Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves weigh-in ahead of their match-up taking place Sat., Aug. 2 on HBO as part of a split-site tripleheader beginning at 9:45pm ET/PT.
Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
This can’t have been the easiest of weeks for Diego Chaves.
It’s demanding enough, choosing a profession that requires punching a man in the head and almost inevitably results in being punched in the head in return. Having to venture from Argentina to Las Vegas in order to engage in such mutual punch-swapping – a journey of about 6,000 miles and 15 hours as the 747 flies – can only add to the difficulty. So it must surely be all the more challenging to arrive just two days beforehand, without the opportunity to relax, adjust to the time zone and the environment and recover from the rigors of travel. But that’s the fate that befell Chaves as a consequence of State Department snafus and computer glitches that left Chaves wondering, as late as Wednesday morning, whether he would be granted a US visa and the opportunity to fly to Sin City.
By the time the Argentine fighter finally arrived at McCarran Airport on Thursday morning, his opponent Brandon Rios was casually walking the halls of the Cosmopolitan, shooting interviews for HBO and waiting patiently for the final pre-fight press conference, to which Chaves – understandably focused on resting after his lengthy and belated journey – did not appear.
When he emerged later that evening after a nap and a workout, Chaves insisted that the delay and uncertainty hadn’t affected him either physically or emotionally. And for all that events may have stacked the odds somewhat against him, it could be argued that he has more to gain and less to lose from Saturday’s encounter than his opponent.
Not that Chaves is likely to need any incentive to defeat Rios, but if he did, the fact that Chris Algieri has, in a matter of months, gone from barely known ESPN fighter to Manny Pacquiao opponent surely provides it; the welterweight field is wide open right now, and an impressive victory could put the Argentine in pole position for the next shot at the Pacman. That isn’t an option for Rios, who had his chance against Pacquiao but fell far short in Macau last November. And if Chaves fails on Saturday? It would be his second consecutive loss in a high-profile bout on American soil; but he is undefeated in his homeland, and a successful career likely continues to await him there. Defeat for Rios, on the other hand, would be his third in a row and would plunge him into journeyman territory: a sudden and dramatic fall for a man who sixteen months ago was an unbeaten rising star.
Rios knows as much, too, and asserts that this time, after many well-documented struggles to make weight, he enters this contest after a camp spent eating and training correctly. Of course, he said as much prior to the Pacquiao contest, too, and we all know how that worked out. But to his credit, he looks fit and lean, and when he stepped on the scale on Friday, he made the welterweight limit of 147 pounds comfortably. It was Chaves who came in a pound over, but that’s within the acceptable range for non-title bouts.
It can’t have been an easy week for Diego Chaves. The task for Rios is to ensure that Saturday isn’t an easy night for him, either. Chaves, in contrast, will be aiming to make it a night to remember.
Photos: Will Hart
By Frank Della Femina
When Blake Caparello stepped on to the scale Friday afternoon at Revel Casino in Atlantic City, it was easy to imagine the digital read-out render the word, "Why?" instead of his weight of 174 pounds. After all, not many people are willing to enter the ring across from a man as feared as Sergey "Krusher" Kovalev.
Lately, Kovalev's opponents have been coming in as heavy underdogs. His previous challenger, Cedric Agnew, hit the canvas three times on the way to a 7th round KO this past March. However, he did manage to leave Kovalev with a not-so-friendly reminder that not every win will come void of pain – or in this particular case, a few stitches above the eye.
But as HBO's June match-up between Ruslan Provodnikov and Chris Algieri showed, anything can happen in a boxing ring, which is why Caparello is so confident in his chances of pulling off an upset.
"I believe in my ability. I know I can beat him," said the Aussie southpaw. "If I wasn't confident I wouldn't have taken the fight. I'm confident. My team is confident and [promoter] Lou DiBella is confident. That's why we took the fight."
For all the animosity that often builds during fight week, Kovalev and Caparello seem to have taken a "save it for the ring" approach. Neither has been so bold as to take proverbial jabs at the other, nor has there been anything less than a few smiles exchanged, starting with Thursday's press conference (sarcastic as they may have been).
"I'm coming to America to beat Sergey Kovalev," Caparello boasted from the podium Thursday afternoon. "I'm confident in my abilities and I'm ready to be a champion."
Moments later Kovalev responded simply, "I want to just get in the ring and get my next win this Saturday."
Simple and to the point. Perhaps even a direct reflection of Kovalev's natural ease with which he approaches an opponent; never asking whom he's facing, only when the fight will happen, and at what weight he needs to be.
Like Agnew before him, Caparello enters the contest undefeated. However, all but one of those 19 wins came in Australia. If the Russian can add to the right side of his professional record of 24-0-1 (22 KOs) Saturday night, he could face a fighter—Bernard Hopkins—with much greater name recognition soon after.
Official Weights from Atlantic City
Sergey Kovalev: 174 pounds
Blake Caparello: 174 pounds
When Manny Pacquiao met Brandon Rios last November, the "Pac Man" -- believe it or not -- had not won a fight in two years and 12 days. Pacquiao responded by producing his best form since pounding Shane Mosley two-and-a-half years before and winning a comprehensive 12-round decision.
