Ronny Rios prepares for first world title shot, Saturday on HBO
“Everyone keeps telling me I should’ve had this opportunity years ago. To be honest with you, I’m an upfront guy. I say it the way it is. I don’t know how I would’ve mentally done it before. When I was undefeated, I was hungry but I used to overthink a lot of things. I feel like I’m more mature physically and mentally. I have a family now, so I’m more grounded than I was before.”
At a media workout held at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood, California, Ronny Rios expressed his thoughts to UCNLive.com just days away from his first world title shot. The 27-year-old was seemingly the first one there for a media event that started unusually early on a Wednesday morning. However being an early riser nowadays is part of the reason he feels the timing is perfect.
Rios, 28-1 (13), recently went through an upgrade on how he prepares for a fight. In a conversation with this writer a few months before his most recent bout, Rios revealed he spent much of his camp alone, having his wife and newborn baby stay at his in-laws, in order to sustain a strict routine of waking up early, going to bed early and maintaining a healthy diet. Training out of the TKO Boxing Gym in his hometown of Santa Ana, California, Rios saw the benefits of staying disciplined outside the ring and he went on to swiftly stop his opponent last May on the Saul “Canelo” Alvarez vs. Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. undercard in Las Vegas. Immediately after that win over Daniel Noriega, I followed up with Ronny in the bowels of the T-Mobile Arena, insisting he probably couldn’t have done it any better but Rios wasn’t quick to receive the praise just minutes after his victory.
“There’s always little things where I wish I can improve,” said Rios, who humbly remembered playing off a perfect performance. “For instance, against Daniel, I felt that I was just trying to blow him out of the water. I wasn’t trying to knock him out but I was trying to rush him with punches. I think I would’ve paced myself a little bit more. Keep in mind, he had never been dropped and he has fought a lot of good fighters. That was a statement and it paid off because we got our first opportunity at a world title.”
Before he knew he’d be challenging the WBC junior featherweight titleholder, Rey Vargas, 29-0 (22), Rios was on vacation in Mexico, making up time he missed with his wife and baby boy, and that’s when he got the call. Overly excited, Rios, who holds a No. 3 ranking with the WBC, instantly agreed to the fight and even said he was willing to fight Vargas in his hometown of Mexico City. Of course, that didn’t end up happening and wasn’t even a thought, as Vargas was signed by Golden Boy Promotions over the summer. As it turns out, Rios will be the hometown fighter this Saturday night at the StubHub Center in Carson, California, just 28 miles from his hometown.
“I’ve never been about picking and choosing – I want to fight the best,” said Rios about answering that call. “This is what motivates me. This is what I thrive on. I know a lot of people get nervous and stuff like that. It’s natural instinct but I haven’t been nervous for this camp. It kind of worries me a little bit because I don’t feel nerves or anything. I feel confident and I feel very hungry.”
The contest will be the opening bout of an “HBO World Championship Boxing” telecast (9:45 p.m. ET / 6:45 p.m. PT), serving as chief support to another world title bout, in which Miguel Cotto and Yoshihiro Kamegai will fight for the vacant WBO junior middleweight title.
“Everyone says talk is cheap,” said Rios when asked his opinion on Vargas and what he brings to the table. “I don’t watch any training videos. I don’t read any articles about him – that’s not me. That’s not my style. I’m not focused on what he’s trying to do. I’m focused on what I’m trying to do. But people have told me that he said he’s gonna knock me out and come to fight – so I expect him to come to fight. Now, if he’s gonna do what he did in his last fight, he’s probably gonna come forward, maybe the first two rounds, and then he’s gonna backpedal afterward. That’s what we’ve been putting in our game plan, so hopefully he’s man of his word and comes to fight because I don’t want to give the fight fans a boring fight. We’re competing against (Floyd) Mayweather (Jr. versus Conor McGregor on that very same evening in Las Vegas, Nevada) obviously. We’re competing against Showtime (Pay-Per-View), so I want HBO to be thriving that night.”
Rios said making the 122 pound limit won’t be a problem, come Friday afternoon. “I feel fresh. It’s easier this time because, before, I used to pack strength-and-conditioning, sparring, mitts. I used to pack so much into six weeks of camp, by fight time was here, I would feel tired. Now I feel so much energy. I’m boosted with energy.” Although he admits being away from his family again is hard, making the sacrifice is ultimately what got him in this position and it’s a motivating factor for his overall plan.
“I’ve been on my own for eight weeks now,” said Rios on how his current camp has been going. “I told my wife it’s gonna be harder for me, not physically but emotionally because, when they moved out the first time, my baby was about three weeks old. When they moved back in the second time, I was the one waking up with him and spending time with him. I wanted to spend as much time as I can and, when they moved out, it was hard for me, at first. Camp has been great from day one – no lazy days. The emotional part was not seeing him everyday but I’m doing this for them. I want to give my son a life that I didn’t have. I want to send him to a good school and I don’t want my son to fight. I want my son to do something that doesn’t involve getting hit. For him to get there, I have to sacrifice.”