Common Opponent Rios Breaks Down Pacquiao-Bradley

Photo: Will Hart

By Eric Raskin

Only two professional prizefighters have fought both Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley. And only one of those fighters is a native English speaker. So, sorry Juan Manuel Marquez, but we turned to Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios to get his expert insight on what to expect from the combatants in Saturday’s main event at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“It’s a true coin toss, this fight,” Rios told Inside HBO Boxing. “Toss it in the air, you don’t know if it’s going to land on heads or tails. It’s that hard to call. I mean, I believe Pacquiao won both of their first two fights, but it’s much harder to say who has the edge this time. But if I absolutely have to pick, I’ll go with Pacquiao.”

Rios was soundly outboxed by Pacquiao when they fought in Macau in November 2013. The southern California slugger simply couldn’t keep up with Pacquiao from a speed perspective. A year and a half later, of course, Floyd Mayweather proved plenty capable of neutralizing the Filipino’s speed — but Rios thinks people are making too much of the outcome of last May’s mega-fight.

“The way fans are, man, one day they’re on your boat, the next day they’re off. You win, they say you’re the greatest, but then you lose and it’s, ‘Oh man, he’s done, he’s over the hill,’” Rios said. “I think Manny still has it. I mean, who hasn’t lost to Mayweather? If you’ve fought him, you’ve lost to him. Mayweather is a great, intelligent fighter. Just by losing to him, that doesn’t mean Pacquiao’s done.”

Staying on the topic of jumping to conclusions based on one fight, Rios also warns not to assume Bradley is an improved fighter under Teddy Atlas just because Bradley stopped Rios in the ninth round last November in his first bout with the new trainer.

“People are saying Tim Bradley’s a new man because of Teddy Atlas, but I’m not sure that’s true,” Rios said. “Yes, he stopped me, but that wasn’t me in the ring that night. I will say this: Teddy can motivate you. And sometimes, some of us do need that. Tim Bradley knows who he is as a fighter; he’s not a whole new fighter under Teddy. But maybe there are some slight changes to the training process and maybe Teddy’s doing a good job of tightening up some things. And Teddy might give him more confidence.”

Bradley is the only fighter to finish Rios off inside the distance. Rios never went down as Pacquiao bounced punches off his dome for 12 rounds. But when asked which pound-for-pounder is more likely to score a knockout on Saturday, Bam Bam didn’t hesitate to pick Pac-Man.

“Yes, Bradley stopped me with a bodyshot, but like I said, I wasn’t myself that night. I’ve felt Pacquiao’s punches and I’ve felt Bradley’s punches, and Pacquiao has the edge in power, for sure.

“Still, I don’t think it’s all that great of a chance that he’s going to win by knockout. Nobody has ever knocked Tim Bradley out. And that includes Pacquiao, who’s had two chances already and couldn’t do it.”

HBO Boxing Podcast - Episode 79 - Bradley vs. Rios Postfight

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Tim Bradley's dominant performance, the possible retirement of Brandon Rios, and the prospects for Vasyl Lomachenko's future.

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Watch: Bradley-Rios Highlights

“Smart Monster” Bradley Drops and Stops Bloated Rios

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

What a difference ten months can make. In January, Brandon Rios, frequently criticized for his lackluster conditioning, whipped himself into shape and annihilated Mike Alvarado inside three rounds, only for most of the postfight commentary to focus on Alvarado’s own desultory approach to training. On Saturday night in Las Vegas, Rios was the one who entered the ring demonstrably out of shape, having failed to make weight at his first attempt on Friday and then adding fully 23 pounds by fight night; as a consequence, he was utterly powerless to resist the onslaught of Tim Bradley, who tore into him from the opening bell and landed combinations at will before dropping and stopping Rios in the ninth round.

As bad as Rios (33-3-1, 24 KOs) looked, Bradley appeared sensational. He had said repeatedly during fight week that he needed to be a “smart monster” against Rios – to be aggressive without falling into a brawl that would suit his opponent – and so he was. He sped across the ring toward Rios at the opening bell, launching spearing jabs and following them up with scorching four-and-five-punch combinations that bounced off the easy target that was Rios' head. In the second, Bradley (33-1-1, 13 KOs) allowed himself to fall into his punches a little too easily, smothering his own work and giving Rios the opportunity to maul him and land a few blows of his own; but by the third, he was back in the groove, and he remained there for the duration of the contest.

Rios attempted to walk down Bradley and trap him against the ropes, but on those occasions when he was able to get his opponent at the distance he wanted, he was unable to pull the trigger. At times, when Bradley wandered too close, Rios might swat him with a right hand or two, but otherwise his fighting style was mostly reminiscent of Boris Karloff in The Mummy: marching slowly forward and relying on his victim to fall prey to his spell.

Bradley showed no inclination of doing anything of the sort, however, as he continued to move and pivot and rake Rios with blistering combinations. A terrific overhand right in the fifth swiveled Rios’ head, while in the sixth Bradley focused on left hooks, at one point landing a four-punch combination that consisted entirely of left hands. By the eighth, Bradley had stepped up his assault to another level, tearing into Rios with hard punches as his opponent looked increasingly bereft of ideas.

