Rios: The Old ‘Bam Bam’ Is Back And He’s Not Done Yet
By his own admission, Brandon Rios (34-3-1) wasn’t giving it his all before retiring in November of 2015. His passion for fighting was waning, and his TKO loss to Timothy Bradley–the first and only time he has ever been stopped in his career–was the culmination of a four-fight run over the course of two years, which took a harsh toll on his mind and body.
The Rios you saw in the ring for those last few fights before retiring wasn’t the real Rios, the former champion told FIGHT SPORTS.
“I was just a guy that was going into the ring,” Rios said. “I wasn’t really training for those fights. I wasn’t really doing nothing for those fights. I got caught up in my own mess.”
It took a 19-month hiatus from the ring to rekindle his love for the sport he’s devoted most of his life to. And by escaping the constant grind of training and competition, it also allowed his body to properly heal.
“Honestly, my body needed that [time away from boxing] to rejuvenate and to recover and everything,” said Rios,who will face Danny Garcia in a WBC welterweight title-eliminator bout on February 17, at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev. “So, my body needed that rest. I feel good now. I feel really good. My body is rested and it feels great.”
Rios, 31, said he was content for quite a while after hanging up his gloves following his loss to Bradley, and he was enjoying spending time with his family.
Watch Rios-Bradley via HBO Boxing
“Honestly, when I said I was retired, I was retired,” said Rios. “I was enjoying life. I was having fun with my family. [I was doing] Things I wasn’t able to do when I was in training camp. I was always away from my kids and my wife and I was always training. I didn’t really get to enjoy my kids as much.”
“Bam Bam” used the time away to “Think about life,” and also to ponder some questions: what if he had trained better? Would things have turned out differently if he did? And then “It happened one day,” he said. While watching some fights with his wife and some friends, the first thoughts of coming back to the ring popped into his head.
“I forget what fight it was,” said Rios. “It hit me right there in that spot. I told my wife: ‘Babe, that could still be me right there. I can still do that. I know I can. After a training camp that could still be me.’ She said, ‘You know what Brandon, whatever you decide I support you 100 percent. Whatever decision you make I support you. Think about whatever you want to do. I support you.’ I just thought about it and sure enough I said, ‘Yeah.’ [And soon after] I’m in training camp for a fight.”
That camp was for Rios’ comeback fight against Aaron Herrera, where he made a triumphant return to the ring, scoring a TKO win in the seventh round. The Texas native was happy to return to action and get the victory, but said he did feel a little rusty after the long layoff.
“I got my little tune up fight,” he said on the win over Herrera. “I got the fight I needed to get back and get the rust off of me and now we are ready. We are ready to go again.”
As the saying goes: behind every great man is a great woman. Rios credits his wife Vicky, who works as a marriage-family therapist, for being straight with him and making him understand that in order to get back to the top of his game, he needed to give it his all and do everything the right way.
“She talked to me and she told me straight out if you are going to come back, you have to come back right and you have to come back smart,” said Rios, explaining his wife’s message. “You can’t be half passionate like you were in the past. You gotta come back right and you gotta come back really smart. And you have to give it your all because I don’t want you to come back to what if? I don’t want that guy. I want you to come back and say I tried my best and that’s what I did and that’s all I can is give my best and you can go from there.'”
Rios has achieved a newfound balance between boxing and his personal life. When he is with his wife and children he’s focused only on them now, and not anything else.
“When I’m home, I’m home,” he said. “Before, when I was home I was too busy caught up in that other sh*t. This time I’m home. I feel good when I’m with my kids. I feel relaxed. I just feel home, you know what I mean? I got rid of all the negativity, all the fame, all that stuff that was around me. I kept it back to being an OG. Kept it back to keeping it real and keeping it to eliminating people in my camp. I can tell you I have my camp that I have now and that’s it.”
