Bradley and Rios meet in crossroads welterweight fight
Nov. 06, 2015
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Timothy Bradley has a new trainer known more lately for talking about fighters than watching over them. Brandon Rios has a new resolve not to let his career slip away from him.
They meet Saturday night for a piece of the welterweight title in a crossroads fight with a lot at stake for each fighter.
For Bradley, it's a chance to stay relevant in a division where there is still a lot of money to be made despite the departure of Floyd Mayweather Jr.
For Rios, it may be the last opportunity to salvage a once promising career that was damaged by a lackluster loss to Manny Pacquiao.
"My back is against the wall in this fight," Rios said. "I want to get back on top in boxing. Bradley is going to be my ticket back to the top."
Rios will have to overcome the odds if he is going to get there, with the smart money in this gambling town favoring Bradley by a 5-1 margin. And he'll have to do it in a division that's two weight classes over where he was fighting a little more than three years ago.
"I'm just happy to be back in the spotlight and fighting again," Rios said. "I've still got the fighter left in me."
Just how much of that fighter is left will likely be seen in a fight that matches two boxers who don't mind brawling a bit, too. Both have a common opponent in Pacquiao — Bradley won a disputed decision against him, before losing their second fight — and a common promoter in Bob Arum.
That may not be enough to get the winner in the ring next year against Pacquiao in what could be the Filipino's last fight. There are other, more marketable fighters in that mix, including Britain's Amir Khan and Nebraska's Terence Crawford.
But it will be enough to stay in the mix for lucrative fights in a division that has been dominated by Mayweather and Pacquiao in recent years.
"I want this fight badly," Bradley said. "I plan to keep it in control my way."
Bradley, who is 1-1 with a draw in his last three fights, changed his corner in an attempt to revive his career, bringing in Teddy Atlas to replace longtime trainer Joel Diaz. He did so after a phone conversation with Atlas turned into a lesson on why he was getting hit too much.
Atlas, who once trained a young Mike Tyson but has worked mostly as a commentator on fights for ESPN in recent years, ended up agreeing to return to the corner and spent seven weeks with Bradley in training camp.
"When Teddy came to camp he took a book of images of certain rounds I had fought previously. There were notes about what I did right and what I did wrong," Bradley said. "No trainer of mine has ever prepared for a fight like Teddy has for me against Rios."
The knock on Bradley (32-1-1, 12 knockouts) early in his career had been that he was a cautious fighter who kept winning but did little to impress fans. He shed that after a few wars in the ring, including a brutal fight against Ruslan Provodnikov, but now wants to be more careful about getting hit too much.
That's probably a good thing in a fight against Rios (33-2-1, 24 KOs), who was unusually passive in losing a decision to Pacquiao in Macau in 2013. Rios, who blamed overconfidence and lackluster training for that loss, normally likes to brawl and come forward.
"Rios can bring on the pressure all night long and we will deal with it," Bradley said. "We are prepared for intense pressure. The only chance Rios has is a lucky punch and that's not going to happen."