Re-Post: What Does Brandon Rios Fight Like?

Photo: Ed Mulholland

Photo: Ed Mulholland

By Hamilton Nolan

Brandon Rios takes on Diego Chaves as part of a Boxing After Dark triple-header this Saturday at 9:45 PM. Before Rios’ last fight – a unanimous decision loss to Manny Pacquiao – HBO Boxing Insider Hamilton Nolan considered the question, “What Does Brandon Rios Fight Like?”

Brandon Rios fights like the bronze head of an old battering ram that swings only forwards and backwards in a straight line but that's good enough.

Brandon Rios fights like a flatfooted platypus waddling up on shore awkwardly, and the platypus is wearing boxing gloves for some reason.

Three hunched figures are shuffling along a street in a retirement community. "Why, I remember the Great War," says one. "I remember the Great Depression," says another. "What?" says the third. That's Brandon Rios. He's always hunched and shuffling. Sure can punch though.

Brandon Rios fights like a bobblehead doll whose bobblehead will not break off no matter how many times you slam it on the side of a desk.

"Look back, and smile on perils past," said Walter Scott. "Look, I'll smile while I'm getting punched in the face. Fuck it," said Brandon Rios.

Brandon Rios's uppercuts slice like a thresher, tossing the wheat into the air, greedily consuming all in its path. "Wheat" in this case is "a human's face."

Pernell Whitaker is to Brandon Rios as a darting gazelle is to an oak tree that drops dangerously heavy acorns.

Brandon Rios fights like no one ever taught him to fight and furthermore he could not care less that no one ever taught him to fight because he just got done knocking out all the guys who were taught how to fight.

Brandon Rios stands like he's trying to grasp a softball between his elbows, and walks like he's inching forwards along a balance beam. When he covers up he looks instantly helpless. But when he punches, his shoulder rolls forward a little more than the average man's, because he cares a little more about knocking you out than the average man.

Brandon Rios is an example of what would happen if all you cared about in life was punching people in the head and goddamn the consequences, whatever they may be.

Jay, Silent Bob, and Brandon Rios were loitering outside of a 7-11. None of them looked out of place. Jay, Silent Bob, and Brandon Rios were in a boxing match. Only Brandon Rios lived.

Brandon Rios fights like someone whose successful career is hazardous to his long-term health.

Brandon Rios fights like a kid who actually likes to fight, who craves violence, who has used his fists as a bargaining chip, who has forsaken all self-reflection in favor of constant action and an instant temper and who long ago found a settled resolve to accept any and all punishment that comes with this lifestyle in exchange for the morbid but certain peace of mind that it offers. There is probably a deep psychological reason for this, but Brandon Rios is not a psychologist.

 

An Argentine Fighter Has Second Chances in His Blood

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Photo: Will Hart

By Diego Morilla

Back in the golden era of Argentine boxing, during the 1950s, Rudecindo Chaves never really stood a chance against the top contenders of his time. But later in life, he would get to see his son Ismael fulfill his dream and make it all the way to a world title bout in Australia.

And even though Ismael was stopped in three rounds in that dream bout against Kostya Tszyu in 1997, he would later become the trainer of one of his young nephews, and in turn end up taking to a world title belt that was three generations in the making.

Second chances are few and far in between for most people. But they run in the Chaves family DNA. For Diego Chaves (23-1, 19 KO) – who meets Brandon Rios (31-2-1, 23 KO) in a 10-round bout this coming Saturday in Las Vegas on Boxing After Dark – that chance has come in a different sport than the one he had initially chosen.

"I played soccer in the minor league system of the Velez Sarsfield club until I was 18 years old," said former interim welterweight titlist. "Soccer helped me with my legwork, it gives me a lot of mobility. But I take boxing with much more respect and seriousness."

In a country in which every kid gives at least one serious try to become a professional soccer player, having made it that far in one of the country's most consistent teams is quite an achievement. But the young Diego abandoned his promising soccer career to pursue that elusive title belt that was still sitting at the top of the family's wish list.

And he got it with a demolition of Ismael El Massoudi back in July of 2012. That fight netted him the chance to face fellow undefeated welterweight contender Keith Thurman in his second trip away from his homeland (the first one being an irrelevant six-rounder in Las Vegas in 2010).

The memories of that fight – and tenth round KO loss –still hurt.

"The loss against Thurman was something we didn't deserve because we were doing great until the last round,and then we got careless," said Chaves, who is still eyeing a rematch"We wanted to change the game plan at the last minute to lure Thurman to come forward a little bit, because he wasn't opening up the way he had in other fights. We changed our style and yet he continued going backwards, which was not good for us.  And when we tried to go back to our previous fight plan I took that hook to the liver and I couldn't recover."

A win against Thurman would have put Chaves among the ranks of the "Argentine legion" of rising stars such as Marcos Maidana, Lucas MathysseCarlos Abregú. Instead, Chaves headed back home to regroup and rethink his career. He took only one minor club fight just to stay busy in early 2014, and then he got the call.

