Tim Bradley extinguishes Brandon Rios’ flame

Photo credit: German Villasenor

Photo credit: German Villasenor

 

In front of a noticeably sparse crowd at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas (more on that later), Tim Bradley emphatically defended his WBO welterweight title by halting Brandon Rios in nine rounds, putting himself in further contention to again face Manny Pacquiao, while Rios promised retirement. Some thoughts on what transpired on HBO last Saturday night…

 

– Trainer Teddy Atlas is anything but a “players coach.” Working with him will not be easy and you should be well aware of what you’re getting into. I imagine it’s like being coached by the boxing version of Bobby Knight – it may not always be pleasant; you’ll second guess why you did this at times and it will be hard but, ultimately, if you survive, you’ll come out a better person and athlete for it. In Bradley, Atlas may have a perfect pupil, given Bradley has a strong work ethic and an unquenched desired to learn.

 

The signature moment of this fight wasn’t really anything that happened inside the ring but a moment between the seventh and eighth rounds, in which Teddy Atlas went all “Backdraft” in the corner and delivered this speech to Bradley.

 

Now some will think this is overdone theatrics or grandstanding but, looking at Bradley’s eyes, he seemed very receptive to it.

 

Again, this is what you get with Atlas, who was reared in this sport by Cus D’Amato, who believed that boxing was every bit as psychological as it is physical.

 

I can still recall vividly the first time I ever met Atlas in person, way back in 1996 and he was training Michael Moorer – for the last time it turned out – for his March 1997 bout against Vaughn Bean and he was using Joe Goossen’s gym in Van Nuys. We had dinner near the hotel in which he was staying and he told me a story of why things didn’t work out with Shannon Briggs a few years earlier. Atlas was dismayed that his young heavyweight was behaving in such a manner in which he was acting like a champion while, in reality, he was never even in a “real” fight up to that point. It also grated on Atlas that Briggs’ handlers were spoiling him, which made him more difficult to discipline and control. Atlas told me that it made him sick to see people placating Briggs so much, going as far as to pick up his socks and underwear off the floor.

 

So Atlas says to me across the dinner table, “So I get Shannon and I tell him, ‘Shannon, you think all these people really like you? Buying you stuff, giving you money? But as soon as you disappoint them as a boxer, guess what? You think any of these people will be around for you? I see all these fancy new things you’re getting, the clothes and the jewelry, but, honestly, what have you really done in this sport? What have you really accomplished?’ So then I took him into this room; it was just me and him and I asked him that question again: ‘What have you done in this sport? What are you really worth?'”

 

Atlas then continued, “Then I just turned off the lights. It was pitch black and I said, ‘That’s what you’ve accomplished.'”

 

Yeah, Teddy knows how to tell a story and deliver a message.

 

Later on, as we returned to his hotel and decided to do our interview in his room, as we’re walking toward the elevator, then came the often-moody Moorer, who ignored both of us like we weren’t even there as he strolled past us (now looking back, I understand that these guys weren’t exactly seeing eye-to-eye and this would be their last time working together. Atlas actually left the ring before they read the decision of the Bean fight. Yeah, he wanted out of there real fast). Now, most people would have just shrugged this off. Atlas says, ‘Hold on,’ and proceeds to follow Moorer into the gift shop to confront him. I can still hear Atlas telling Moorer rather forcefully that he wasn’t going to stand for this type of attitude and that they could at least be respectful to each other during this process. I remember Moorer being a bit defensive and, me, well…I was pretty stunned by what I was witnessing as a very young guy on the boxing beat.

 

As we entered the elevator a few minutes later, Teddy says, “Michael isn’t a bad guy; he really isn’t.”

 

Teddy is Teddy to this day. He’s not for everybody but he could be just what Bradley needed.

 

– Now, for all the plaudits the new Bradley-Atlas union will receive – and much of them are deserved – you have to wonder if the result would have been any different with Joel Diaz working with the “Desert Storm” as he had for the previous decade. Let’s face it: anyone who challenges Rios will most likely have the same strategy: Box and move on “Bam Bam.”

 

And Bradley, at his best, is always an athletic boxer with quick hands and feet. Was there any other strategy or game plan to be used on this night? Also, as dominant as Rios was back in January against the troubled Mike Alvarado, it was in many ways a mirage as he fought a mannequin dressed up as “Mile High Mike” in their rubber match. There is a chance that what took place last weekend for Bradley is also a bit of a mirage. We won’t really find out till he faces a more versatile, less-worn opponent – say like a Sadam Ali (who the WBO has mandated for Bradley’s next defense) – who brings much more movement and boxing ability than Rios ever has.

 

– But while there is a lot of talk about Bradley getting another crack at Pacquiao – which, at that point, Bradley would just gladly hand over the WBO belt for that big payday – the fight I’d like to see is a rematch between him and Ruslan Provodnikov, who took him to the brink back in 2013 in one of the most memorable fights of the decade at the StubHub Center, where Bradley won a decision by the skin of his teeth.

