Tomorrow night at 11 p.m. ET on Estrella TV, plus streaming live via RingTVLive.com with video here at BLH, Golden Boy returns to Los Angeles' Belasco Theater with another doubleheader.
Here's a look at the matchups.
Ronny Rios vs Efrain Esquivias
Record: 25-1 (10 KO) ... Streak: W2 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 71" ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Rios turned pro in 2008 and became a pretty well-known prospect thanks to being with Golden Boy, but often I'd watch him and it felt like there was that little something missing to his game that kept him short of being a real blue chipper.
Still, he won his fights, and that was the most important thing. In 2013 he beat Rico Ramos and Leonilo Miranda, both solid wins for him, and in 2014 he beat Andrew Cancio. Six months after the Cancio win, though, Rios was matched with Robinson Castellanos, a tough veteran who came in with a deceiving record of 21-11, and had been stopped in his last fight by Rene Alvarado.
I don't know if Rios today would beat Castellanos or not, but I know he'd do a lot better. Even considering I always thought Rios was a guy who might lose in a step up, that wasn't the real Ronny Rios that night. He looked absolutely awful in the ring, like he wasn't healthy, or wasn't really in the moment at all. He just was not himself. And Castellanos took advantage, dropping Rios in the second round and finishing him in the fifth, when referee Ray Corona decided he'd seen enough of what had become a pretty shocking mismatch.
It was a performance bad and puzzling enough to make people wonder if Rios should come back, if he was really in the game anymore. Sometimes fighters do just fall out of love with the sport, so to speak, or they reach a point where even if things are going well, maybe it's not what they really want to do, and it tends to show up in a performance. But Rios was back five months later at the same venue, and he beat Sergio Frias over 10 rounds.
The real test came last November, though, when he was matched with undefeated contender Jayson Velez. In his best performance to date, and a total 180 from the Castellanos fight 13 months prior, Rios battled past a game Velez to win a 10-round decision. Rios once again looked like a prospect with a future.
There may not be that special component that really puts him over the top, but timing can be everything for a boxing career. Right now, the featherweight division has some terrific fighters up top -- Leo Santa Cruz, Vasyl Lomachenko, Gary Russell Jr, Carl Frampton is coming in -- and there is a nice second tier with Jesus Cuellar, Abner Mares, and Lee Selby. Then you have two strong prospects in Oscar Valdez and Joseph Diaz Jr. Can Rios get into that mix? We'll see. Lomachenko is moving to 130, Santa Cruz may do so sooner than later, and if you put Rios in with Lee Selby right now, I wouldn't totally count Rios out if he is able to build on his performance against Velez.
As for this fight, he's in with a veteran who's mostly been losing for the past four years, but can't be totally overlooked. It's a stay busy fight for Ronny, but he needs to be sharp.
Record: 17-4-1 (10 KO) ... Streak: L2 ... Last 5: 1-3-1 ... Last 10: 5-4-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'4" / 63" ... Age: 32
Thoughts: If you remember Esquivias at all, it's probably from his 2013 win over Rafael Marquez, which retired the great fighter, because, well, if he can't handle the likes of Efrain Esquivias anymore, there's no reason to keep going.
At his best, Esquivias is not a bad fighter, but there's nothing much to him, either. His win over Marquez only proved that Rafael was fully done. Before that, Esquivias had lost back-to-back fights to Rico Ramos and Jhonatan Romero, and since the Marquez fight, he's lost back-to-back fights to Ruben Tamayo and Jose Haro.
Esquivias is meant to be a tune-up, stay-busy opponent for Rios, and there's no reason to sugarcoat it otherwise.
Matchup Grade: D+. A barely passing grade. I would have liked to have seen Golden Boy really move Rios forward after the last fight, which was a really good win for him, but it's a little tough with so much of the division controlled by the PBC/Haymon fighters (Santa Cruz, Russell, Mares, Cuellar, Selby). Looking around the division and what was probably doable right now, this fight is about all that can really be expected. If not Esquivias, it likely wasn't going to be someone any better. But that doesn't make the fight better, either.
Zachary Ochoa vs Luis Joel Gonzalez
Record: 14-0 (6) ... Streak: W14 ... Last 5: 5-0 ... Last 10: 10-0 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 69½" ... Age: 23
Thoughts: Ochoa, nicknamed "Zungry," because he's hungry and his name starts with Z, is a young Brooklyn prospect at 140 pounds who has just started to step up his competition a bit. Last year, he beat David Rodela, Alejandro Rodriguez, and Rosbel Montoya, all fighters who at least had a little pro experience, as opposed to the guys he was facing before.
This fight is kind of more of the same. He's taking on a club fighter on a losing streak. To me, he's seemed more a mid-level prospect than a guy with a really high ceiling.
Luis Joel Gonzalez
Record: 11-3-1 (6 KO) ... Streak: L2 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 6-3-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'8" / 70" ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Pretty routine club fighter opponent for a prospect, Gonzalez has lost two straight to Mike Reed and Clarence Booth, and Ochoa likely will make that three in a row. His other loss came to Ramesis Gil in Puerto Rico in 2012.
The one notable thing about Gonzalez is he's a southpaw, and I think, looking over Ochoa's past opponents, that Gonzalez is the first lefty that Ochoa will have faced in his pro career. If not, then he's at least the first semi-competent lefty that Ochoa will have faced in his career. So that's something, anyway.
Matchup Grade: C. It's what it is, no reason to go any higher or lower. The southpaw aspect makes it at least a bit more valuable than it may seem on paper. Ochoa isn't a great prospect, but he's a prospect, and it's another fight for him to go forward.