Who would have thought it all would have ended for Brandon Rios with a punch to the gut?
Maybe the writing on the wall was there before the bell when the HBO broadcast noted that the former lightweight champ had “rehydrated” a whopping 23 pounds over the welterweight limit since his weigh-in. Maybe his head was into this fight a little more than his heart. If nothing else, Rios has proven in his starlit career that he could endure more head punches than the average boxer, a habit that had dangerously become his principal defensive tactic. Boxing can be an insane sport, and Rios’s disregard for defense as he’s moved up in weight and class is maniacal.
So it’s ironic that the blessing-in-disguise punch comes in the form of a plexus shaker from the ever-precise Timothy Bradley, sending Bam Bam to the canvas for the first time in his career, and urging him to call it a career. “My body is not the same no more,” Rios said after the fight. “I’ve been in a lot of wars. I think it’s time to hang it up. I’m done.”
He has a few million reasons to never enter the ring again. Rios netted around $2.6 million for his at-times punishing trilogy against Mike Alvarado, and another $3 million for the privilege of being Manny Pacquiao’s comeback opponent after getting knocked cold by Juan Manuel Marquez. And he made another $800,000 last weekend.
It’s clear that Rios was ready to walk away in the event of a loss to Bradley.
“I don’t wanna hurt my body, I don’t wanna hurt my family, I don’t wanna hurt my close friends around me, so I think it’s time to hang up the gloves,” he reasoned.
“After eight months layoff, it’s effin’ b—-t. Eight months without training, and then I come back to the gym, and it’s effed. When I tried to get back in, my body wasn’t reacting the same. So I think it’s done for me.”
It’s a smart move, probably the only move for Rios. Though young at 29-years old, Rios clearly maxed out his potential years ago and faced settling in as a B-level opponent chasing modest paydays in exchange for more deleterious rapping about the skull. Fans might miss out on some great battles, with Rios testing contenders at 154, but at what cost?
We’re seeing athletes in sports like boxing or football increasingly hedge their careers, prioritizing health over riches. Bam Bam’s largest paydays are behind him, he might be an exception. The NFL’s Patrick Willis, Chris Borland, Anthony Davis, Jake Locker, and Jason Worilds are all players who gave up considerable opportunities, each to keep their health in tact. And who could blame them?
Argentina’s Marcos Maidana recently told reporters that he wasn’t even thinking about boxing, more than a year after his second of two fights against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Fighting Mayweather left Chino with scads of money to build upon whatever he had previously amassed in his 40 pro fights. Maidana walking away leaves a far bigger hole in the fabric of the sport than Rios, the amazingly entertaining Argentine is still in his prime and able to challenge the top 5 in boxing’s most competitive division. His relentless energy and his looping right hand is sorely missed. Yet fans who hate to see him go also have to realize it’s a hard decision to criticize.
Rios’s comments on the rigors of training bring the sport and its participants into greater focus. While we see this trend of fighters parking their cars while there’s still tread on the tires is on the rise, the special fighters are the ones whose desire to be great and to prove their doubters wrong knows no break from training. Boxers who can see beyond their own fame a bit can clearly see the condition that guys like Muhammad Ali and Wilfred Benitez are in.
So good for Brandon Rios. Other fighters would be so lucky as to have a strong punch to the gut make it all clear.
— Photo Credit : Chris Farina – Top Rank