WBO welterweight champion Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley did the unthinkable in defeating Brandon “Bam, Bam” Rios by knockout via a body punch and sending the former lightweight champion into retirement on Saturday.
The crowd of 5,106 at the Thomas and Mack Center sat stunned as Bradley knocked down Rios twice in defending his title and showing that he’s still one of the best fighters pound for pound in the fight game.
Despite changing trainers and learning new fighting tools, WBO welterweight titlist Bradley (33-1-1, 13 Kos) powered through the always dangerous Rios (33-3-1, 24 Kos). Many predicted it would be Bradley’s speed versus Rios’ strength.
Bradley’s speed was expected and evident in the opening round as he jabbed and fired combinations before moving away. What was not expected was for Bradley to engage Rios in the inside. Rios seemed surprised.
Both fighters took to the inside with Rios doing a little more damage with a left hook to the body. Bradley kept on the inside and fought back in the second round. One final blow might have hurt Rios. It was an example of things to come.
It was billed as a fight where the loser would be lost in the shuffle. Both had three losses between them and needed a win to show viability.
Round after round Bradley maneuvered inside and kept turning Rios, who tried to battle back, but could not get a bead on the speedy prizefighter from Palm Springs. Four and five-punch combinations from Bradley bounced off of the sturdy Rios but he never could connect with the counters.
“I couldn’t do what I wanted to do. My body just didn’t respond,” said Rios. “He hit me with a perfect shot to the body.”
In the ninth round, Bradley dug a right to the stomach of Rios and a few more blows. Rios slumped to the floor as the referee started the count. Rios seemed hesitant to get up, but he did and was met by another flurry to the body. Down went Rios again as referee Tony Weeks counted him out. The Oxnard-based fighter had never been stopped in a professional fight in his career. It was over at 2:49.
“The plan was to take Rios apart piece by piece,” said Bradley, adding that new trainer Ted Atlas devised the battle plan. “A lot of stuff we worked on did work tonight.”
Rios shook his head and was met in his corner by Bradley, who hugged the fallen ex-lightweight world champion. A fight between the two had been discussed for a couple of years. Now it was over and so is Rios’ career in the prize ring.
“I hate walking away from it but when it’s time to go it’s time to go,” said Rios at the press conference. “I’m not going to fool myself…I have to man up. Just chill.”
Bob Arum applauded Rios’ decision to retire.
“He was one of the most courageous guys I’ve ever seen,” said Arum of Rios. “I not only support him, I applaud it. Boxing is a very dangerous sport.”
Bradley seemed relieved a pivotal fight in his career is over.
“I got a knockout win against Brandon Rios, a great champion,” Bradley said.
WBO featherweight champion Vasyl Lomachenko (5-1, 3 Kos) knocked out Mexico’s Romulo Koasicha (25-5, 15 Kos) with a left to the body in the 10th round. But some fans were vocally displeased with the amateurish style of the Ukrainian.
Lomachenko had an extensive and successful career as an amateur that included two gold medals. But after so many years it’s difficult to change the amateur style of speedy punches and penchant for moving away from engagements.
After 10 rounds of one-sided proof of Lomachenko’s physical superiority that included blistering combinations, the Ukrainian southpaw delivered a straight left to the Mexican’s body. Koasicha froze for a few seconds, then slumped to the ground. Referee Robert Byrd counted him out at 2:35 of the 10th round. Many expected the fight to end earlier.
“I could have knocked him out earlier,” said Lomachenko, admitting it. “I knew it was going to be a knockout with a body shot.”
The Mexican challenger said that the champion was too talented.
“He was very fast, clever and hard to fight,” said Koasicha.
Lomachenko said a rematch with Orlando Salido, the only man to defeat him as a pro, is out of the question.
“I want to unify all of the (featherweight) world titles,” Lomachenko said.
Japan’s Ryota Murata (8-0, 5 Kos) battered and battered New Zealand’s Gunnar Jackson (21-7-3) but couldn’t put in the final nail. After 10 rounds of ferocious body punching Murata was deemed the winner by unanimous decision 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93. Murata smiled throughout the assault as he delivered powerful blows to Jackson’s body. The New Zealander withstood all the punishment and had his own moments, but not enough to offset the former 2012 Olympic gold medalist.
Colombia’s Miguel Marriaga (21-1, 18 Kos) pummeled Mexico’s Guillermo Avila (14-5) all eight rounds in pursuit of a knockout. It never came. All three judges scored it 80-72 for Marriaga in the featherweight bout. There were no knockdowns.
Michael Reed (17-0, 10 Kos) needed a little time to break down Minnesota’s Rondale Hubbert (10-4-1). The southpaw Reed connected with a right hook to floor Hubbert early in the seventh round of their junior welterweight fight. Another flurry of blows forced referee Kenny Bayless to end the fight at 1:09 of the seventh round.
Oxnard’s Egidijus Kavaliauskas (10-0, 9 Kos) stopped Ohio’s Jake Giuriceo (17-5-1) faster than you can pronounce his name in their welterweight match. An overhand right by Kavaliauskas dropped Giuriceo flat in the first round. He tried to get up by stumbled backward and referee Russell Mora stopped it at 1:00.