LAS VEGAS, NEVADA — Brandon Rios had his undefeated record and big money fight aspirations saved Saturday night (April 14) courtesy of inexcusable judging that gifted him a split decision win over Richard Abril.
After failing to make the lightweight limit of 135 yesterday, a big question going into last night was how Rios’ body would respond. Abril started off strong by using his long arms and wiry frame to pepper Rios with long jabs and smothering clinches. Abril relied on straight rights to the body to stop Rios’ forward movement in the first round. The Cuban titlist landed well in the second behind overhand rights and uppercuts to the body. However, Rios was able to apply consistent pressure in the third and land good hooks to the body.
Rios’ frustration became apparent in the fourth when Abril timed him with long straight rights and left jabs. Using angles, a shoulder guard and a high right hand, Abril was able to pick off all of Rios’ normally punishing inside hooks. The fifth was also controlled by Abril, who took the fight back outside with hard jabs and then a good uppercut on an incoming Rios.
By the midway point, Rios was reduced to simply following Abril around and walking into hard jabs and right hooks. With no offensive rhythm due to Abril’s movement, inside clinching and guard, the pro-Rios crowd began to boo loudly after the seventh. However, Rios did receive an encouraging sign as referee Vic Drakulich gave Abril a hard warning for constant holding.
Rios had a decent eighth round which saw him stay active inside with left and right hooks. Although Abril blocked the majority of them, it required the Cuban to remain defensive and allowed Rios create his most sustained offense since the third round. The momentum didn’t carry into a ninth as Abril started the stanza with three successive right hands. He followed with a left hook, momentum stopping 1-2s and went back to smothering and blocking Rios’ work inside. Again, the crowd voiced their displeasure with angry boos directed at Abril.
The championship rounds proved no better for Rios. Abril stayed on the move in the 10th but landed scoring shots at long-range. Rios again was smothered inside. The 11th was more of the same with Abril adding a little showboating to show his supreme confidence. Rios could be seen in clinches trash talking Abril in hopes of pushing him into a brawl, but Abril kept to his game plan in the 12th and continued landing cleaner shots to close out what appeared to be a shocking upset.
Two veteran judges thought otherwise.
Judge Adalaide Byrd had a score of 117-111 for Abril. Jerry Roth and Glen Trowbridge had it for Rios with scores of 116-112 and 115-113 respectively.
The split decision win keeps alive Top Rank’s tentative plan to pit Juan Manuel Marquez against Brandon Rios this July.
On the undercard, Mike Alvarado’s physical strength and punching power saw him through a tough unanimous decision win over Mauricio Herrera. After taking the first round with some deft defensive slipping inside, Herrera inexplicably began brawling with the more powerful Alvarado in the second. Herrera left eye began swelling and would be a problem the rest of the night. Herrera was able to land flurries in spots every round, but Alvarado’s punches were much more damaging and at times seemed close to producing a stoppage down the stretch.
Mercito Gesta remained undefeated with an eighth round TKO over Oscar Cuero. Cuero was hurt early and lost a point in the fourth for holding. Gesta earned the stoppage off a right hook knockdown.
What made the Rios-Abril decision even more disgusting was the fact that it was pay-per-view. People actually paid money to see that blatant corruption. Don’t let any writers or commentators downplay what happened last night. Rios won two rounds at best. Giving him three rounds is a huge stretch and very generous. Glenn Trowbrdige and Jerry Roth aren’t some inexperienced judges — they’re men with decades of judging experience between them.
In Trowbridge’s case, this is his second consecutive house fighter decision for Top Rank as he also gave Manny Pacquiao the nod over Juan Manuel Marquez in November by a score of 116-112.
This isn’t about liking Abril’s style. A small but vocal minority on Twitter tried to justify the decision by stating all Abril did was hold and made the fight ugly. No, what made the fight ugly is Rios had no game plan aside from wading in and throwing bombs. He had no answer for the clinching, but also no answer for when Abril let Rios throw and used his shoulder and guard to pick off shots every round. This is about constant injustice being the norm. Rewarding undeserving fighters with paydays that they haven’t earned. It’s about promoters having no integrity for the product they ask fans to spend hard-earned money on.
The New Jersey Commission did the right thing when they suspended the judges involved in the atrocity that was the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara decision. If the Las Vegas Commission has any integrity (which I strongly doubt considering the money Top Rank brings in), they’ll be an investigation into Roth and Trowbridge’s conduct in this fight.
If not, be very afraid when you see the names Jerry Roth and Glenn Trowbridge judging a big fight.