RIVERSIDE, CALIF.—If you want to know what prizefighting was like back in the 40s and 50s, take a look at Brandon “Bam, Bam” Rios.
Not since Rocky Graziano laced up the gloves has boxing seen a more colorful and willing fighter.
If you don’t know who Graziano was, take a look at the movie “Somebody Up There Likes Me” with Paul Newman.
Rios just loves to fight.
“It seems like forever since I last fought,” says Rios, who now trains in Riverside, Calif. “I can’t wait.”
In little more than a week Rios (33-2-1, 24 Kos) returns to the ring to face WBO welterweight world titlist Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley (32-1-1, 12 Kos) at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. The Top Rank fight card takes place Nov. 7, and will be televised by HBO.
Rios has the fighting style common during the 40s, but more than that, when you add the out-of-the-box personality you get one of the more engaging fighters today. Fighting in the ring stirs him more than almost anything. It’s a rare element that not many have today.
“There are very few guys like him. Today they all want to be business-men,” said Cameron Dunkin, who manages Rios and formerly managed Bradley. “He doesn’t want to be glitzy. He just likes to fight. Guys like him are rare. Guys like James Toney or Johnny Tapia. They just love to fight.”
If you ask Rios what he plans to do after boxing, he doesn’t answer back in his usual lightning fashion.
“You know, I really never really thought about it,” Rios says. “I’ve always liked to fight.”
It’s been a long and rocky road for the prizefighter who was spotted as a teen during an amateur tournament. After meeting with Garcia, the Kansas-raised Rios moved across the Rockies and made Oxnard his home. It wasn’t always smooth living.
“He was a wild kid,” said Dunkin. “When I wanted to introduce him to Robert, he told me ‘that fat old guy was a world champion?’ What’s he going to teach me?”
Dunkin said Rios and Garcia sparred a few rounds and the rest was history.
“That fat old guy can fight,” Dunkin said Rios told him.
Garcia and Rios have been a team since that day in 2004. Eleven years have passed and despite the troublesome teen-age years, the team remained intact through thick and thin.
“I had a lot of problems. I still was getting in trouble. I had a crazy childhood. I was always in and out of jail,” admits Rios. “Even as a boxer I was in and out of jail all of the time.”
Marriage calmed down the beast in Rios.
“When I married my wife, it helped me out a lot. I became a different person,” said Rios, whose wife is a therapist. “She understands me and she gets it.”
The welterweight contender who recently completed a victorious trilogy with Mike Alvarado makes no claims to be a saint or hero.
“I grew up poor. So fighting, that to me is a way of having fun. Fighting. That’s why I was always having trouble. I was fighting in the streets a lot,” said Rios while getting his hands wrapped for training. “That’s why I think I love this sport so much because it calms myself down.”
Can you blame him? Boxing has given Rios everything he wants.
“I promised my dad when I was 10 years old I was going to fight on TV. HBO. And I was going to fight for a title shot and you’re going to be in my corner working with me. And sure enough, when I got that title fight with Miguel Acosta, that was the most proud moment in my life that money can’t even buy,” Rios said. “I don’t give a s**t about the money. Just winning the title and my dad was right there with me. It brought so much joy to myself.”
Now he’s looking for another great moment.
— Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank