Brandon Rios is an irritant. He's offensive, blunt, brash, cocky and any other number of annoying adjectives.
He's also one of the few young American fighters actually worth rallying around. Not only has he moved toward the top of a stocked division (like Tim Bradley and Andre Ward), he packs a wallop and fights in an all-action style.
Boxing is a sport of heroes and villains, and like its fictional cousin pro wrestling, those roles are often interchangeable.
At the moment, Rios is firmly entrenched as one of boxing's most loathsome creatures.
Strike one: ultimate boyhood with Antonio Margarito.
Strike two: cruelly mocking Freddie Roach's Parkinson's symptoms.
Strike three: half-heartedly repenting for mocking Freddie Roach's Parkinson's symptoms.
Latest strike: insulting noble gentleman Urbano Antillon's speech impediment.
Now at this point, you might be saying, "Wait a minute, noble gentleman? He insulted Rios' wife!"
Antillon did say something to the effect of, "Maybe your wife can find your balls for you." It was hardly a personal, vitriolic slam.
Rios responded by painting Antillon as a slow-witted, stammering goon and played the part of outraged husband defending his maiden's honor. I thought it was pretty clear the insult was, perhaps clumsily, directed at Brandon, not his lovely paramour.
But "wife" is one of those buzz words. The mere utterance is enough to make some serious s*** go down.
Anyone who's closely followed Antillon knows he's not a bad guy. He comes across as a humble, thoughtful, soft-spoken, hard-working guy and fights in a blue-collar, crowd-pleasing style. What's not to like?
He embodies the tough, courageous fighter, outgunned but unwilling to surrender without giving everything he's got. He looks like a bar-room brawler but fights with the heart of a heavyweight champ (not necessarily the current one, no offense Wlad).
Against a guy with the attitude and apparent ego of Brandon Rios, logic would point to Antillon as the sentimental favorite.
Of course logic doesn't always dictate our rooting interests.
Brandon Rios is a habitual line-crosser which makes him interesting, compelling, entertaining and makes you want to root for other dudes to beat the crap out of him. Then he wins you over with his own brand of guts and fiery determination in the ring.
Then he opens his mouth and offends some more people and the process begins again.
All personality issues aside, Rios will succeed in this sport because he makes great fights. He's shown he can come from behind and unleash a vicious assault to stop a tough opponent. He has power, heart and a sophisticated enough technique that he usually abandons in favor of brutal aggression.
And he's a quote-machine if you get a kick out of trash talking, which I do.
While guys like Bradley and Ward struggle to build a following (especially Brad), Rios at least elicits a reaction. You might say the Roach imitation didn't exactly kill his career prospects.
Before that, he was just another tough, young contender to boxing fans and "Who?" to the general public. Now, he's one of the best in the division to boxing fans and "that guy" to the mainstream.
It's a start