Welterweights Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley and Brandon “Bam, Bam” Rios saw this fight coming down the tunnel a long time ago.
Both are Southern California elite prizefighters, one African-American and the other Mexican-American. That formula usually equals a dynamic, crowd-pleasing match up.
WBO welterweight titlist Bradley (32-1-1, 12 Kos) finally meets Rios (33-2-1, 24 Kos) in the prize ring on Saturday, Nov. 7, at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas. HBO will televise the Top Rank main event.
“I always had an eye on Bam Bam,” said Bradley, who trains in Indio. “I knew one day we could possibly meet.”
Rios, who moved up to welterweight after dominating the lightweight division, said Bradley’s name had been mentioned as a possibility the last two years.
“I finally have a fight and I’m happy about it,” said Rios, who trains in Riverside. “Bradley is a warrior and that’s what I expect.”
From his first pro fight Bradley exhibited extraordinary speed and agility. In the beginning he was overlooked by the big promoters and landed in the lap of newly formed Thompson Boxing Promotions. For the first three fights he was virtually untouchable at shows in Corona and Ontario, Calif.
Under the guidance of Joel Diaz and brothers, the speedy Bradley transformed into a real prizefighter, including possessing a willingness to engage in all-out war. At the same time he showed tremendous heart and fortitude. Those are things you cannot teach.
Rios arrived as an amateur slugger in Southern California who had problems with boxer types. He had problems sparring the quick, fleet fighters like Vicente Escobedo. But if someone stood in front of him, he blew them out, as he did the first time I saw him at the Maywood Activity early in his career.
Rios has always been under the guidance of Robert Garcia and quickly learned how to fight sluggers, runners, holders and dirty fighters. He loved to fight and seemingly opened the big guns full bore whenever someone tagged him with a good shot. You can’t teach that.
A new component for Bradley has been the addition of trainer Teddy Atlas. The ESPN boxing analyst who was mentored by the late great Cus D’Amato has always been a strict disciplinarian.
During one visit Atlas drilled Bradley on the intricacies of inside fighting. Every facet of Bradley’s movements were analyzed and dissected by the trainer and rehearsed like the pivotal line from Hamlet.
“You’re too far over,” Atlas told Bradley. “Your hands are a little too low.”
They were infractions that were maybe an inch or too incorrect, according to Atlas.
Will Bradley be thinking about these subtleties inside the ring when Rios has a mad dog rush on him?
Rios has one gear and though changes and additions have been added to his repertoire, they’re not as minute as those Bradley must learn.
“Oh, we’ve made some changes to Brandon,” said Garcia, a former world champion. “I have him moving his head more so he doesn’t take as many punches. He’s much better at it now.”
On paper it would seem that Bradley has a tremendous advantage in pure athleticism and defensive capabilities. But if his own history tells us anything it’s that he has a warrior’s heart. At what point will the “Desert Storm” stay in the pocket exchanging rockets with Rios?
“Teddy has me focused,” says Bradley. “It’s a mind game.”
Rios has one speed, one dimension and one goal: that’s to knock the other guy out. It’s simple and direct. No alternative plan or miss-directions necessary.
“I’ve been sparring with all kinds of different styles,” said Rios. “I’m ready for whatever.”