It was the return of the favorite son as Brandon “Bam, Bam” Rios arrived at the hillside training camp in Riverside on Friday.
Rios, 31, arrived for sparring to prepare for his upcoming welterweight clash with Philadelphia’s Danny “Swift” Garcia on Feb. 17, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It’s his second fight since un-retiring.
Two years ago Rios was last seen in this same hillside training facility preparing for an upcoming battle against Tim “Desert Storm” Bradley for the WBO welterweight world title. He lost that fight by stoppage and after the fight he announced to the media he was retiring.
But Rios got that itch again and last June he returned to the boxing ring and defeated Aaron Herrera by knockout in the seventh round. That same Herrera lasted all 10 rounds against former world champion Jessie Vargas two weeks ago.
Two years may have passed since Rios last appeared at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy on a regular basis, but the Kansas native now living in Oxnard has not changed.
Rios has that old school kind of personality you seldom see any more. It’s the kind of swagger the old fighters used to have with a beer in hand and cigarette smoke swirling in some bar like an old Rocky Graziano commercial.
Back in the 40s guys like Graziano were comfortable in bars hanging around crowds and trading stories about the neighborhood. They didn’t drink protein shakes or have vegetarian diets unless you include peanuts and popcorn.
Rios would fit in with those fighters in the 40s. That’s the kind of throwback kind of guy he is. He even grumbles a lot the way fighters are supposed to grumble. You won’t find perfect diction or grammar correction from Rios. He likes to shout a lot too. You can hear his booming voice whenever he’s in the vicinity.
On this Friday the former lightweight world champion sparred with several of the young guns hanging around the boxing gym. For these young fighters the veteran gunslinger Rios represents their aspirations. At one time he was just like them, one of many prospects back in the old days at La Colonia Boxing Club in Oxnard. In those days Rios and Victor Ortiz were some of the many prospects aspiring for world championship dreams. But not everyone completes the journey.
Some things never change in the pro boxing game. There’s always another young gun coming in and always an old gun nearly out of bullets. It’s the way of the game.
After engaging in sparring with Hector Tanajara the boxers gathered around to hear Rios spill some of the stories of those old Oxnard days. Most of the tales are X-rated and not suitable for printing. But Rios took them down the road to times when being poor and hungry was part of the charm of being a young boxer.
“Where do you live?” Rios asked one of the youngsters.
The world champion recounted the days when everybody would roll up in one car and during out-of-town fights the crew would search for restaurants and other things. It’s all part of the cycle of boxing that keeps on rolling.
Some times that cycle returns full circle.
Rios is old school all the way. He’s like John L. Sullivan, Benny Leonard, Carmen Basilio, Ray Robinson, Manuel Ortiz and all of those other gladiators of the past. He’s full of color and doesn’t care who he exchanges blows with in the ring.
“I don’t give a crap,” said Rios when told they only had bigger guys to spar with at another gym. “Whoever.”
That’s old school.
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