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Brandon Rios Trying To Say Goodnight To The Bad Guy

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Brandon Rios & Peterson HoganRios’ fighting skills, as he showed here against Peterson, have impressed us. His mouth, less so. When a sports star does something stupid—and from those who sext sack shots to those who bring guns into the locker room, we don’t have to look hard to find examples—he has three public relations options:

1) Deny, deny, deny. Either by going the “I’m not here to talk about the past” route or by insisting that’s not your voice talking dirty to your wife on the foot fetish video, you pretend to know nothing in hopes that the controversy will just evaporate if you leave it alone long enough.

2) Apologize. This works best if you’re sincere and you act quickly (in other words, study the Tiger Woods press conference and do the opposite). But even if you’re not sincere, the idea is that you tackle your stupidity head-on, you admit to your failings, and if possible, you sprinkle in a little humor (see “Grant, Hugh”).

3) Embrace the negativity. From Jack Johnson to Dennis Rodman to Floyd Mayweather, there’s a history of athletes becoming bigger draws by going out of their way to make people hate them. You probably want to stop short of doing something to get yourself thrown in the clink, but otherwise, be as bad as you wanna be and it just might make you philthy rich.

Last November, Brandon Rios found himself momentarily atop boxing’s most-stupid list, staring down the barrel of these three options after allowing himself to be videotaped performing an impression of iconic trainer Freddie Roach experiencing Parkinson’s tremors.

At first, Rios and cohort Antonio Margarito played the denial card, claiming to be unaware that Roach had a disease. That didn’t last long; nobody was buying it. Whenever there’s video evidence working against you, Option 1 is tough to pull off.

So it became a choice between apologizing and trying to shake the sudden “bad guy” image, or taking the bad guy act to the next level and, like Mayweather, trying to sell tickets by being the fighter people will pay hard-earned money to root against.

For Rios, that was not a difficult choice at all. The lightweight contender sincerely felt bad about what he’d done to Roach. And though he admits to being an idiot at times, he doesn’t consider himself to be a bad person and isn’t going to try to play a character that doesn’t represent who he really is.

“It’s not that I’m trying to be a bad guy or a good guy. If people like me, that’s good. If they hate me, oh well. I still have to do my job,” Rios told TheSweetScience.com. “I play around a lot, I make jokes, that’s just my personality and that’s just who I am. I’m just being myself, whether it sells tickets or not. And people that know me very well, they understand that I mean no harm.

“Look, everybody knows Freddie, I knew he has a disease. But it’s not like we were making fun of him about the disease. It was just between camps. His camp was getting heated with ours, and so we got heated with theirs. He was making fun of Margarito, wearing metal gloves, stuff like that, so it just got to a point where we did a low blow, and it was really bad. You know, I looked at the video, I realized I messed up, made a mistake, but everybody makes a mistake in their life and everybody can change from it. If people still want to criticize it, let them go ahead, it’s all right. It’s not bothering me. I already said my apologies, I didn’t mean no harm to anybody.”

As soon as the video went viral and the feces hit the fan, Rios went to his manager, Cameron Dunkin, and they agreed that a public apology, if sincere, was the way to go. They were in Dallas for Margarito’s fight with Manny Pacquiao, so undercard fighter Rios used his press conference pulpit to express his regrets.

“He went up there and he gave a sincere apology—and a lot of people didn’t believe him,” said Dunkin. “But he learned a lot. He learned about shooting off his mouth. At the same time, he said to me, ‘I’ll probably do something stupid again,’ because he’s that kind of guy. He’s a f— up, but he’s a good guy. He’ll always be there for you. He’s never going to intentionally hurt a good person, it’s not in him.”

Dunkin compares Rios to another unpredictable but loyal fighter once in his stable, Johnny Tapia. Back in 2005, when Rios was still in his teens, Dunkin and his fighter were at a weigh-in where a gangbanger got in Dunkin’s face and began threatening him, and Rios jumped in, returned fire with some threats of his own, and eventually found himself jumping over rows of folding chairs, chasing the thug away.

Dunkin’s favorite Rios story is one that, in his mind, underlines the difference between “Bam Bam” and former Dunkin-managed fighter Victor Ortiz. Both young prospects were at a weigh-in for a card on which neither was fighting, and both were managed by Dunkin and trained by Robert Garcia at the time.

