Lightweight contender Richard Abril outboxed, contained and thoroughly frustrated Brandon Rios for 12 rounds in their pay per view-televised main event from the Mandalay Bay in Las Veags on Saturday, but it was Rios who “earned” a very controversial split-decision victory.
Rios (30-0-1, 23 knockouts), THE RING’s No. 1-rated lightweight, maintained his unbeaten record but his favorable reputation among fans likely took a hit with the undeserved decision he was awarded by judges Jerry Roth and Glenn Trowbridge. Judge Adalaide Byrd saw the fight that most observers thought they witnessed, a clear victory for Abril, who won the fight by a 117-111 tally on her scorecard. However, she was overruled by Roth (116-112) and Trowbridge (115-113), who somehow scored the fight for Rios.
An argument could be made for a close decision in favor of Abril (17-3-1, 8 KOs). Rios, who failed to make weight, coming in two pounds over the 135-pound lightweight limit, on Friday, stalked the tall and rangy Cuban in every round and let his heavy hands go whenever he was close to the more technical boxer. Judges often reward forward-marching aggression. However, Rios’ aggression was not effective aggression.
The 25-year-old slugger was unable to connect with clean punches even when he was on top of Abril, whose body was always at an angle, chin usually tucked behind his left shoulder, and right hand always up and ready to block and parry Rios’ hooks. The 29-year-old Miami resident also employed a lot holding and often shoved Rios off with his left elbow — illegal tactics that further frustrated the odd favorite.
In a nutshell, Rios couldn’t get any quality work done on the inside, which is usually his domain. When the fight was contested from a distance, it was no contest. Abril consistently tagged Rios with a long jab and straight right hand while the Southern Californian walked straight forward without working a jab or any head movement.
Rios has faced superior technicians before, such as Anthony Peterson and Miguel Acosta, and prevailed. However, Rios scored those signature victories when he was able to comfortably make 135 pounds. He entered those fights as a slight underdog but he was the much bigger and stronger man on fight night and he used his size and strength to eventually overwhelm them.
Rios, sluggish from his failed battle to make weight, couldn’t do that against Abril, who boxed the fight of his career on Saturday and deserved better from the official judges.
Photos / Naoki Fukuda (top shot), Chris Farina-Top Rank