WHEN you fight the way Brandon Rios does, attitude is more than half the battle. In fact, he looks at his friendly rival Mike Alvarado and
sees what the Coloradan has been going through with his legal problems and other out-of-the-ring issues, and he can easily see himself in the same position if not for the support of wife Vicky and coach Robert Garcia.

“If I didn’t have the right people around me, especially my wife, who has helped me out tremendously, and my trainer, that would have been me,” he admitted. “I probably wouldn’t be fighting on TV; I probably would have been in jail. The route and the way I was going, I would have been locked up. My wife helped me out a lot, and so did my trainer, and without them, I wouldn’t be here.”

The wild child of Oxnard has mellowed considerably, but even with positive influences around him, he still needed to get his confidence back after the Manny Pacquiao fight, and that was something only he could muster after the dark days that shook the smile off his face.

“After the Pacquiao fight, that was the first time I’ve ever been negative on myself,” he noted. “I was really down and went to a depression mode because I lost one of the biggest fights of my life. I thought I was ready and I was so confident, but it was a cocky confidence because I thought I was on top of the world and I thought nobody could touch me. And that was my fault. I don’t blame it on nobody else but myself.

“I was so down after. Never in my life did I take eight months off training. I didn’t run, I didn’t do anything. When I came into the gym for the Chaves fight I was really heavy and I was trying to lose the weight; I wasn’t really training for the fight, and I wasn’t emotionally involved for that fight.”

It showed. In an ugly bout, Rios trailed by a point on two of the three judges’ scorecards before an elbow to the face by Chaves prompted referee Vic Drakulich to disqualify the Argentinean. Rios got lucky.

“Everything was against me and I regret it,” he remembered. “I looked heavy, I didn’t look good. It was horrible. I saw the fight one time and I can’t look at it again because that wasn’t me mentally and physically.”

Less than five months later though, everything clicked, as Rios tore through Alvarado as if he wasn’t there. Was it Alvarado at his best? Probably not, but Rios did what you do with opponents who aren’t on your level anymore; he got rid of him, quickly, efficiently, brutally. Given the ferocity of their rivalry in the ring and their easygoing relationship outside of it, you have to wonder how Rios can find that trigger to turn it on when fighting someone he would likely consider a friend. For him, it’s not an issue.

“You’ve got to be like that,” he pointed out. “This is our job, this is what we do for a living and this is how we put food on the table. To me, it would be like going into the ring and letting Alvarado rob me and I can’t let that happen. I had to be more confident and more ready for anything that would happen.”

And once Alvarado retired in the corner after the third round, Rios flipped the switch one more.

“Me and Alvarado don’t have any animosity with each other,” he explained. “If I see him again, I’ll probably have a beer with him and chill and talk about old times and the fights we had together. It’s not like I’m going to hate him because we fought. Alvarado’s a cool guy. He’s had problems outside the ring that he has to get taken care of, and I know how it feels because I’ve been in that situation before too, but at the end of the day, he’s still a human being, so I respect him.”

Rios has earned that respect from the boxing community as well. Has he gone off the rails at times? Absolutely, but today, still over a year removed from his 30th birthday, dare we say that Brandon Rios is maturing? He laughs.

“I’m as real as it comes,” he declared. “I don’t fake the funk. If I have something to say, I’ll say it. Whatever I’m thinking, it comes out of my mouth, which sometimes is a bad thing and sometimes is a good thing. But I’m just real. I’m down-to-earth like everybody else. I don’t think I’m better than anybody because I’m a fighter. I’m an average Joe and I see everyone the same as me, like a person.”

He’s right, and though you may cringe at what comes out of his mouth at times, Rios is an everyman, just one that can do extraordinary things in a boxing ring when he’s on top of his game. So what’s next for him?

“Like I tell everybody, my manager, Cameron Dunkin, is one of the best in the world, and I love that guy to death,” Rios said. “He’s the best at what he does, and what he decides on, and whoever he chooses, he has my blessing and that’s who I fight. It works three ways – Robert, my manager and [promoter] Bob Arum. If they all agree on a certain fight, that’s who I fight. My job is to train and to be ready for a fight. I’m a fighter. And it feels good to be back.”


Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank