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20 NOVEMBER 2018

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Garcia Tko’s Rios. Calls Out Thurman

pic Stephanie Trapp/Showtime
pic Stephanie Trapp/Showtime

By Jason Pribila: On March 4, 2017 Danny Garcia entered the ring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY to face fellow undefeated title holder Keith Thurman in a unification fight. Garcia was beaten to the punch early, and his inability to cut off the ring allowed Thurman to ride is bicycle to a split decision victory in front of an underwhelmed sold-out crowd.


The Thurman – Garcia fight was televised nationally for free on CBS, but neither fighter was able to take advantage of the exposure, as neither fighter had fought since before Saturday Night. Garcia took time off and welcomed the birth of his daughter. Thurman had surgery on his elbow, and has since shown up on Showtime Televised fights talking in the third person about all the fighters that Keith Thurman won’t fight next.


Garcia entered the ring on Saturday evening determined to keep his name in the mix for a potential rematch this fall with Thurman. Garcia’s opponent in this title eliminator would be former lightweight titlist Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, a 20-1 underdog, who earned this assignment by ending his 19 month retirement in time to stop a journeyman on his way to the B-Side of the marquee of Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Events Center


A fight bemoaned on paper was yet another example of Al Haymon’s ability to get his fighters on TV and earning the most while risking the least.


Rios is a proud fighter who would probably admit that it was his will, not skill that earned his place in our consciousness as a must-see fighter. But as he moved up the scale, he found he couldn’t simply show up and out-will naturally bigger men.


That said, Rios had reunited with his longtime trainer Robert Garcia, and he is too proud of a fighter to lay down for anyone. There is no doubt that he entered the ring to win, and he proved that a motivated Rios would not be an easy out for anyone.


Garcia admitted he was a bit rusty in the early rounds. He used effective lateral movement early while mixing in enough solid right hands and body shots to diffuse Rios’ attack.


Garcia seemed to hurt Rios for the first time in round four courtesy of a straight right hand. Garcia was widening the gap in punches thrown and landed, but Rios’ remained determined to force Garcia work all three minutes of each round.


Rios enjoyed his best moments in the fight in round six. He landed a big right hand early in the round, and when he was able to force Garcia to the ropes, he was able to land a right uppercut.


If the pro-Rios crowd was hoping that Garcia was beginning to tire, the Philadelphia native crushed those hopes as a pair of hooks landed on Rios’ chin.


The entertaining fight was falling into a pattern where a charging Rios would be held off by Garcia’s jab, who would spin away from harm and away from the ropes.


Round nine started innocently enough until the moment Rios threw a lazy jab at the wrong moment. Garcia saw and dented Rios’ exposed chin with a vicious right hand that sent Rios to the canvas. Somehow Rios made it back to his feet before the count of ten, however, referee Kenny Bayless correctly concluded that Rios was on unsteady legs, and he waved off the bout at 2:25 of round nine.


“He was standing in front of me and I just let it go,” Garcia said following the fight. “I wasn’t looking for that shot. I was just boxing.”


Rios was obviously upset, even if he wasn’t quite sure who had waved off the bout.


Garcia, 29, fought for the first time since suffering his first professional defeat – a 12-round split decision to Keith Thurman (28-0, 22 KOs, 1 NC) in their welterweight title unification fight last March 4 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.


“I’m mad,” Rios admitted. “I’m a warrior and I got back up, and I was ready to continue. But I guess the corner stopped it,” Rios continued. “I know they love me and everything, but I was still breathing. I was still walking around.”


Boxing fans love the warrior spirit in fighters like Rios, however, at the end of the day, it is critical that we have trainers and referees in place to save such warriors from themselves.


Garcia (34-1, 20 KOs), 29, is right back in the mix for a huge fight hopefully against someone Vegas sees with better odds of winning than Rios. Shawn Porter entered the ring to challenge Rios after the fight. It would seem a logical for both. They are under the PBC umbrella, and the fans would certainly approve what would seem to be an evenly matched fan-friendly fight.


Rios (34-4-1, 25 KOs) proved that he still has the will to continue his career. While he should avoid the elite of the division; who wouldn’t leave the casino early to see him vs Victor Ortiz as the co-feature of a future PBC card?

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