"I really loved to hear that HBO thought of me for this fight, to hear that they wanted Diego Chaves for this big fight," he said"Fighting in Las Vegas against Brandon Rios on HBO is something really big for me, and very special. After this victory, I am sure a lot more doors will open up for me."

That opportunity almost disappeared for Chaves. A "glitch" in the U.S. State Department's database kept him in Argentina until Wednesday of fight week. When the visa was finally issued, he immediately flew to Las Vegas.

Chaves will have to quickly put his travel woes behind him. Against Rios, he will be fighting a talented, highly-rated former champion trying to overcome a 0-2 streak in the last two years in a crossroads fight. Chaves is aware that this opportunity means much more than just a chance to break the 1-1 tie in his record fighting in the United States.

"This is a new door that opens up for me," said Chaves. "I think the image I left (in the Thurman fight)was quite good. I think we have to change a little bit and become a bit more aggressive."

It is easy to see why Chaves sees a more favorable scenario in this new opportunity. Thurman was a more polished, mid-long range fighter with great mobility, much in the mold of the guys Chaves ran into during his aborted path towards the 2008 Olympics (including names such as Demetrius Andrade, Erislandy Lara and others). His defeats against those fighters convinced Chaves to make the jump to the pros before even trying to qualify for the Olympics, in the understanding that his style was more suited for the paid ranks.

And in Rios he will have a consummate professional brawler, one who will stand right in front of him and trade leather all night if he has to, bringing his own brand of aggression as well.

"He has the heart of a warrior, like a good Mexican fighter. We know he has heavy hands, but he is much slower than Thurman. And we know that I am faster and I am much more mobile", says Chaves, who believes Rios will be the perfect opponent to showcase the more aggressive style he plans to bring out"I know he's had great opponents like Mike Alvarado or Manny Pacquiao, but I am better than him."

The big paydays and huge knockouts achieved by his countrymen in the 147-pound neighborhood are indeed an inspiration, but his goal remains the same: avenging his lone loss to date and then regaining his title.

"I want the rematch, and then I want to be a champion again," says Chaves. "I don't care who I fight against. But first of all, I want to get that rematch done, and after that I can fight against anybody."

If he manages to beat Rios he'll surely have his wish fulfilled, and his family's long history of resilience and persistence will prevail once again.

Watch: One-on-One with Sergey Kovalev and Blake Caparello

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Sergey Kovalev and Blake Caparello before they face off Saturday night from the Revel Atlantic City.

Watch live on HBO Boxing After Dark, starting at 9:45 PM ET/PT.

Watch: Hey Harold! - Lederman on Rios-Chaves

HBO Boxing unofficial scorer Harold Lederman on Rios vs. Chaves. Rios vs. Chaves happens Sat., Aug. 2 on HBO as part of a split-site tripleheader beginning at 9:45pm ET/PT.

Watch: Hey Harold! - Lederman on Kovalev-Caparello

HBO Boxing unofficial scorer Harold Lederman on Kovalev vs. Caparello. Kovalev vs. Caparello happens Sat., Aug. 2 on HBO as part of a split-site tripleheader beginning at 9:45pm ET/PT. 

Watch: 2 Days with Sergey Kovalev

In the two days surrounding a professional boxing match, anything can happen. Watch the HBO Sports special, "2 Days: Sergey Kovalev". Kovalev vs. Caparello happens Sat., Aug. 2 on HBO as part of a tripleheader beginning at 9:45pm ET/PT.

Watch the full version on HBO.com.

Start the Insanity: Fan-Friendly Warriors Rios and Kovalev Glove Up

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

By Eric Raskin

Inside a 20' x 20' ring where leather-encased fists fly at your face is no place for a sane person. Stated bluntly: Everyone who pursues the sport of boxing is at least a little bit crazy. And that doesn't have to be meant in a pejorative way; "crazy" can be a term of affection or admiration. Regardless, it is undoubtedly a term that applies to anyone who punches people violently in the head and gets punched violently in the head as part of his job description. All boxers are crazy.

But even by those elevated standards, there's something about Brandon Rios and Sergey Kovalev that suggests they're both a little extra crazy.

In this case, again, "crazy" is mostly a compliment: Rios and Kovalev are both offense-minded, fan-friendly action fighters whom people tune in to watch in part because they just might have a screw loose. Rios makes no effort to conceal his craziness; he smiles like the Joker when punched, howls when his arm is raised in victory, and unfurls F-bomb after F-bomb with no regard for how many toddlers are in the room. Kovalev has a crazy streak that reveals itself more sporadically, but when you see it, you know it. For example, would a sane person grin maniacally while wearing a T-shirt featuring a picture of his own face grinning maniacally, accompanied by the words "I WILL KRUSH HIM"? Would a sane person move in for the knockout, stop for a quick groin feint, and then continue punching?

Rios and Kovalev, two of boxing's most popular whack jobs, return to the ring this Saturday in co-headlining bouts on a split-site Boxing After Dark doubleheader at 9:45 PM. But where the similarities end is with the level of danger each faces. Kovalev is a prohibitive favorite to add a 25th win to his undefeated ledger at the Revel Resort in Atlantic City. Rios is at extreme risk of suffering his third consecutive defeat at the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.

