It went as it was expected from both sides, but at the end of Saturday night's lightweight main event at the Palms in Las Vegas, Brandon Rios was left with his undefeated record and the biggest win of his budding career. Rios knocked out Miguel Acosta in the 10th round of a spirited battle that is an early contender for 2011 Fight of the Year.
Rios (27-0, 20 KO) was in trouble early in the fight, as Acosta (28-4-2, 22 KO) won the opening four rounds with his superior boxing skills and excellent movement and counter-punching. The Venezuelan slickster just looked to be the better boxer on this night, and it appeared that he was headed for an eventual knockout victory of the plodding Rios.
But Rios would not relent, and eventually, caught up with Acosta enough to start doing serious damage. In the sixth round, a three-punch combination ended with a short left hand that put Acosta on the mat, the first really significant change in momentum for the Mexican-American in the bout.
Acosta rebounded in the seventh and eighth rounds, but late in the eighth was caught and knocked down once again. In the ninth, Rios and Acosta slugged away at one another until it appeared neither would have much left, with Acosta looking worse for wear. That proved out in the 10th round, as Rios brutalized Acosta and finished him off with a hard knockout flurry.
I'm not going to go overboard and proclaim that the sky is the limit for the 24-year-old Rios. I think Miguel Acosta was overall the much better fighter in this fight. But what matters is the result, and Rios plugged away and pounded and battered and absorbed hard shots, sapping the life from Acosta and ultimately knocking him out clean. It was a star-making sort of performance for a kid who has a lot of potential to be a star. He doesn't need to win every fight for that to happen, and expectations shouldn't go wild. Will he ever be a "pound for pound" contender? It's highly unlikely. But he is an action star, and action stars mean dollar signs. They also mean great fights.
So in that sense, yes, Rios has a big future. His true prime may be fairly short, because he's so reckless, so brave, and so stubborn as a fighter that eventually the punishment is likely to pile up. But right now, he's proving that even if he's not a great technician, he is at the top of his game. His chin proved out as he took many hard shots from Acosta, who can punch, and when faced with a top-of-the-line foe, Rios came out standing tall. He did it because he's just that tough. He is the heir apparent to his stablemate Antonio Margarito.
As far as his personality goes, here's what I can hope, and what I will hope, because I want to believe in it. I hope we never see another "incident" like last November from Rios again. He's too likable otherwise, too good a fighter, too tough. If there is justice in this world, we should be comfortable counting Brandon Rios as a favorite fighter. I want to. Don't you?
In defeat, Acosta has nothing to hang his head over -- nothing at all. He fought a good fight and just succumbed to a powerful young man who wasn't going to take no for an answer. He's a terrific fighter, which says all the more about Rios' victory. Both men deserve hats off for their excellent performances in this fight.
In the televised co-feature from a packed Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Nebraska, Antonio DeMarco outpointed Reyes Sanchez over 12 rounds of some of the sloppiest boxing you'll ever see on one of America's big three boxing networks. DeMarco improves to 25-2-1 (18 KO), while Sanchez falls to 20-4-1 (11 KO). It was an entertainingly ugly fight -- "bowling shoe ugly," you might say. They had a tendency to scrap hard for the last 10 seconds of most of the rounds, but otherwise there was very little by way of clean, effective punching. Sanchez had no zip on his fastball and DeMarco fought far too tentative. The win puts DeMarco in line for a shot at the winner of May's rematch between Humberto Soto and Urbano Antillon. If Soto wins, he and DeMarco have said they won't fight one another, as they are cousins. If Antillon beats Soto, DeMarco could be in for a world of trouble. He was smothered all night by Sanchez, which is exactly what Antillon would try to do to him, and Antillon can punch and is simply a far better fighter than Sanchez. The young Sanchez gave his all in this fight, he just wasn't ready for this caliber of opponent yet. The Nebraska fans booed the decision, but it was the right call. This was probably a fight that did look different live, though, and I guess if you really favor aggression, you could argue Sanchez won. Again, neither of them did much clean punching.