It’s no secret that Rios has often struggled with cutting weight in the past, which is why he is now working with nutritionist David Goldman. At the time of this article, Rios said he was just seven pounds over the limit. To put things into perspective, he said he’s been as much as 25 pounds over at this point in camp for some of his past fights, which put the focus more on cutting weight than on actually preparing to fight. And in sparring, Rios says, he’s now just as fresh in the 12th round as he is in the first, when he used to tire out by the fifth or sixth round in the past.
For this particular camp, Rios’ wife–under Goldman’s instruction–has been preparing and cooking all of the food for him and is doing a great job by “executing the game plan,” he says.
He added: “She’s good at her career and she helps me out with my career. So, I give so much props to that woman. That’s too much to handle and she handles it. She does her career. She helps me out with my cooking and she still comes home and is a mother to my kids and a wife to me. So, I give a lot of respect and a lot of props to my wife, man. To me, that’s so much of a woman. She gives so much and I love her for it.”
Prior to his fight vs. Herrera, Rios switched camps and worked under Ricky Funez at the Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys. But the commute from his home in Oxnard meant a daily battle with the brutal Los Angeles traffic, which became too much of an issue for Rios. This time around, Rios has returned to his original trainers with a bit of a new wrinkle. While he will be working under Robert Garcia and Donald Leary, it’s Leary who will is taking the lead as his primary trainer. Garcia has two gyms, one in Riverside and one in Oxnard, and Rios has been splitting time between both.
“It’s good because I’m back to the people I love,” said Rios, who has been sparring with Joselito Lopez and Hector Tanajara to get ready for Danny Garcia. “[I’m back with] People that love me and people that I love. People that have had my back since I started.”
Rios’s opponent, Garcia, is coming off of the first loss in his professional career, dropping the WBC welterweight title to current champion Keith Thurman by split decision last March. Garcia, with 19 KO to his credit, is currently a -2500 favorite to defeat Rios on Saturday, according to betting site Bovada.com. He’s younger than Rios, with fast hands and deadly power.
“Danny Garcia is a good fighter,” Rios said. “We have to practice on his power and the hooks. He throws some good hooks and body shots. We had a boxer and a brawler [for sparring partners] and a guy that does both. We had to practice on those things that Danny Garcia brings. Everybody knows that he brings that no-look hook and he catches people and knocks them out. So that’s what we are practicing on. And we are practicing on everything we have seen. We are ready to give him a fight.”
Rios has built his brand on always moving forward, and having a granite chin. And with 25 knockouts on his resume, the former WBO lightweight champion, like Garcia, is also a knockout threat for whoever he faces. This fight may end up being an all-out war, and one that won’t go to the scorecards.
“Everybody knows the way I fight,” said Rios. “Everybody knows that I come to fight and I don’t like to run around a lot.” While acknowledging the fighting style he has long been known for, Rios made it clear that he’s not just a brawler who takes a punch to give a punch, like many of his detractors say he is. He mentioned his 2010 win over Anthony Peterson and said you will see that version of himself vs. Garcia on Saturday.
“For this fight, I’m back to my old self,” he boasted. “I’m back to doing the fight like when I fought Peterson. I got a great inside-fighting plan. I’m the best inside fighter, I think, out there today. And I move around a lot of punches. I slip a lot of punches. This time you are going to see the old ‘Bam Bam’ back. The one that was here at 135, but now he’s going to be at 147. I’m ready to come back. I’m ready to give everything I have to give from my last four years and I’m ready to give Danny Garcia one hell of a fight—one hell of a fight that he’s never had before.”
He’s worked hard to get back into top fighting shape, returned to training with familiar faces, regained his passion to fight, and has the love and support of his wife and family as his foundation. And you can add in one more thing, which has been a huge motivator for him: the naysayers.
“What’s making me stronger and making me want it even more is the doubters. Everybody that’s counted me out. Everybody that has put me on the back burner. Everybody that is saying I’m a cherry picker [of opponents]. That’s adding more fuel to my fire and making me want to do it more and and show the world I’m not done yet. I’m done when I say I’m done. I’m ready to keep going and I want to show the world that I’m not done yet. That’s what keeps me going.”