LAS VEGAS — Sitting in the media room of the MGM Grand Hotel on Tuesday, former lightweight titleholder Brandon Rios was right where he wanted to be.
Coming off October’s seventh-round stoppage in his junior welterweight debut with Mike Alvarado, the 26-year-old Oxnard, Calif., resident has been tabbed as the likely opponent for the winner of Saturday night’s welterweight clash between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
These are promising times for Rios (30-0-1, 22 knockouts) after having endured some turbulent ones over a 10-month span.
Rios failed to make the 135-pound lightweight limit for both fights against Murray and Abril. Rios lost his WBA crown at the scales against Murray, and could not regain it as a result of his weight issues against Abril.
A deal was struck with the Murray camp in which Rios could weigh no greater than 10 pounds (147) more when he was checked at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday at his hotel. After Rios weighed 146.4 pounds on the morning of the fight, his bout with Murray was allowed to happen.
For his next fight, Abri replaced unbeaten former featherweight titleholder Yuriorkis Gamboa as Rios opponent, this, after Rios had emaciated himself to make the weight, only to be disappointed.
But having rebounded by defeating Alvarado to re-invigorate his career, Rios has targeted the winner of Marquez-Pacquiao, the latter of whom is coming off June’s disputed split-decision loss to Tim Bradley.
Rios shared his thoughts on his future in this Q&A
RingTV.com: Coming off the big win over Alvarado, and being considered for the winner of Pacquiao-Marquez, do you feel like you’re in the perfect firestorm right now?
Brandon Rios: Well, I feel great coming off that big fight with Mike Alvarado. I knew that I was 100 percent ready. I knew that when I make my weight comfortably, I can provide the war that I always wanted.
The power is there to do the damage that I want to, and that the fans like to see, so I knew that going into that fight, it was going to be great, and that beating a guy like Mike Alvarado, I couldn’t believe that I did it.
I was so happy because he had been walking through everybody but me, and I kept my hold, and I’m ready for the next one. Now, coming to the Pacquiao-Marquez fight, they’ve mentioned my name as a possibility for the winner.
So I’m very excited to be in the big spotlight now. I’ve worked my way up, just to be where I’m at right now, and I’m very excited.
RingTV.com: Having taken the criticism that you did for not making weight and looking bad against Abril, did you feel as if you were somewhat of an underdog going in against Alvarado?
BR: It was like God working in mysterious ways. I’ve said it, and I’ll say it again, that going into the fight against Rios, after I had beaten Urbano Antillon, that I got big-headed. I got full of myself.
My wife is the one that told me that, and she brought me back down to earth, and she kept me level-headed. I was riding sky-high and I thought that I was big s–t and everything, walking around.
But my wife brought me back down to earth. Now, when I didn’t make weight for the fight with John Murray, and then, I didn’t make it again with Abril, it was just horrible not making weight two times in a row.
It sucks. But I learned from my mistakes, and I’m young at the game, so now, I’ve got to train my body. If I feel that I can’t make 140 no more, then it’s time to move up.
RingTV.com: What have you heard about the potential for a fight with either Pacquiao or Marquez?
BR: Whatever weight class they want. I’m comfortable fighting at 147, and I’ll fight at 140. It doesn’t make a difference, I can make both weights comfortably.
As you can see, at my last fight, I was smiling at all of the press conferences. I was myself again and enjoying every minute. So right now, I can say that 140 is my weight class, and I’m comfortable here.
If I need to move up higher and go to 147 to take on the challenge, then I’ll take on the challenge. That’s why I’m in the sport, to take on anybody’s challenge and to try to win. That’s the outcome that I want.
RingTV.com: Would fighting for one of the belts at 140 be considered a lateral movement for you, or would you be willing to go after one of the belts in your present weight class?
BR: Right now, I’m really focused on the Dec. 8 fight, because I was told that I could fight the winner. Bob Arum himself that I could fight the winner, and my manager, Cameron Dunkin, said it too that Bob Arum told him too.
So, you know, it’s great that my name is being mentioned with the best, and right now, I want to fight the best to be the best. So if I have to fight one of the best, that’s what I want to do.
RingTV.com: Is what happened with you and Abril similar to what happened with Bradley and Pacquiao?
BR: I think that my situation is different from Bradley and Pacquiao. Pacquiao did win that fight clearly. Even with Timothy Bradley, there were a couple of rounds where he gave up.
I didn’t give up any of my rounds. I was still fighting.It wasn’t me, it was just him holding. He didn’t want to fight. He just wanted to hug and survive.
If I would have fought Pacquiao, and he would have beat me like he did Bradley, and he decisioned me, I would have been a man and been like, ‘Here, Pacquiao, you did win,’ and I wouldn’t accept it.
But with the Abril fight, I did win. I felt that I did enough to win. How are you going to win a fight by just hugging and holding all night long.
I felt that Abril didn’t do enough, so I felt like my situation between me and Bradley is different, because Pacquiao, everyone saw that Pacquiao won.
But I don’t know what happened in that fight. With Abril, when you post this up, everybody’s going to be like, ‘You lost too with Abril.’ But honestly, all Abril was doing was just hugging and holding.
I was landing the most effective shots, and he wasn’t landing nothing. I’ve gone back and replayed that video over and over, and there’s no way that he won. It was a close decision and a close fight, but there was no way that he won.
RingTV.com: What was your lowest point in terms of the criticism you endured after the Abril fight?
BR: The lowest point for me was when I fought Abril. I was very excited to make 135 again, and I had trained my ass off to make 135, because they said that you’re going to fight Gamboa.
I was very excited, because that was the fight that I wanted. Then, all of a sudden, one day, they told me that Gamboa wasn’t going to show up at the press conference for the first time.
That kind of gave me a bad feeling. Then he didn’t show up again in Los Angeles, and then I lost all interest in making 135 again.
But they kept promising me that if I took the fight, I would get Marquez the next fight. So I tried to make it and it didn’t happen, and I made myself look like an ass in front of everybody.
And then everybody was talking bad about me, like, ‘He can’t make weight, he can’t make weight,’ and ‘he’s a fat ass,’ and stuff like that. Stuff like that, it brings you down.
It brings you down a lot. But you just have to be strong-minded, and when you’re strong-minded, you can’t focus on all of the negativity. You have to just keep on doing what you’re doing and training hard.
RingTV.com: Where did you find the strength and motivation?
BR: What gave me the strength and the reason to keep going is that I do this for my family, my wife and my kids. I don’t do this for my own pleasure.
I do this for my kids, to make them have a better life. But I did bring myself down. But my wife was there. She knew that it dragged me down, and there was a time where I did start crying.
Because all of the negativity, it just hit me at once. I had never had that before, and it just hit me so much with all of the bad talk.
So I just stopped reading the internet, and pretty much broke my computer because I didn’t want to read that s–t. But now, I’ve come back strong. I do it also for the fans.
All of those real, hard core fans that I have, and the fans that follow me even though I’m not in training. They follow me, they Tweet me, and they’re always asking questions of me.
I do it for them, because I want them to see the fight that they pay for. I want them to see a real fight, and not a hugging and holding match. So I do it for the fans.
I just want to prove everybody wrong and to show everybody that when I make my weight, and I’m where I’m supposed to be at, there’s no stopping me.
Photos by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com