Brandon Rios not only won Fight of the Year against Mike Alvarado, he also won a multitude of new fans and made the light welterweight division the most interesting in recent boxing history. His exciting phone booth style of boxing speaks to millions of fight fans and there are many logical challenges available. The undefeated Mexican-American's grit absolutely connects with boxing aficionados and sports fans alike. His dramatic bout has engendered a wish list of dream fights that could excite fans for the next decade.
At only 26 years old, the 31-0-1 brawler has now cemented his stardom and can seek out blockbuster mega bouts to dazzle the sporting world. The best in boxing rarely thrill fans these days, which contrasts the high volume of punches that Rios' ebullient style produces. While Mayweather and Ward exude technical brilliance and pristine boxing skills, their styles do not beget exuberance.
In fact, it has been over three years since even Manny Pacquiao scored his last knockout win which was over the stalwart Miguel Cotto. Eleven of Brandon's last thirteen fights have earned him knockout wins. This seminal talent is what boxing needs now and this is the right division to make great fights.
In the 140-pound division, there are many talented and exciting challenges for the young Texan. First, there is the undefeated vanquisher of the great Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley. Yes, Bradley recently fought at 147 but he is a 140-pounder. Admittedly, many do not believe Bradley won, but the record books have no memory and history has written the outcome. He has been cast as a villain for his hubris and failure to express humility in the controversial win.
Rios is an easy sell as hero, which makes promotion for this bout even easier. Both fighters would place their undefeated records on the line and fans would love to see Bradley get his perceived comeuppance for his decision win over fan favourite Pacquiao. The upside for Bradley is that a win over the highly respected Rios would legitimize his championship status to the fans. Not only is there a compelling narrative, Brandon's will and heart against the boxing prowess of the WBO welterweight champion would make for an exciting fight.
Danny Garcia, who recently decapitated the iconic Erik Morales, would also make for an excellent opponent. Wearing the WBA (Super World) and WBC straps, Philadelphia's latest pugilistic prize is 26-0 and is a fast-rising star.
Garcia gained international recognition for his dismantling of the well-promoted and hyped Olympian Amir Khan in four rounds. This would be a very exciting bout between two hard-hitting and old school fighters. Garcia would be available after his February bout with Zab Judah. A win over a very respectable Judah would have Garcia riding a vibrant wave of momentum that would segue nicely into a classic brawl with Rios.
The brilliant Argentine, Lucas Matthysse, would also make for an interesting challenge. At 32-2 (30 of those KOs), Lucas has proven he is as good as any at 140 pounds. His two losses are heavily disputed. Both were split decision losses (Zab Judah and Devon Alexander) and neither the attending fans nor home audiences were convinced.
He is a talented and exciting fighter that would compliment Rios' in-your-face style. His 30 knockouts scream out that he has power and fans would love to see how that would match against Brandon's mettle.
My personal favourite would be this very matchup. In fact, a trilogy would be ideal. Marcos Maidana is another Argentinian fighter in the division and while not as skilled a boxer, he is the second most exciting performer in the division. For those who recall the Amir Khan fight, they can appreciate the heart and determination exuded by a very determined Maidana.
His heroic conquering of Victor Ortiz also compounds the potential for an epic war between these two proven warriors. At 32-3 (29 KOs), he has power and is a pocket fighter that is always applying pressure. He is a better version of Alvarado and would enrapture the boxing universe in a Rios showdown. Marcos is scheduled to fight a tune-up in December, at welterweight, so this fight could easily be made after that concludes.
Naturally a major obstacle to overcome would be the fact that both are trained by Robert Garcia. Maidana left his coach, Rudy Perez and joined the team in Oxnard, California after his loss to Alexander. However, money speaks louder than anything.
Lamont has an impressive record of 30-1, with his only loss coming at the hands of Tim Bradley, and made headlines for his gutsy win over Amir Khan. While that win was said to be disputed, his fortitude was undeniable. Without hyperbole, his performance was Rocky-esque. In a battle with Rios, two iron wills would clash and the result would produce an epic bout for old school fight fans.
