LAS VEGAS — WBO welterweight titlist Tim Bradley and new trainer Teddy Atlas couldn’t have imagined a better start to their partnership. A determined Bradley laid a one-sided beating last night on a normally durable Brandon Rios for a ninth round TKO, prompting a surprising retirement announcement from the Oxnard native.
SHOWING WHO’S IN CHARGE: Round one told the story of this fight. Bradley came out with neck-snapping jabs and right hands thrown with vicious intentions. When the fight got inside, an area that was supposed to be Rios’ domain, Bradley muscled him around and fought out of clinches with combination punching. This pattern continued throughout the bout and created an atmosphere where Rios never had a moment of physical and mental rest.
AN EARLY “LAST HURRAH”: Coming into the fight after a 10-month layoff, Rios looked drawn at the weigh-in and needed two tries to make that 147-pound limit. He then gained a massive 23 pounds overnight and came in at 170. Rehydrating that much signals bad eating habits during the layoff, and a camp spent trying to get into shape over establishing a game plan. A weight gain like that is also a shock to the system which leaves you lethargic and physically weak. In that condition, you’re not even fit for most office jobs, let alone throwing punches with an elite athlete like Bradley.
All these factors contributed to why Rios only had a decent amount of success in the second round. He landed a few digging body shots that forced clinches, and a hard right upstairs that briefly stunned the champion.
But Bradley still outlanded Rios by double digits that round and controlled much of the action. Bradley promptly went back to dominating in the third and Rios never landed another significant punch.
CORNER PLEAS TO A BROKEN FIGHTER: Rios finally folded in the ninth when a slashing left hook to the body forced him to his knees. He rose meekly and could only cover up as Bradley leveled him with more power shots to put Rios on all fours and prompt the stoppage.
Every round preceding, Rios’ trainer Robert Garcia implored Rios to pick it up. At times you could hear him stating that Rios was “letting everyone down.” The question should be whether Garcia let Rios down by letting him get into the ring in that condition.
WE ARE FIREMEN!!!: Teddy Atlas was his usual animated self in the corner, ending sentences with yells and dropping memorable quotables like “We are firemen! We control the flames!” On the technical side, there wasn’t any significant changes in Bradley. But mentally, we saw a man beaming with confidence and completely focused. If we believe boxing to be 95% mental, then Atlas’ tutelage has been invaluable.
BRADLEY VS. PACQUIAO/CANELO?: Bradley’s win puts him a remote option to have a rubbermatch against Manny Pacquiao in the Filipino icon’s last fight on April 9. The more surprising narrative that HBO commentators revealed is preliminary discussions between Top Rank and Golden Boy for a Bradley-Canelo fight. You’ll recall that Bradley was calling out Cotto a few years back, so we know he’d take the fight in a heartbeat. But if Canelo does get past Cotto on November 21, that makes him the middleweight champion and obligated to face mandatory challenger Gennady Golovkin.
If Canelo avoids GGG to face the much smaller Bradley, he’ll deserve every bit of criticism fans and media would level at him.
RIOS SAYS GOODBYE: In Rios’ last fight, his opponent Mike Alvarado was the washed up fighter who no longer had the fire nor the physical tools to compete. Last night Rios donned that dubious role. He admitted that quickly in his post-fight interview.
“My body is not the same anymore… I’m done.”
During the media buildup, Rios admitted that his motivation was non-existent. His wife, who works daily, told him in no uncertain terms to “man up.” That says it all about how Rios cared for his body during this layoff. For whatever reason, he had already checked out well before Bradley landed his first punch.
The concern should be whether the retirement sticks. If his wife has to work, it’s safe to assume he might have blown throw the paydays he got from facing Pacquiao and the Alvarado rubbermatch. Monetary problems might force an ill-fated comeback.
LOMACHENKO KO10 KOASICHA: WBO featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko had an easy outing against an overmatched foe in Romulo Koasicha. Lomachenko hit him at will and delivered a slow beating, later stating he was “playing around” and could have ended matters sooner.
The problem for Lomachenko is the featherweight division is under the control of Al Haymon, who has options on champions Leo Santa Cruz (WBA), Lee Selby (IBF) and Gary Russell (WBC). The Russell fight did happen in spite of the Haymon-Top Rank beef, so there remains an outside chance business can be done. Lomachenko can also look at Nonito Donaire, who’s expressed interest, and a rumored bout against Guillermo Rigondeaux. For the biggest challenge, literally and figuratively, I hope Lomachenko would reconsider facing Nicholas Walters.