The end came in the ninth, when a ripping left to the body clearly hurt Rios, who winced and took a few steps backward. Another left to the solar plexus landed, and Rios took another step back and went down to one knee: the first time in his career that he had hit the canvas. Referee Tony Weeks had to instruct Bradley – who last scored a stoppage in 2011, against Joel Casamayor, and was presumably rusty on the protocol – to walk to a neutral corner, from where he returned to the attack after Rios beat the count. Another flurry of punches put Rios down again, this time in his own corner, and Weeks waved the contest to a halt.

Afterward, Rios hinted that he might retire from the ring.

“He hit me with a perfect body shot up the middle and followed up with an equally good shot up the side,” he said. “The better man won. It is what it is. Maybe eight months of inactivity played a part. But I’m making no excuses. I’m done.”

“The plan was to take a piece every round,” said Bradley’s new trainer Teddy Atlas, working with his new charge for the first time. “Don’t be greedy. Be like a piranha.”

CompuBox stats showed just how many bites Bradley took. In total, he connected with 254 of 570 punches, for a 45 percent connect rate; he landed 33 percent of his jabs and 54 percent of the 325 power punches he threw. Rios, in contrast, landed just 81 punches all night: 18 percent of those he threw.

Afterward, Bradley’s promoter Bob Arum was ecstatic.

“That’s the best Bradley I’ve ever seen,” he enthused – and suddenly, the prospect of a possible third fight with Manny Pacquiao didn’t seem quite as improbable as it had barely an hour earlier.

 

Watch: Bradley's Relationship with Teddy Atlas, Rios' Motivation and Lomachenko's Transition to the Pros

Watch: Bradley and Rios Official Weigh-In

HBO Boxing Insider Kieran Mulvaney reports from the official Bradley-Rios weigh-in in Las Vegas.

Bradley-Rios happens Saturday at 9:30 PM ET on HBO World Championship Boxing. 

Bradley and Rios: A Study in Contrasts

Photos: Will Hart

By Kieran Mulvaney

In almost every conceivable way, Timothy Bradley Jr. and Brandon Rios are a study in contrasts.

Inside the ring, Bradley can be a brawler – and when he is, it is not always to his advantage, as Ruslan Provodnikov showed during their epic 2013 battle – but at his best is a first-rate boxer-puncher, using swift footwork and hand speed and excellent combinations to outwork and frequently outclass his opponents. Rios, in contrast, while professing a readiness to box when needed, acknowledges that his is a body perpetually stuck in forward motion. As Bradley trainer Teddy Atlas says, Rios “starts coming forward during the national anthems.” It is not to denigrate Rios’ skill to accept that there is little especially unpredictable about his approach, that he seeks to suck his foes into a brawl and that when he does so, he almost invariably comes out on top.

Outside the ring, too, the two men could barely appear more different. Bradley, who dresses for public events in smart casual except when he ditches the casual, proffers well-rounded thoughts in articulated sentences, his brows occasionally furrowing as he works his way mentally through what he wants to say; Rios, whose idea of dressing up is to don his cleanest Kansas City Royals cap, speaks freely and easily, sharing whatever thought is on the tip of his tongue and garnishing it with plenty of words beginning with f and s.

Rios is a man who appears to enjoy joking his way through life, unencumbered by doubt or torment, joking constantly with reporters, producers and videographers and doing so with a deadpan delivery that can leave them off guard. Bradley appears insistent on carrying not just a chip on his shoulder but a log, forever seeking a sense of insult and slight to motivate him. In a long soliloquy at Thursday’s press conference at the Wynn Las Vegas, he defended himself against media criticism of his business decisions and pointed out that everything in his life - from houses, cars, and his young children’s future education – was fully paid for, prompting one observer to point out afterward that, “I’ve never heard anyone sound so angry about having taken care of their kids’ college tuition.”

And yet, there are similarities, and not just in the sense that they are highly accomplished prize fighters. They are bound in particular by a desire for rebirth, even after a pair of careers littered with accomplishments. Bradley has jettisoned longtime trainer Joel Diaz in favor of Atlas following a succession of outings in which he did not enthrall fans and, more importantly, failed to impress himself. Rios, having by his own admission allowed himself to become too comfortable after being awarded a multi-million-dollar payday against Manny Pacquiao in 2013, claimed at the press conference to have rediscovered a fire he thought had long been extinguished, and insisted he would be entering the ring as, in his words “a new Rios.”

Words are one thing, however, and actions are another, and the Rios who showed up at Friday’s weigh-in looked every inch and ounce the old one, the one whose championship caliber performances have been interspersed with struggles with the scale. In doing so, he highlighted one more, potentially crucial, difference between the two: whereas Bradley is a fitness fanatic, a man who pushes himself so hard that Atlas had to instruct him to take days off during training camp, Rios has not always shown exceptional dedication to his craft. And whereas Bradley looked ripped as ever in weighing 146 pounds, one pound inside the welterweight limit, Rios seemed flabby and soft as he stripped off his tracksuit. He didn’t stop there, either: fully aware that making weight was going to be a struggle, he stepped on to the scales fully nude behind a large towel. It wasn’t enough to prevent him from weighing in two ounces over; he took every minute of the hour allotted to him to lose the extra baggage, before returning to tip the scale at 147 pounds on the dot.

We have a fight. But the lean Bradley will have eyed his portly foe and doubtless felt that his rehabilitation project is the one most likely to end successfully on Saturday night.

Watch Live: Bradley-Rios Weigh-In

Watch a replay of the Tim Bradley and Brandon Rios weigh-in. 

Bradley-Rios happens Saturday, November 7, at 9:30 PM ET on HBO World Championship Boxing.