AFTER 36 professional boxing matches, Brandon Rios has had his hand raised an impressive 33 times. But the morning after his latest victory over Mike Alvarado on January 24 was different than most.

“It was great because I didn’t have to wake up with a black eye, my face swollen, or with a cut,” he laughed. “So I felt really good and, most of all, I woke up and I knew I had a great performance and I knew I had done a great job. It felt so amazing.”

Rios’ third-round stoppage of Alvarado completed the pair’s trilogy, and while it was seen by most observers as an anti-climactic finish after their previous two riveting bouts, for the 28-year-old Rios, it was a rebirth, as he not only delivered his first significant win since stopping Alvarado in October 2012, but he looked sharper, in better shape and more focused than he has in several years.

“As I’m getting older, I’m getting wiser, and it pays off when you train right and do everything right and listen to the corner,” Rios stated, and the reason for his revival was simple.

“I had to win that fight. I had to. It was a must-win for me. I think if I would have lost that fight, my career might have been over and I would have been back fighting on [minor TV channel] Telefutura. I had fun with that, but I would be making less money, so I didn’t want that to happen. I had to grind so hard to win that fight, and I had to train right and do everything right. That’s why before the fight I kept saying my back was against the wall. The winner goes up and the loser goes down and I didn’t want to go down yet. I am young in the sport and I do still have a lot of gas in my tank and a lot to prove to show what I can do when I’m at my best.”