When Rios meets Diego Chaves on Saturday, it will have been 22 months since his last victory, his seventh round TKO over Mike Alvarado in the first of their two fights. Will Rios shake off the ghosts as well as Pacquiao did against him? Or will Chaves confirm that Rios is a waning force?
As for Chaves, he had already dealt with the first loss of his career against Keith Thurman 13 months ago by returning to Argentina and cracking Juan Godoy in three rounds. A victory over Rios, which would be his first outside his native land, would put him back in the 147-pound title conversation but a defeat will surely peg him as a regional standout who struck his head on a glass ceiling.
On paper, their aggressive styles seem made for one another. But will that translate inside the ring? Not even they will know until the first bell rings.
Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:
Rios' Struggles: When Rios was at his best -- a few years and 12 pounds ago -- he boasted a rare blend of extreme volume and accuracy. In his lone WBA lightweight title defense against Urbano Antillon he averaged a mind-blowing 107.3 punches per round, landed 50% of his total punches, 42% of his jabs, 56% of his power shots and out-landed the challenger 162-95 overall, 53-18 jabs and 109-77 power in less than three rounds. his 36.3 power connects per round nearly tripled the 13.6 lightweight average. Yes, he took more than his share (44% overall, 33% jabs, 47% power) but his firepower was more than enough to get the job done.
Once his weight struggles kicked in he lost that magic. He was overweight in 135-pound title fights versus John Murray and Richar Abril and his last two fights against Mike Alvarado (fight two) and Pacquiao illustrated the erosion of form. Against Alvarado, he averaged 68.6 punches per round -- still above the 60.0 junior welterweight norm but below his best -- and was out-landed 261-241 overall and 84-59 jabs, negating Rios' 182-177 edge in power connects. Alvarado struck him with 38% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts while Rios landed 34% of his.
The slide was even more dramatic against Pacquiao. Rios may have been campaigning in a more comfortable weight class -- and he was even heavier once he rehydrated -- but he paid a big price in terms of his form as well as the punishment Pacquiao dished out. Averaging just 41.8 punches per round -- far below his previous career low of 53.2 against Oscar Meza in May 2009 -- Rios was hit often (281-138 overall, 58-25 jabs, 223-113 power) and at a high percentage (36% overall, 48% power). The only bright spot was that he managed to hit Pacquiao with 43% of his power shots but they had no effect on the Filipino. That was telling given that Pacquiao had suffered a one-punch KO loss in his most recent effort and was coming in off the longest layoff of his career.
What does Rios have left in the tank, and will it be enough to repel the bull-strong Argentine?
Volume Equals Victory: Like Rios, Chaves thrives when he gets his engine running. Seventeen of his 19 knockouts have occurred within three rounds and his high output is the main culprit. In blowing out Ismael El Massoudi (TKO 2) he averaged 79.4 punches per round and the trend held during his wins over Jorge Miranda (KO 3, 107.4 per round) and Jose Miranda (TKO 2, 80.2).
When he's forced to go longer distances he has been able to maintain his energetic pace. Against Eduardo Flores (TKO 9) he ranged between 72 and 92 punches per round and his body attack accounted for 109 of his 186 power connects. In beating the sly 38-year-old Omar Weis he fell behind early due to Weis' wiles and a shocking knockdown. But from the eighth round forward Chaves shifted into overdrive and from rounds eight through 11 he out-landed Weis 143-84 (total) and 124-60 (power) en route to a narrow but deserved victory. In all Chaves out-landed Weis 271-226 overall and landed 29% overall and 35% of his power shots while tasting 31% of Weis' total punches and 38% of his power punches.
When he stepped up in class against Thurman, the volume game all but disappeared. He averaged only 49.5 punches per round, well below the 76.5 he averaged in his five other CompuBox-tracked fights, but he managed to give "One Time" everything he wanted -- and some that he didn't want -- for eight rounds before suffering knockdowns in the ninth and 10th rounds. Thurman's success in the final two rounds enabled the American to vault ahead in terms of connects (118-107 overall and 85-68 power) and percentages (29%-24% overall, 16%-15% jabs, 41%-34% power).
Also, Thurman's balanced boxing (202 jabs, 205 power shots) forced Chaves to stray from his power game and engage in a more scientific match in terms of punch selection (255 jabs, 198 power shots, a 56-44 split in favor of jabs that conflicts with the 60-40 split in favor of power shots in his other five CompuBox-tracked fights). But given Rios' past, Chaves won't have to worry about technical boxing; he'll be there to hit -- and be hit.