 

Now, is there any chance of this happening? Absolutely not because, as memorable as it was for all of us, Bradley admits to not recalling large segments of the bout as he was concussed early on by Provodnikov’s jackhammer right hands. Provodnikov is like skydiving on your bucket list. You do it once and, well, that’s good enough. But think about the story lines that exist here: a rematch of what an incredible battle and now Bradley’s former trainer, Joel Diaz, is now working with the “Siberian Rocky” – who scored a fourth round stoppage in Monte Carlo on Saturday – and it’s clear that the feelings are harsh between the two sides.

 

Tell me you wouldn’t want to see all this unfold.

 

– Immediately after the fight, Rios announced his retirement from the ring (and yeah, we know how these things go in this sport). But if you take this at face value, I think “Bam Bam” should be remembered fondly. He was a fan-friendly fighter who gave us many fond moments. At his best, he was a wrecking ball who overcame technical deficiencies with sheer tenacity and toughness as he broke down slicker opponents. But as he moved up from 135 and his advantages in size and strength were mitigated, he more or less became an ordinary fighter. He has lost three of his last five bouts and wasn’t remotely competitive against Pacquiao and Bradley.

 

But with limited skills, Rios willed himself to go farther than expected in this business. With that, we should all tip our caps to him.

 

– What I found a bit interesting was that Rios, in making his announcement to HBO’s Max Kellerman, placed some blame on Top Rank Promotions for not keeping him active, which was why he had problems with staying in shape and getting his body to respond like before. He has a point. After his January win over Alvarado, Top Rank basically shelved him and, despite his and his manager’s pleas, kept him dormant. However, on the flipside, while it’s certainly frustrating for a fighter to not have anything scheduled, it’s still his job (and last I checked, this was Rios’ one gig) to stay in a certain type of physical condition, a concept, which, quite frankly, has escaped him throughout his career.

 

In other sports, there are really no longer off-seasons. Yeah, the games eventually come to an end but athletes nowadays work throughout the year to stay in physical form. There really is no “getting in shape” as you report to work as a football, baseball or basketball player. Either you are or you haven’t been doing your job; it’s really that simple. There was nothing keeping Rios – or any other fighter who has a few months open between assignments – from going to the gym a few days a week to shake out and/or go to LA Fitness and doing the StairMaster for 45 minutes.

 

Is it too much to ask a fighter to sacrifice 60 to 90 minutes a day to break a sweat while they await their next fight?

 

Rios was always going to have a relatively short run, based on his hellbent-for-leather style. He was never meant for the long run. His style was simply too demanding and, with his less-than-Spartan attitude toward his craft, he was an old 29. He never put in enough work to keep the tools of his trade sharpened.

 

No, perhaps Top Rank didn’t do its part recently but Rios didn’t help himself enough, either.

 

– The announced crowd was just over 5,100 and the empty seats were very visible on the HBO broadcast. Word is that Top Rank employed a seat-filling company, much the way Premier Boxing Champions has in many of its events. It’s been said ad nauseam that this match-up would’ve been a much better fit at the cozy StubHub Center or the Forum in Southern California, which would’ve been much closer to the fan bases of Bradley and Rios and, overall, a better fit than the cavernous Thomas and Mack Center.

 

But what this really proves is that, unless an event features Floyd Mayweather Jr., Manny Pacquiao or perhaps Saul Alvarez and Miguel Cotto, most fights will struggle to attract ticket buyers in Las Vegas. You either have the the huge mega-fight (involving the aforementioned names) that goes to a casino (the MGM Grand) or you have a card that takes place in a small theater or ballroom. There is no middle ground in this market.

 

Las Vegas is a BIG fight city, not necessarily a fight city like Philadelphia once was.

 

– I just wonder: What’s the real difference between Vasyl Lomachenko and Guillermo Rigondeaux? Seriously, in many ways they are the same guy. Both had prodigious amateur backgrounds, won major world titles early, are supremely skilled southpaws and make a very strong argument that they are the best in their respective divisions. But why is it that HBO fawns over Lomachenko and made Rigondeaux persona non grata?

 

Was Lomachenko’s one-sided affair that was the co-feature on Saturday night against the overwhelmed Romulo Koasicha really any different from that of some of Rigondeaux’s victories?

 

Perhaps that’s the pratfall of being a dark-skinned Cuban.

 

 

FINAL FLURRIES

 

Uh, Bradley against “Canelo” at 155? Yeah, I’ll pass…Antoine Douglas is coming along nicely as a fighter…The difference between Alabama and LSU is usually quarterback play and the ability to have a balanced offense…Great to have Brad Kaaya back and Stacy Coley is looking like the guy Miami fans saw in 2013…The Lakers are bad – really bad. And honestly, Kobe is a huge problem…I can be reached at k9kim@yahoo.com and I tweet (a lot) at twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at instagram.com/steveucnlive and can also be found at tsu.co/steveucnlive.

 

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