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Brandon Rios vs. Diego Chaves: Preview and Prediction for Welterweight Bout

Kevin McRaeFeatured Columnist IVNovember 6, 2016

Brandon Rios vs. Diego Chaves: Preview and Prediction for Welterweight Bout

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    Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Brandon Rios returns to the ring for the first time since last November on Saturday night, taking on dangerous Argentine puncher Diego Chaves at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas.

    Rios will come into the fight having lost his last two bouts and badly in need of a win to get his career back on track. The former lightweight champion is returning from a suspension after failing a post-fight drug test in November, and he’s chosen a very risky foe for his comeback.

    Chaves is a puncher with a solid amateur pedigree. He’s a former interim WBA welterweight champion, and he gave current champion Keith Thurman a fair bit of difficulty in his biggest fight to date. The Argentine has a great opportunity to score an upset here, and his style guarantees fireworks against the always-aggressive Rios.

    This one has can’t-miss written all over it.

    Read on for your complete preview and prediction for Rios vs. Chaves!

Tale of the Tape

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    All stats and information per BoxRec.com.

     Brandon Rios
    Diego Gabriel Chaves
    Record31-2-1, 23 KO23-1, 19 KO
    Age2828
    Height5'8"5'7.5"
    Weight146.5 (last fight)147 (last fight)
    Reach68"66.5"
    StanceOrthodoxOrthodox
    HometownLubbock, Texas
    San Miguel, Buenos Aires, Argentina
    Rounds18494
    Last FightL UD 12 Manny Pacquiao (11/24/13)TKO 3 Juan Alberto Godoy (6/14/14)

Main Storylines

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    Nicky Loh/Getty Images

    Rios was shellacked against Manny Pacquiao last November, losing a wide decision in a fight that was never in doubt. It was his second loss in a row, and his problems were only beginning.

    The 28-year-old tested positive for a banned substance in post-fight VADA testing and was subsequently suspended for the offense. The suspension ended in late April, and this will be his first time back in a ring facing live punches since the Pacquiao washout.

    Rios is a tough brawler who can usually be relied on to provide an exciting, all-action fight. But he needs to prove he can still compete at or near the top level of the sport. It’s not clear if this is a make-or-break fight, but it’s pretty close.

    Chaves was undefeated but untested when he was brought in to defend his interim WBA 147-pound title against Thurman last year. Like many fighters with gaudy records who have rarely—if ever—fought outside their home nations, many were apt to dismiss him as yet another padded, paper champion.

    As it turns out, Chaves is a pretty solid fighter. He gave Thurman a really tough time in the early rounds, landing hard shots during exchanges that seemed to give his foe a fair bit of difficulty. It was only when One Time slowed the pace and avoided those exchanges that he took over the fight.

    Chaves is considerably less worn around the edges than Rios, who has been in many ring wars, and the Argentine has a big opportunity to pick up a high-profile, career-launching win.

Strengths

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    Darren Abate/Associated Press

    Rios is a guy who just loves to fight. He has absolutely no problem swallowing several incoming punches—often with a smile on his face—in order to land one or two of his own, and he has a great chin. That’s just the type of fighter he is, and it’s been good enough to get him to this level.

    He’s a high-activity brawler who loves to engage, and he can turn around a fight with one big shot. If you don’t believe that, ask Mike Alvarado, who was winning their first fight before getting caught and stopped.

    Rios isn’t much in the way of a boxer, but he can slug with the best of them, and he uses that style to place a tremendous amount of pressure on his opponents. He stalks, and more often than not, he finds a way to get to his opponent.

    Chaves has good hand and foot speed and a great deal of power behind his punches.

    When he fought Thurman, it seemed like One Time and his team had done a fair bit of underestimating both the speed and power of the Argentine. Thurman’s edge in speed wasn’t quite what they were probably expecting, and he got caught with some big shots early before readjusting.

    Chaves can definitely crack, and he’s not going to be afraid to engage with Rios and give as good as he gets.

