OXNARD, CALIF.—Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios sat on a stool parrying questions from the media while also getting his hands wrapped when his eagle eye caught a glimpse of someone entering the gym 100 feet away.
“Alright, alright, alright,” shouted Rios in the direction of the boxing gym’s doorway.
In walked comedian-actor Kevin Hart with a small group following toward the former lightweight champion Rios (31-1-1, 23 Kos), who’s preparing to meet Manny Pacquiao (54-5-2, 38 Kos) in Macao, China on Saturday, Nov. 23.
The always hilarious Hart probably never walked into a boxing gym to meet someone with as large a personality as Oxnard’s Rios. The gregarious prizefighter known as “Bam Bam” has one of those larger than life personas that grab everyone within earshot. Even Hart has to laugh.
With the biggest fight of his career looming, Rios displays no sense of urgency and downplays the mega conflict as easily as he would a match with one of his sparring partners.
“A fight is a fight. They’re all tough. I just have to prepare the way I always prepare,” said Rios, who departs for Asia this weekend. “I’m a do what I always do, that’s bring the fight to him.”
As a 135-lightweight Rios had the look of invincibility. He always looked stronger and seemed to be able to kick into an extra gear whenever necessary. From Anthony Peterson to Mike Alvarado, the Oxnard sledgehammer seems to drain the life out of fighters who faced him. Now at 147 pounds solid, it’s scary to think he might be even stronger.
Can Pacman evade Rios for 12 long rounds?
“I’m going to be in his face,” said Rios. “We have a plan for Pacman. My team is ready for this fight.”
Alongside trainer Robert Garcia (next to Rios, in above Chris Farina-Top Rank photo) has been the head of the clan, Eduardo Garcia, who previously offered his teachings to his son Mikey Garcia. But for this fight, he’s lending his years of experiencing in champion-making to the Rios team.
“He’s really smart,” said Rios. “We sit after training and he tells me things and shows me some things. He’s really smart. Between him and Robert we have a really smart team.”
Eduardo Garcia groomed Robert Garcia, Fernando Vargas and now Mikey Garcia through amateurs to world championships. That’s one healthy resume.
Vargas has always credited Eduardo Garcia for being the mastermind to his success. Now Rios knows what he’s talking about.
Meanwhile, the ever-funny Hart kept the media laughing with his insightful comments and observations. He’s starring in an upcoming boxing movie, “Grudge Match,” which also features Robert De Niro and Sylvester Stallone. Hart plays the role of a Don King-like promoter “without the hairdo” and promises the film will deliver.
The Warner Bros. film debuts on Dec. 25, and is directed by Peter Segal.
Hart has some history with boxing. He formerly made an outrageous video parody of Roger and Floyd Mayweather during a training session that’s hilarious. If you ask Hart who his favorite boxer is, he doesn’t hesitate.
“Floyd Mayweather,” Hart replies quickly.
Rios and Hart joked with each other to the amusement of the press at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy. When Rios began hitting the various bags, there was Hart trying to take a back seat. Rios would have none of it.
“What weight do you think I would fight at,” asked Hart.
“108,” said Rios. “You’re little.”
“They say I have a knockout jab,” Hart said.
Hart declined to take the shine from Rios who shook his head and invited him to do his thing. But the comedian begged off and said his goodbyes. He also promised to buy seven pay-per-views when Rios fights Pacquiao.
After Hart departed, in walked Mikey Garcia and Saul Rodriguez, who both live in Riverside and will be fighting on the same card on Nov. 9, in Corpus Christi, Texas.
Oxnard was in full gear.