On the new Boxing Lab Radio show, current top lightweight Brandon Rios said that Michael Katsidis and Kevin Mitchell are the leading candidates to be his next opponent, and that he's going to fight on the Pacquiao vs Marquez undercard on November 12, which should give diehard fight fans another good reason to buy the show, and will hopefully expose Rios to some casual fans who just might have to see him again.
Rios (28-0-1, 21 KO) has become a favorite of many, or at least a favorite to watch fight, ever since he got a chance last year on HBO to face Anthony Peterson. Going in, I had seen both fight before, and cautiously picked Rios. Here's what I said at the time:
What I like about this fight for Rios is I think he's just more ready to be truly aggressive, and he'll eat shots to get to Peterson. Peterson is quicker, probably a better pure boxer, and could use his jab to dominate from the outside, backing the jab's play enough power that maybe Rios won't want to rush in on him. But I think Rios is going to rush in on him anyway. I do think this is, in all reality, a pick'em that might on paper slightly favor Peterson. But I like Rios in this one because I'm not convinced that Peterson is ready to keep his cool under Rios' pressure ... if Rios can get that pressure going, anyway.
That couldn't have turned out to be more true. Peterson could not handle the pressure, but it wasn't even nearly as close as I thought it would be. Rios just demolished Peterson, eventually earning a DQ win when the flustered DC-based fighter couldn't keep his cool at all and kept punching Rios in the groin. I knew Brandon Rios was a pressure fighter who was willing to take shots. What I didn't know before that fight was how good he was at that style.
Since then, we've seen Rios pick up a title belt and defend it in two extremely entertaining fights this year, wins over top 10 guys Miguel Acosta and Urbano Antillon. He's without question one of the true must-see fighters in the sport, and the best news is that he and his team are no longer targeting faded Marco Antonio Barrera, which had beatdown written all over it. Kieran Mulvaney of ESPN noted in this week's Heavy Hitting podcast that after the Rios vs Antillon fight, Barrera (who was ringside doing commentary) seemed to have no interest in facing Rios.
Frankly, I think both of the fights mentioned now have the same thing written all over them, but Katsidis is still tougher than a two dollar steak and Rios isn't exactly hard to find, which is exactly what Katsidis likes in a fight. And as good as Mitchell looked last weekend, we've seen him busted up in the past by Katsidis, and while he did beat a good pressure fighter in John Murray last Saturday, Murray is no Brandon Rios, who punches harder, has way more variety in his punches, and has better defense, too. Rios is sort of like a super-charged version of Murray.
Still, I like both ideas well enough, and the fact that either fight is grossly better than Barrera is a nice thing, too. When's the last time we saw a top fighter take on three top ten guys in his division in one year, and potentially have three terrific action fights at the same time?