Prediction: The tag line for Greg Haugen-Ray Mancini was "Tough Guys Don't Dance" and such will also be the case with Rios and Chaves. Both are tough, tenacious battlers who come at opponents in straight lines. Expect plenty of power shots and a high contact fight: 29 of their combined 35 landed punches per round (83%) were power shots. Opponents landed 43% of their power punches vs. Rios, while Chaves opponents landed 38% of their power shots. A plus for Rios: He may be a badly faded force but he at least has a far more dependable chin -- and he'll need it. Chaves was floored and nearly knocked senseless against the otherwise light-hitting Weis and was indeed knocked senseless against the ferocious-punching Thurman. However, Rios doesn't have that kind of power and Chaves has less miles on the odometer. Chaves may be 22 days older but he's years younger in terms of ring age. Also, welterweight is not Rios' best weight and defense has never been a strong suit. Chaves by decision in an action fight.
If Sergey Kovalev, promoter Kathy Duva and HBO had their way, this date might have witnessed the long-desired unification bout between Kovalev and WBC titlist Adonis Stevenson. But since Stevenson bolted for "the guys across the street" to fight Andrzej Fonfara (and possibly Bernard Hopkins), Kovalev has been content to bide his time while blasting out whomever was placed in front of him.
This past March 29, the victim was 26-0 Cedric Agnew. On Saturday, it will be Blake Caparello, a lanky Australian southpaw with a strange style and a 14-fight winning streak. The knockout percentages couldn't be more different (88 percent for Kovalev, 30 percent for Caparello) nor the fighting styles but in boxing contrast is the spice of life.
Will Kovalev score his career-high ninth knockout in a row or will Caparello pull off what may well be the upset of the year, if not the decade thus far?
Factors that may influence the outcome include:
Kovalev vs. Left-Handers: The switch-hitting Agnew opted to fight almost exclusively from the left-handed stance and while he managed to average a meager 17.2 punches per round to Kovalev's 63.6 he managed to give the Russian tank a lot to think about. Head clashes opened cuts over both Kovalev eyes and his high guard limited the champ to a lower-than-usual 27% overall, 18% jabs and 34% power. Still, Kovalev proved he could land the hook as it scored knockdowns in rounds two (jaw) and six (body) and a jab to the body -- of all things -- ended up scoring the 10-count knockout. The final numbers were sufficiently dominant as he out-landed Agnew 107-31 overall, 36-9 jabs and 71-22 power and the jab was impressively effective as he averaged 31 thrown and 5.7 connects per round, well above the 22.6 and 5.2 light heavyweight norms.
In January 2013 Kovalev created an army of believers by blasting out former 175-pound titlist Gabriel Campillo in round three thanks to the three-knockdown rule. Kovalev took full advantage of Campillo's slow-starting tendencies by going 24 of 90 to Campillo's 2 of 12 and 30 of 83 to 9 of 41 in round two to set up the third round destruction. In all Kovalev out-landed Campillo 77-13 overall, 22-9 jabs and 55-4 in power shots but more importantly Kovalev averaged 90 punches per round to Campillo's 23.6.
Given what happened in these two fights Kovalev's approach against southpaws is clear: Negate the positional war by going straight through it and ceaselessly firing cluster bombs.
Caparello's Caper: If the man from Down Under is to spring the monumental surprise, he must manage to neutralize Kovalev's hot start by applying his two-inch reach advantage and his quirky style. One way is to adopt the approach he utilized in his most recent fight against Elvir Muriqi -- being proactive with the pace (74.4 punches per round to Muriqi's 34.4), using a busy jab (39.4 thrown/4.1 landed per round) and steadily piling up points each round. He out-landed Muriqi 139-79 overall, 41-17 jabs and 98-62 power and while he wasn't precise (19% overall, 10% jabs, 28% power) he muffled Muriqi enough (23% overall, 12% jabs, 31% power) to get the job done.
The other way is to muck up the proceedings and make it messy, as he did against a reluctant Allan Green and his close fight with Daniel MacKinnon, both of which were 12 round decision wins. Caparello won the MacKinnon bout by being busier (45.1 per round to 35.2) and at least using the jab (26.7 thrown per round) if not landing it often (6%). MacKinnon banked on his power punching to break through but Caparello's style prevented him from making much of a dent (28%, an 87-71 connect edge and a 32%-28% accuracy deficit). Caparello led 91-90 in total connects and 20-3 jabs, enough to get the nod from the judges.
The Green fight was no more than a glorified sparring session and the American reportedly was hesitant even to leave the dressing room. Again, the pace was modest (41.8 per round for Caparello to Green's 30.5) but Caparello's 46% power accuracy was enough to deter Green's ambition. Caparello out-landed Green 155-68 overall, 24-20 jabs and 131-48 power only because he was so much more active (502-366 in total thrown punches). For Caparello, a dull fight is a winning fight.
Prediction: Unfortunately for Caparello, Kovalev doesn't do boring. Instead, he'll bore in, do his damage and leave the ring with another KO on his ledger. Next?
HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney goes one-on-one with Brandon Rios and Diego Chaves before they face off Saturday night from the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.
Watch live on HBO Boxing After Dark, starting at 9:45 PM ET/PT.
Report from the Rios vs. Chaves final press conference. Rios vs. Chaves happens Sat., Aug. 2 on HBO as part of a split-site tripleheader beginning at 9:45pm ET/PT.
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.