Nearly one year after suffering his first defeat in ain their welterweight title unification bout, Danny Garcia accepted the first opponent offered to him for this weekend’s return without hesitation.
As Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) closes in on Saturday’s welterweight bout against Brandon Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (Showtime, 10 p.m. ET), the former two-division champion and unified 140-pound titleholder has a message for his opponent.
“It’s the wrong fight for him and I’m going to show it,” Garcia told CBS Sports.
Garcia, 29, who typically leaves the trash talking to his father and trainer Angel Garcia, wasn’t being incendiary as much as he was stating what he believes to be a fact. It’s a comment the elder Garcia backed up during DSG’s media workout last week.
“Danny Garcia has never taken a beating,” Angel Garcia said. “He gives them out.”
Despite the outward confidence of the father/son duo, Angel Garcia made sure not to underscore how prepared they will be for a dangerous fight knowing the nature of the ever-brawling Rios, 31, who claims to be in the best shape of his life amid his current comeback.
The fight certainly features the prospect of violence provided that Garcia doesn’t typically rely on foot movement and Rios never takes a step back. What still remains uncertain is whether it will simply serve as a get-well for Garcia on his way back to the title picture against the Thurmans and Errol Spence Jr.’s at welterweight or if it will become an all-action trap fight.
Most of that is dependent upon Rios, who faces a steep skills gap that he’ll attempt to overcome with crowding pressure. When Rios has taken his career seriously, the former lightweight titleholder has been a handful. But not only has the accumulation of damage added up as a willing warrior, it has typically been Rios’ lack of commitment to conditioning that has held him back.
The low moment for Rios came in 2015 when he was floored twice and stopped for the first time in his career against light-punching welterweight Timothy Bradley Jr. Not only did Rios walk away from the sport for 19 months in the aftermath, he split with longtime trainer and friend Robert Garcia.
After Rios came back last June to stop Aaron Herrera in seven rounds, he set course for a reunion with Garcia ahead of Saturday’s fight.
“Brandon is like my little brother and he’s definitely part of the family,” Robert Garcia said. “I’ve always been in touch with him, even when I wasn’t training him. When we agreed to team up again, the promise was that he had to stay healthy and train hard and show us that he wants to be champion again. Since that day, he’s been on a mission. He’s doing it the right way.”
Doing it the right way means entering camp in better shape to minimize the danger of the weight cut. Rios told BoxingScene.com last week that he entered the Bradley camp in 2015 at 190 pounds before trimming down to the 147-pound limit.
“It took me forever to lose the weight,” Rios said. “So in that fight, that wasn’t the Brandon Rios that everybody’s used to seeing. My body was just drained. It was horrible.
“I feel rejuvenated and more mature than ever before. I’ve already been to the top. I just want to do things right this time so I can get back up there and stay there.”
For Garcia, suffering his first defeat against Thurman was a humbling experience and one that was tougher than expected. Not only is “Swift” the type who claims he never played team sports as a youth “because I was a sore loser,” Garcia felt he had done enough to rally on the scorecards after Thurman began to backpedal in the later rounds.
“I think once he felt my power, he knew he would be stupid to stand in front of me so he started moving,” Garcia said. “I’m an old-school type fighter and an aggressive fighter so I would give it to the champion who wants it more and not the champion who is running.
“It was a good fight. I thought I did enough to win it, to pull it off at the end. It is what it is. One of the judges didn’t give me the last two rounds and that’s what determined the fight. I’m looking forward to the future and rebuilding myself to the top starting [Saturday].”
For Garcia, his return offers an opportunity to get back into the win column and remind boxing’s often fickle fan base just how good he is despite a reputation for intermittently soft matchmaking in recent years. But he knows the fight has a different meaning for Rios and has prepared accordingly.
“I’m expecting someone who has something to prove,” Garcia said. “He’s going to come in and give it his all. This is a do or die fight for him.”
Garcia vs. Rios betting odds
Danny Garcia (-2250)
Brandon Rios (+950)
|David Benavidez (-550)||Ronald Gavril (+375)||Super middleweight|
|Yordenis Ugas (N/A)||Ray Robinson (N/A)||Welterweight|
Whether Rios enters in top shape or not, this is a bad matchup for him. His tendency to square up and forego the responsibly of defense won’t afford him any luxury against Garcia, who is the most dangerous puncher he has ever faced.
Garcia’s left hook, which comes at the end of a two-punch combination that begins with a body shot, is the closest thing boxing has to a finishing move. It’s also a bunch that should be there all day against Rios, even if he finds early success with pressure from close range.
Rios not only hasn’t carried his power that well above 135 pounds, he’s facing a fighter in Garcia who has one of boxing’s best chins. Even more, Rios’ limitations leave him with only one way to win the bout — brawling to a decision.
While Rios’ recommitment to fitness is a good thing, it won’t help him remove the heavy damage he has already accrued. Eventually, his punch resistance will fade and Garcia is the right puncher who may be able to do that with one perfect shot. Pick: Garcia via KO5.