Boxing fans love tough guys and always give them the benefit of the doubt. They usually excel when they have fighters in front of them with adequate but limited skills who they can bully. However, they can never get to the other side of the bridge when it’s blocked by a fighter equally as tough who has world-class skills.
Next month former two-division champ Danny Garcia 33-1 (19) will take on former lightweight title holder and welterweight title challenger Brandon Rios 34-3-1 (25) at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas. Garcia hasn’t fought since last March when he lost his WBC title to WBA champ Keith Thurman in a unification bout via a 12-round split decision. I’m not sure what has kept Danny sidelined for nearly a year but if my intuition is correct, I’m thinking it was him waiting for the right fight that suits his needs from top-to-bottom.
What does that entail? Well, it has to be against a credible fighter with a name and a good record — one who has a niche to which his case for beating Garcia can be made objectively — but realistically a fight Danny should have no problem winning if he is properly prepared and in shape and fights smart instead of letting his ego get in the way. By winning he will retain his ranking as the mandatory challenger for Thurman’s WBA/WBC titles after Thurman fights Shawn Porter.
Brandon Rios, if Garcia were ordering from a restaurant menu, would be relayed to the server. Rios is a very tough guy, like Garcia, but one with limited boxing skills at the upper world class level. On top of that, Rios has only fought three times since January of 2015, going 2-1, with the loss to Timothy Bradley representing the only time Rios has ever been stopped. He last fought in June of 2017 when he stopped Aaron Herrera in the seventh round.
Rios has repeatedly stated how he just wants one more opportunity to show that he possesses real skill as a boxer at the elite level.
“My mistakes of the past have left a mark and I will not blame someone else, they were my mistakes, but beyond talking and making promises – what I wanted was a fight, a great fight, because I know that a good result will be the ideal way to keep [the haters] quiet. I just have to show that I know how to do everything much better than I have done so far.”
To achieve that, Rios, 31, is hoping that being reunited with longtime trainer Robert Garcia helps.
“I have matured, now I feel that I am a much more aware person and I know what I have to do to get back on track and what better way to do it than with someone who knows me as well as Robert. Together we can apply a strategy that makes it difficult for Danny Garcia and that would lead me to have the opportunity to go for the title of the World Boxing Council, a belt that I’ve always wanted have.”
Rios’s story is a familiar story in boxing. You know, the one where the former champ is at the end of the road looking back at his mistakes, hoping that going back to the way it once was will be the magic bullet needed to get that last coveted title shot. The problem for Brandon is that Team Garcia knows the sport of boxing and has been brilliant in bringing Danny along and getting the right fights for him. They know Rios is a grinder with a decent punch and an unbreakable will who fights with the mindset that his toughness will be enough to carry him through. And they should know this about Rios because Garcia has some of that in him, with the difference being that Danny has leaned more on his skill as a boxer lately and their only miscalculation was allowing him to fight that way too long against Keith Thurman.
Against Thurman, Garcia tried to fight as methodical counter-puncher, which is usually him at his best. It didn’t work because Thurman was sticking him with his jab and quick one-twos and then used his legs to get out. Translation: there was nothing there for Danny to counter. Somewhere around the eighth round, when the chance for a decision victory was gone, Garcia picked it up and started to force the fight and he won some rounds but there weren’t enough left to salvage the bout. That won’t be the case with Rios.
Team Garcia is fully cognizant that Rios can only fight one way and there’s nothing Robert Garcia can do to change that. Oh sure, he’ll try to get Rios not to fight as an almost face-first mauler, but Brandon is who he is, and once Danny pops him a few times with some clean shots that make the crowd react, Rios will revert back to who he truly is and go back to fighting in the only style he believes in, and that will allow Garcia to look really good. And that’s what Garcia needs because he hasn’t fought to his potential since stopping Paulie Malignaggi back in August of 2015.
Garcia knows it’s probably futile to go for the stoppage win and best to just pick Brandon apart and out-box him for 12 rounds. Which may be easier said than done because Danny Garcia is fearless and won’t back down from anybody, including Errol Spence and Terence Crawford. So it’s plausible if Rios can get in his head during the fight with his verbal antics challenging Garcia’s toughness, he could lure Danny into a street fight and that would make what should be an easily winnable fight, much tougher than it needs to be.
I expect Garcia to avoid the Rios trap and look good out-boxing him, winning by a lopsided decision or a late round stoppage if Rios has eroded as much as I thought he had after watching him against Timothy Bradley. After this fight, Garcia can claim he’s back on top of his game and ready for any of the title holders at welterweight….and that should do the trick and leave him as the next man up for the Thurman-Porter winner. And if by chance Rios scores the upset, then he will be in line for his coveted last title shot.
Fighting Brandon Rios is another smart move from a management perspective for Danny Garcia, and yet there’s a very good chance boxing fans will be treated to an action-packed fight between two tough guys fighting with a lot on the line and something to prove.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com
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