Weaknesses

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    Vincent Yu/Associated Press

    Rios’ greatest strength is also a weakness. He’s not a great boxer, and he’s there to be hit all night long. That’s the risk and reward of a strategy that requires you to rely on hitting a guy harder than he can hit you.

    In addition to his defensive deficiencies, he’s not overly fast and usually compensates for these weaknesses with punching power that serves as a deterrent.

    Rios has been through his share of ring wars and has had notable battles with making weight in the past. He looked awful against Pacquiao, and the possibility he’s diminished, even at a young age, is very real.

    Chaves has some big punching power, but he doesn’t hold any wins over opponents you’d consider top-level fighters. His best performance to date came against Ismael El Massoudi, and even he’s decent but not spectacular.

    The Argentine needs the fight to be contested at a fast pace—which shouldn’t be a problem against Rios—and struggles when the fight is on the outside. He’s just not comfortable at that distance.

    Thurman made the tactical adjustment of slowing the pace and boxing more in the second half, and that led him to a stoppage victory late in the fight. That seems to be the way to beat Chaves, but can Rios do the same?

Brandon Rios Will Win If...

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    Vincent Yu/Associated Press

    Rios will win this fight if he’s able to overpower Chaves on the inside and land the more telling blows.

    And that’s anything but a sure thing.

    Bam Bam doesn’t really do much in terms of changing his approach from fight to fight—he’s a come-forward brawler who throws punches in bunches—and we shouldn’t expect any wholesale changes this time around.

    Rios needs to attack, get on the inside and outwork Chaves with a high-volume attack. He also needs to remain defensively aware enough not to take an unnecessary amount of incoming punches. That may seem completely anathema to his style, but it would help in this fight.

    Chaves is a big puncher—he buzzed Thurman a time or two—and Rios has a propensity to allow his foe to go tit-for-tat with him in order to create openings for his own offense. He has a tremendous chin, yes, but this fight is dangerous.

    Rios needs to attack but remain at least somewhat defensively responsible. He needs to outmuscle his man on the inside, attack with big punches and outwork Chaves, taking him into deep water down the stretch.

    The Argentine seemed to fade a bit against Thurman, and while this is only a 10-round fight, it could prove advantageous for Rios.

Diego Chaves Will Win If...

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    Chaves likes to fight at a fast pace while coming forward. Rios will definitely give him what he’s looking for in terms of pace, but he’ll need to make him miss and make him pay.

    The question is whether he can handle Rios' level of aggression, particularly in the late rounds where Chaves has faded a bit in the past.

    The Argentine can’t and won’t be intimidated, that’s for sure. He stared down Thurman—one of the biggest punchers in the game—and took his best shots before finally falling in Round 9 and being stopped a round later.

    His punching power is significant, and while Rios has never been stopped—even by far better fighters—he’s been through the ringer a few times and hasn’t fought since last November. It’s not clear what condition he’ll be in, or if he’ll have any sort of rust.

    Chaves needs be aggressive early and not allow Rios to outwork him and seize the initiative. If he can do that and maintain a consistent effort into the late rounds, he can win the fight.

And the Winner Will Be...

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    There are a lot of reasons to watch this fight on Saturday night.

    Rios vs. Chaves looks, at least on paper, to be a potential Fight of the Year contender, and there are compelling arguments to be made for why either man could legitimately walk away with the win.

    Having gone back and forth on this one a few times—showing it wasn’t an easy call—the smart money would seem to be with Rios. He’s been in there with the better overall opposition and has a lot on the line in this fight.

    But there’s something about Chaves that just says upset in this spot, and that makes it difficult.

    Rios has been around the figurative block a few times in the ring. He’s lost back-to-back fights—it really should be three of his last four if you count the bogus decision over Richard Abril—but he’ll have just enough to hold back Chaves in this one.

    And in this case, just enough means just enough.

    This will be a close, competitive fight throughout, and it will be on the table in the closing rounds. Rios will use his experience to pull himself over the finish line, outworking a somewhat faded Chaves in the final two rounds to snag a very close decision.

    That said, if it goes the other way, don’t be surprised.

    Prediction: Rios UD 10 Chaves (96-94)

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