“Victor comes up to me at the end of the weigh-in,” Dunkin recalled, “and I ask him, ‘You want to get something to eat with us?’ Ortiz looks at me and says, ‘No, I’m going right home, I’m going to drink some warm milk, and I’m going to bed.’ Come on. What a phony. I looked at Robert, like, ‘Where does he get this s—?’ So I looked at Brandon and I go, ‘What are you going to do?’ And he goes, ‘I’m going to go get (intimate with a female).’ I mean, out of those two guys, who do you love?”

That was about five years ago. Now 24, Rios has changed in some respects. He’s recently married to a woman about seven years his senior, Vicky, who has grounded him and helped him mature. They have a two-month-old daughter, Mia.

Rios used to be the type of guy who wouldn’t train hard, but now he’s gotten more serious about his career.

“I feel way different,” Rios said. “There were questions about my boxing career because of the fact that I was always getting into trouble. But lately I’ve been in the gym and I’ve been doing my job, and my concentration and focus are much better. Since I got married, my wife, my newborn, they helped turn my life around.”

It’s showing in his pugilistic performances, as the inconsistent kid who struggled to a draw with opponent-type Manuel Perez in 2008 looked like a whole different breed of fighter in his HBO-televised coming-out-party win over Anthony Peterson last September. Now Rios prepares for the toughest challenge he’s faced yet, this Saturday’s bout on Showtime against Miguel Acosta.

Acosta turned heads with his upset knockout of then-undefeated Urbano Antillon in ’09. He followed that with a kayo of unbeaten Paulus Moses for a lightweight alphabet belt. The 32-year-old Venezuelan hasn’t lost in seven years and 19 fights. Rios may be the “A-side” to American audiences, but he’s not necessarily the favorite to win.

Probably the safest thing to predict here is an exciting, competitive fight. That’s what Dunkin is banking on—that if Rios can pull out the win, he’ll acquire more fans along the way and undo some of the damage done by his ill-advised Roach impression.

“I hope that when they see him fight on the 26th,” Dunkin said, “they enjoy him and they go, ‘You know what? He’s not a science major, but this son of a bitch can fight and he’s fun to watch and he’s got a good heart.’ He really does. He’s the most loyal, good-hearted guy in the world.”

That’s a hard statement to swallow for those who only know Rios for the way he mocked a man with Parkinson’s. To them, he might always be the bad guy.

Dunkin and Rios both say that’s not who he really is, but it’ll be up to Bam Bam to prove that over time. And that’s just what he plans to do, even if it means missing out on an opportunity to cash in on his infamy.

Eric Raskin can be contacted at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can follow him on Twitter @EricRaskin and listen to new episodes of his podcast, Ring Theory, at http://ringtheory.podbean.com.

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2015 Fight of the Year – Francisco Vargas vs Takashi Miura

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The WBC World Super Featherweight title bout between Francisco Vargas and Takashi Miura came on one of the biggest boxing stages of 2015, as the bout served as the HBO pay-per-view’s co-main event on November 21st, in support of Miguel Cotto vs Saul Alvarez.

Miura entered the fight with a (29-2-2) record and he was making the fifth defense of his world title, while Vargas entered the fight with an undefeated mark of (22-0-1) in what was his first world title fight. Both men had a reputation for all-out fighting, with Miura especially earning high praise for his title defense in Mexico where he defeated Sergio Thompson in a fiercely contested battle.

The fight started out hotly contested, and the intensity never let up. Vargas seemed to win the first two rounds, but by the fourth round, Miura seemed to pull ahead, scoring a knock-down and fighting with a lot of confidence. After brawling the first four rounds, Miura appeared to settle into a more technical approach. Rounds 5 and 6 saw the pendulum swing back towards Vargas, as he withstood Miura’s rush to open the fifth round and the sixth round saw both men exchanging hard punches.

The big swinging continued, and though Vargas likely edged Miura in rounds 5 and 6, Vargas’ face was cut in at least two spots and Miura started to assert himself again in rounds 7 and 8. Miura was beginning to grow in confidence while it appeared that Vargas was beginning to slow down, and Miura appeared to hurt Vargas at the end of the 8th round.

