Despite the fame, money, and world titles that accompany success in boxing, the sport can be physically unforgiving.
Cuts, abrasions, hands that get fractured or broken are just a few of the things fighters have to physically deal with during and after a fight.
The mental aspect of the sport can weigh much heavier on a fighter though. Just ask Brandon Rios.
The popular Mexican-American fighter has been in tremendous wars where cuts and bruises are badges of honor earned on the way to having his arm raised in victory. But after two losses, Rios’ mental state was hurt more than any combination that Mike Alvarado or Manny Pacquiao landed.
Rios wanted to come back to the ring as soon as he could after his one-sided unanimous decision loss to Pacquiao last November, however it may be a blessing in disguise that he had to stay away from the ring given that his next bout will be against dangerous and formidable Diego Chavez.
Rios will fight Chaves in a scheduled 10-round welterweight bout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Aug. 2. The fight will headline a Top Rank card and will be broadcast live on HBO.
After facing two stellar opponents, it would have been understandable for Rios to face a modest, but safe opponent. Instead, Rios faces Chaves, who gave undefeated contender Keith Thurman all he could handle before being stopped in the 10th round.
“I wished I would’ve faced an easier opponent like the guy (Danny) Garcia is fighting,” quipped Rios to RingTV.com at Tuesday’s kick-off press conference in Hollywood, Calif. “I’d like to fight someone ranked number 78 in the world.
“It is what it is. They (Top Rank) felt this was the right for me in my first fight back. I’m not thinking about any other fighter other than Chaves. It’s not an easy fight.”
Chaves was not present at the press conference, which was held at the Avalon nightclub. He is still in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in preparation for the fight.
Never for a loss for words, Rios was all smiles at the press conference, accommodating the assembled media by answering all questions.
That demeanor will change on fight night. Wanting to prove doubters wrong, Rios is willing to do whatever it takes to show he is still a force to be reckoned with at 147 pounds.
“I want to prove to everyone that I’m not done yet,” said Rios, who is already training for the fight in his adopted hometown of Oxnard, Calif.
VARGAS-NOVIKOV OPENS HBO TRIPLEHEADER
Jessie Vargas will defend his WBA 140-pound “regular” title for the first time against Russian-born Anton Novikov in the co-featured bout to Rios-Chaves and the opening bout of HBO’s broadcast. (It will be followed by the Sergey Kovalev-Blake Caparello WBO light heavyweight title bout from Atlantic City.)
Vargas won the world title in his last bout on April 12 when he won a close unanimous decision over Khabib Allakhverdiev.
Vargas (24-0, 9 KOs), who resides in Las Vegas, announced during the press conference he will be taking part in VADA testing. He reached out to Novikov to do the same.
“I support a clean sport,” said the 25-year-old Vargas.
While he may be for a clean sport, maybe the VADA proclamation Vargas spoke about was a form of gamesmanship. Novikov’s one-sided 12 round unanimous decision win over Karlo Tabaghua was ruled a no contest after Novikov failed a post-fight drug test.
Aside from a cold stare at Vargas, Novikov seemed unfazed at what Vargas has accomplished in the ring.
“I don’t know if I’ll win by knockout or decision, but my 30th victory will get me a world title belt,” Novikov said through translator and manager Steven Bash.
JOSE RAMIREZ RETURNS
Unbeaten and 2012 United States Olympian Jose Ramirez will also fight on the Top Rank card. He is scheduled to fight Alfred Romero in an eight-round bout on the non-televised portion of the card.
Ramirez (10-0, 8 KOs) is coming off a second-round knockout over Jesus Selig on May 17. The fight drew almost 7,000 fight fans at the Selland Arena in Fresno, Calif.
The 21-year-old Ramirez, who is now training at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, Calif., with Freddie Roach, has recently made headlines outside of the ring. Ramirez traveled to Sacramento to attend a water body rally along with members of the California Latino Water Coalition in the hopes to have water released to residents and growers of the San Joaquin Valley, which has experienced years of drought.
“I’m looking forward to fighting on Aug. 2,” said Ramirez. “I still want to call attention to what’s going on in the San Joaquin Valley. My parents worked in the fields and I still see people I know who work in the fields. Without water, growers can raise crops, which means there could be no jobs for farm workers.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for RingTV since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. He also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, Boxingscene.com, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing