included 12 stoppages.
The lone blemish on the record of Rios the 10-round draw against Perez. After that, Rios reeled off six consecutive knockouts before scoring a seventh-round disqualification victory over previously unbeaten Anthony Peterson (32-1, 20 KOs) in a WBA eliminator bout in September of last year.
Photos by Chris Farina, Top Rank Inc.
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com