Rios’ boxing skills too much for Antillon
CARSON, Calif. – For the better part of the last two decades, Marco Antonio Barrera thrilled boxing fans remarkably similarly to the way that Brandon Rios did on Saturday in a three-round demolition of Urbano Antillon at the Home Depot Center. Barrera became beloved because he rarely took a step backward, was always eager to engage and stepped up to face every challenge.
But Barrera is 37 now and not quite so eager to take on a challenge from a young, hungry and powerful guy like Rios. Barrera was in a tuxedo Saturday, working for Mexico’s TV Azteca, and was treated to a close-up of Rios’ rout of Antillon. After a sensational first round, Rios proved to be simply too big and too strong for Antillon, who needed to be saved by referee David Mendoza in the waning seconds of the third round in their bout for the World Boxing Association lightweight title.
Rios said during his post-fight interview with TV Azteca that he would fight any lightweight, including Barrera. Barrera tried to ignore the question, but Rios asked firmly, “Well?”
Barrera couldn’t bring himself to say no, but at 37, he’s smart enough to know there are a lot easier ways to make a living than swapping punches with a guy as mean, nasty and strong as the 25-year-old Rios.
“You’ve improved,” Barrera said in answer to Rios. “A lot.”
That he has. And while the first round of Saturday’s bout was a wild slugfest that had the crowd roaring, it wasn’t long before it turned into a one-sided bludgeoning.
By the third round, Rios had landed so many flush power shots that Antillon was physically overwhelmed. Rios put him down first with a crushing left hand that Antillon later conceded was the blow that ended his hopes. Later in the round, Rios knocked Antillon down again with a thudding right. Somehow, Antillon dragged himself to his feet. But he was in no condition to fight, and as he staggered from one corner to the other, Mendoza jumped in to mercifully halt it.
The most significant thing that came out of the bout was the quantum leap forward Rios made with his boxing skills. He’s always been a brawler; he’s never going to lose his lust for combat. But on Saturday, he looked like a boxer and not just a tough guy who was bigger, stronger and more fearless than anyone else.
“Sensational. Absolutely sensational,” manager Cameron Dunkin said of Rios. “He’s always been strong, but he’s getting stronger. He came at angles. He fought smarter. He controlled his distance. He had a perfect distance on the outside. He threw combinations. And he not only took over on the inside, he took over on the outside.”
The Rios camp was worried that Antillon would try to be a bit more slick and wouldn’t engage, but Antillon raced from his corner at the opening bell to meet Rios. That left Rios and his team licking their chops, knowing they had the bigger and stronger man.
The first round was three minutes of savagery, two men trying badly to inflict extreme pain upon the other with every shot they threw. Antillon, though, simply couldn’t keep up that pace, and Rios could.
By the second round, nearly all of the major scoring blows were from Rios, who imposed his will.
Antillon was coming off a gut-check fight in December in which he lost an agonizingly close bout for the World Boxing Council lightweight belt to Humberto Soto in a match that was chosen as the 2010 Yahoo! Sports Fight of the Year.
“I got caught,” Antillon said. “Soto is a great champion with much better defensive skills, but Rios is strong. He’s much stronger than Soto. It took a lot out of me, that first knockdown.”
Rios was so impressive that Top Rank chairman Bob Arum mentioned him as a potential future opponent for Manny Pacquiao, the welterweight champion who is widely regarded as the sport’s best fighter. The pool of qualified opponents for Pacquiao is small and dwindling. Arum was hopeful that veteran Kermit Cintron might force himself into contention for a spot against Pacquiao, but he was horrendous in a loss to Carlos Molina on the undercard and ought to think more about retirement than a fight against Pacquiao.
Rios fights two divisions below Pacquiao, but is already talking of moving up to super lightweight, so he’s not that far away.
“Rios is an emerging superstar,” Arum said. “In a year or two, I would put him in with Manny Pacquiao. I think Rios can match Pacquiao for speed and power.”
That’s questionable – there may not be a man on the planet who can do that – but there aren’t a lot of 135- or 140-pounders who are going to be able to hang with Rios. He’s got his defensive flaws, but for someone to expose them, he’s either going to have to be a master boxer with a great chin or he’ll have to have that one-punch power himself.
Rios is young, full of confidence and bluster and is a guy who is going to be a factor for a while.
“I came and did what I told everybody I was going to do,” Rios said. “I said I was going to knock him out, and I did. Antillon was a hell of a fighter at one time, but not this time. I’m young. I’m more hungrier. I’m more powerful. I’m going to the top and I see my career rising from here.
“Anybody out there at 135, I’m inviting you (to fight) right now. If you’re 135, you don’t have to hunt around and look for a fight. I’m right here standing. If not, 140, here I come.”
Other popular stories on Yahoo! Sports:
• Kobe shows off with camp dunk
• Fan’s pursuit of foul ball for son ends in tragedy
• The 60s Schwinn bike that led to BMX racing