At the end of 2012, Rios had a record of 31-0-1, was coming off a Fight-of-the-Year-caliber TKO of Mike Alvarado, and was simply one of the hottest commodities in boxing. But he cooled off in 2013. He lost a narrow decision to Alvarado in their rematch, dropped a not-remotely-narrow decision to Manny Pacquiao in Macao, and then got suspended for testing positive for a banned stimulant in his postfight drug test. He returns not having tasted victory in more than 21 months, and with his face-first style, he's hearing whispers that he's already on the downside at age 28.

"I know that a lot of people think I am done but I believe I am far from being finished," said Rios, a media-friendly fighter who never plays it close to the vest. "Pacquiao was a very difficult fight for me … he was just too fast."

In Diego Chaves, Rios will find himself in with an opponent who has little in common with Pacquiao stylistically, but who nevertheless presents plenty of his own challenges. The Argentine, best known to American audiences for a competitive 10th-round TKO loss to Keith Thurman last year, is a puncher/warrior from the Rios mold, with 19 knockouts among his 23 wins. The 28-year-old bounced back from his lone defeat with a quick knockout of a journeyman in Buenos Aires in February, and from the moment the Rios fight was signed, Chaves became one of the trendiest upset picks (at least, it would be an upset in terms of their respective name recognition) in recent boxing history.

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

Photo Credit: Ed Mulholland

"Chaves is a tough fighter and I expect a good, hard fight and one the fans will enjoy," Rios said. "I know I could have fought an easier opponent but I want to show everyone what I am still capable of doing against a top-level guy. It's do or die for me and I will do what I have to do to win this fight."

Don't expect a lot of jabbing in this welterweight 10-rounder. While Rios' career high of 107.3 punches thrown per round (against Urbano Antillon) and Chaves' career high of 107.4 (against Jorge Miranda) are unlikely to be repeated, there is definite potential for a high-output slugfest that boils down to how strong each man's chin is and whether Rios, a fierce puncher at lightweight, can carry his power with him to 147 pounds.

There are not as many questions swirling about Kovalev's fight with Blake Caparello taking place on the opposite coast. The light heavyweight known as "Krusher" is facing his third undefeated opponent in four fights, but Caparello, like Cedric Agnew before him, is taking a dramatic leap up in class against the 31-year-old Russian. Kovalev is in a neck-and-neck race with Gennady Golovkin to see which destructive force from the former Soviet Union can have a harder time convincing elite opponents to fight him; in the meantime, he's staying busy, building a fan base, and trying to say the right things.

"Blake is undefeated. I am taking him serious," said Kovalev, unbeaten with 22 KOs among his 24 victories. "I just get in to box and to win. Blake has an advantage because he is coming to get the title. He is hungry and has nothing to lose. It is my job to keep the title. More pressure on me to defend the title."

The Australian Caparello (19-0-1, 6 KOs) hopes not to follow his countryman Daniel Geale's lead and become a quick knockout victim, and to that end, he'll try to disarm Kovalev with his southpaw style. Kovalev, after all, looked slightly less monstrous than usual when trying to figure out Agnew, also a southpaw, back in March, landing a modest 27 percent of his punches according to CompuBox. Caparello pumps out plenty of right jabs (how regularly they land is another story) and will mug and hug as needed to survive.

The Aussie acknowledged recently that "Sergey Kovalev is the biggest puncher in boxing." So we know Caparello holds his opponent in high regard. And he has wondered aloud whether the opposite is true. Caparello posited during the prefight buildup that the Krusher might be looking past him, especially with talk of a Kovalev-Bernard Hopkins showdown beginning to gain steam.

 Kovalev insists, however, that he's focused solely on the fight in front of him. If that's true, it would appear to be very grim news for Caparello.

And it forces you to wonder if Caparello, rather than Kovalev or Rios, is in fact the craziest person on Saturday's fight card.

 ***

 Kovalev-Caparello isn't the only battle of unbeatens on this weekend's HBO broadcast; from Vegas, the show opens with rising junior welterweight Jessie Vargas (24-0, 9 KOs) making the first defense of his belt against Russian southpaw Anton Novikov (29-0, 10 KOs). The challenger is an unproven commodity, which is precisely what could've been said of Vargas prior to his last bout, in which he scored a mild upset over previously undefeated Khabib Allakhverdiev. In a crowded 140-pound title picture, the winner of this fight establishes himself as worthy of entering the discussion for major fights. And before you dismiss that as overstatement, remember that Chris Algieri was no more established that Vargas or Novikov one fight ago, and he's now set to challenge Manny Pacquiao.


HBO Boxing Podcast - Episode 15 - Golovkin-Geale Postfight and Rios-Chaves/Kovalev-Caparello Preview

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney look back at Gennady Golovkin's thudding KO of Daniel Geale and look ahead to the fights between Brandon Rios and Daniel Geale, as well as Sergey Kovalev and Blake Caparello, August 2nd at 9:45 PM.