Admittedly, Alexander has not proven to be a very marketable fighter. He has floundered in his career-making opportunities. However, his record is impressive and he is undeniably a legitimate star in the division. His 24-1 record speaks to that. The fact that his lone loss was a technical decision to Bradley, that stemmed from a headbutt, warrants an asterisk.
If there is someone to bring the fight out of Alexander, Rios is the man to do it. His name deserves to be mentioned among the elite; however, this deserves a pass. This encounter is not likely to produce a meaningful viewing experience. Perhaps, he would be best substituted for Josésito López, should he be willing to return to the lower weight divisions.
Josésito, the Mexican Rocky, has proven himself to be capable of rising to any occasion. His last bout was against 154-pound stud, Canelo. He fared well and proved to be competitive before succumbing respectably in the fifth round. In his previous fight, he literally shocked the world with an incredible display of determination and confidence by forcing welterweight champion Ortiz to quit.
López had been selectively chosen for both fights because he was expected to be a soft target fighting above his weight class; he demonstrated his heart more than compensated for the weight. In returning to 140, he has a very marketable clash awaiting him with Brandon Rios.
Rematch. This fight could have gone either way on the cards. There were times when it seemed pragmatic for Brandon's corner to stop the fight. It was a classic back-and-forth affair and a rematch would be logical.
Broner is boxing's hottest new ticket. Yet he has never been tested and never had to prove he has the heart to win over fans. His superlative skills render his competition impotent. A credible task such as Rios would enhance Broner's reputation.
He has just made the jump to 135 pounds, but will be moving to 140 in the future. The best fights are in the super lightweight division and that is where he needs to go to be in the limelight. The Problem has no issue with being on center stage and a Rios battle would win him many fans and further international recognition.
In Rios, he gets someone who will pressure him and allow him to prove where his skills are. This encounter might be a contemporary version of Mayweather-Castillo, in which Floyd was challenged more than he has been in his entire pro career.
The Ghost and Rios are similar in that they have been working hard in the game for years and are now just breaking out into mainstream recognition. They have propitiously shone when their opportunities have come. Robert's last two fights were at welterweight but he came up from 126 where he boxed most of his career. These two rising stars are enjoying an increased fanbase and elevated media attention.
It seems that a showdown would represent the fan's interest well and make for a thrilling fight. Guerrero-Berto should be runner-up to Alvarado-Rios for Fight of the Year. Therefore, pitting them together spells intense drama. Robert has an endearing background that makes him easy to cheer for.
Brandon has won people over with his ring spirit, so fans can easily support either.
One of the most disappointing cancellations in decades was Gamboa's pull out from his Rios fight earlier this year. This fight needs to happen now more than ever. Gamboa is fighting next week and should be free after that. Rios has never been a hotter or bigger name.
The Cuban prodigy has never taken on a truly challenging opponent and has the potential to be one of the greatest in boxing history. A Rios test answers many questions. At 32, he has yet to utilize his immense talent in big time fights and is disappointing fans in terms of making a name for himself. Gamboa needs to begin to make his mark in 2013 and a Rios clash would be a great start.
He has stated that he wants big fights and is willing to take on the best, so make this fight happen, Fifty. While he may need some time to reach 140, his legacy is better served accepting more difficult challenges than coasting against mediocre opponents.
Brandon Rios provides fans with legendary moments in sports. He has etched his name at the top of fighters to watch. He now needs to have the marquee fights to forge a lasting legacy. At 26, he has time to improve on his porous defense and develop better footwork and more consistent head movement to allow him longevity. His technical deficiencies and struggles with average fighters (Richard Abril) need to be dealt with in order for this star to become a pound-for-great.
While rumours are floating that he will face Pacquiao or Marquez-presumably at 147- in April of 2013, he has more realistic challenges in front of him at 140. One day he might earn a Pacman fight, but until then he has copious challenges delightfully presented before him that better reflect his current status in boxing.
For now, Gary Russel Jr., Saul Alvarez, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Gamboa might be the best prospects to lead that list, but Rios will be the one delivering the most exciting fights. Here are ten realistic and important fights for the boxing universe. Many of these challengers could prove to be trilogy-worthy. Thanks to Rios for opening this flood gate of intriguing bouts and for promising to make the next decade of boxing memorable!