Vargas turned the tide again at the start of the ninth round, scoring a knock down with an uppercut and a straight right hand that took Miura’s legs and sent him to the canvas. Purely on instinct, Miura got back up and continued to fight, but Vargas was landing frequently and with force. Referee Tony Weeks stepped in to stop the fight at the halfway point of round 9 as Miura was sustaining a barrage of punches.

Miura still had a minute and a half to survive if he was going to get out of the round, and it was clear that he was not going to stop fighting.

A back and forth battle of wills between two world championship level fighters, Takashi Miura versus “El Bandido” Vargas wins the 2015 Fight of the Year.

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Jan 9 in Germany – Feigenbutz and De Carolis To Settle Score

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This coming Saturday, January 9th, the stage is set at the Baden Arena in Offenburg, Germany for a re-match between Vincent Feigenbutz and Giovanni De Carolis. The highly anticipated re-match is set to air on SAT.1 in Germany, and Feigenbutz will once again be defending his GBU and interim WBA World titles at Super Middleweight.

The first meeting between the two was less than three months ago, on October 17th and that meeting saw Feigenbutz controversially edge De Carolis on the judge’s cards by scores of (115-113, 114-113 and 115-113). De Carolis scored a flash knock down in the opening round, and he appeared to outbox Feigenbutz in the early going, but the 20 year old German champion came on in the later rounds.

The first bout is described as one of the most crowd-pleasing bouts of the year in Germany, and De Carolis and many observers felt that the Italian had done enough to win.

De Carolis told German language website RAN.DE that he was more prepared for the re-match, and that due to the arrogance Feigenbutz displayed in the aftermath of the first fight, he was confident that he had won over some of the audience. Though De Carolis fell short of predicting victory, he promised a re-vamped strategy tailored to what he has learned about Feigenbutz, whom he termed immature and inexperienced.

The stage is set for Feigenbutz vs De Carolis 2, this Saturday January 9th in Offenburg, Germany. If you can get to the live event do it, if not you have SAT.1 in Germany airing the fights, and The Boxing Channel right back here for full results.

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2015 Knock Out of the Year – Saul Alvarez KO’s James Kirkland

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On May 9th of 2015, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez delivered a resonant knock-out of James Kirkland on HBO that wins the 2015 KO of the Year.

The knock-out itself came in the third round, after slightly more than two minutes of action. The end came when Alvarez delivered a single, big right hand that caught Kirkland on the jaw and left him flat on his back after spinning to the canvas.Alvarez was clearly the big star heading into the fight. The fight was telecast by HBO for free just one week after the controversial and disappointing Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao fight, and Alvarez was under pressure to deliver the type of finish that people were going to talk about. Kirkland was happy to oblige Alvarez, taking it right to Alvarez from the start. Kirkland’s aggression saw him appear to land blows that troubled the young Mexican in the early going. Alvarez played good defense, and he floored Kirkland in the first round, displaying his power and his technique in knocking down an aggressive opponent.

However, Kirkland kept coming at Alvarez and the fight entered the third round with both men working hard and the feeling that the fight would not go the distance. Kirkland continued to move forward, keeping “Canelo” against the ropes and scoring points with a barrage of punches while looking for an opening.

At around the two minute mark, Alvarez landed an uppercut that sent Kirkland to the canvas again. Kirkland got up, but it was clear that he did not have his legs under him. Kirkland was going to try to survive the round, but Alvarez had an opportunity to close out the fight. The question was would he take it?

Alvarez closed in on Kirkland, putting his opponent’s back to the ropes. Kirkland was hurt, but he was still dangerous, pawing with punches and loading up for one big shot.

But it was the big shot “Canelo” threw that ended the night. Kirkland never saw it coming, as he was loading up with a huge right hand of his own. The right Alvarez threw cracked Kirkland in the jaw, and his eyes went blank. His big right hand whizzed harmlessly over the head of a ducking Alvarez, providing the momentum for the spin that left Kirkland prone on the canvas.

Saul “Canelo” Alvarez went on to defeat Miguel Cotto in his second fight of 2015 and he is clearly one of boxing’s biggest stars heading into 2016. On May 9th Alvarez added another reel to his highlight film when he knocked out James Kirkland with the 2015 “Knock Out of the Year”.

Photo by naoki fukuda

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