By Eric Raskin
Ronny Rios couldn’t afford a loss in the opening bout of the Miguel Cotto-Canelo Alvarez pay-per-view—not with a shock knockout defeat to Robinson Castellanos just 13 months ago stripping him of his status as a touted prospect. So instead of landing firmly in the also-ran bin with his second loss, the 25-year-old Rios fought perhaps the most focused and determined bout of his career and handed Jayson Velez his first defeat, triumphing by well-deserved unanimous decision in their 10-round featherweight scrap.
Rios (25-1, 10 KOs) applied the pressure and landed the more telling blows throughout, while Puerto Rico’s Velez (23-1-1, 16 KOs) never quite got on track. The scariest moments for the Mexican-American from Santa Ana, California came when he flirted with a disqualification for low blows, receiving four warnings from referee Jay Nady before finally losing a point in the fifth round. The fight was roughly level on the scorecards at the midway point, but Rios pulled away from there, landing several flush right hands to the chin along the way. The scores of 97-92, 96-93, and 95-94 all accurately reflected the action—competitive, but not so competitive that there was any doubt about the winner. Now it’s Velez’s turn to try to rebound from that first career defeat, while Rios reclaims his status as an up-and-comer worth watching.