Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios and Urbano Antillon threaten to turn the Home Depot Center in Carson, California, into an oversized abattoir when they meet tomorrow night over 12—or, most likely, less—rounds for some BMX lightweight title or other.
Antillon, 28-2 (20), is as much as a four to one underdog on some books, a surprising overlay given the fact that Rios was nearly stopped by Miguel Acosta in his last start and took enough punches that night to conjure up images of a chopping block. But Antillon has lost his two biggest fights and was stopped by a common opponent—Acosta—in 2009. Durability may be a question for Antillon going into the fight, especially when one considers the high-powered offense Rios, 27-0-1 (20), brings into the ring with him.
Even so, this has the makings of a rousing shootout. Contrast that to the Paul Williams-Erislandy Lara bout on HBO—heads up against Showtime—another Ross Greenburg/Kery Davis lost lunar landscape production intended to advance obscure agendas. Ostensibly, narrative continuity and branding are the reasons for many of these HBO head shakers, but if no one cares, why bother perpetuating manufactured storylines? In a simpler world, boxers would be matched based on competition, compatibility of styles, and public interest. With avaricious promoters, rapacious managers, shadowy advisors, and shifty backroom athletic commissions, boxing has enough troubles without networks playing cloak and dagger as well. With Rios-Antillon, two hard-bitten lightweights, we get to see a fight put together solely because of its potential as an explosive and competitive event.
Both men are relentless pressure fighters, with Rios perhaps having a slight edge in technique. Neither fighter will have to worry about being outboxed, and they are probably happy not to have to face the skilled moves of a Miguel Acosta or a Humberto Soto. Over the last year-and-a-half or so, Rios has gone from being a wastrel to becoming prizefight shorthand for action and, not surprisingly, mercurial behavior. During a June press conference, for example, Rios, 25, let out a outburst worthy of a scriptwriter from Days of Our Lives or As the World Turns. “Get out of my life and get out of this hotel!” Rios shouted at Antillon, bizarrely.
Antillon, coming off of a draining decision loss to Soto last December in a hectic scrap, will have to work hard to stay even with Rios in a bout practically guaranteed to be a give-and-take brawl. Outside of the ring, Antillon may be mellow—at least compared to Rios—but between the ropes he is as ornery as a Miura bull released from its pen. Within two rounds against Soto last year, Antillon scored with low blows, head butts, and a perfectly executed jujitsu toss. That kind of tetchiness may work to his advantage against a hothead like Rios, who might lose control entirely and leave openings Antillon can take advantage of.
On the inside, Antillon, Maywood, California, often stands with his feet parallel, making him susceptible to movement. Against Rios, however, this will not be an issue, since “Bam Bam” likes to dig into the trenches and mix it up. But Antillon also has a tendency to lean forward during exchanges and this flaw almost certainly means Rios will be looking to crank out uppercuts as often as possible.
Antillon works the body well, doubling up on hooks and throwing the occasional uppercut in close. When he steps in behind a jab, Antillon has shown that he can hook off it effectively as well. Unfortunately, Antillon has an underdeveloped right hand, and against a fighter as rough-and-tumble as Rios is, a versatile offense is a must. Archie Moore once said, “Box a fighter and fight a boxer,” but that was a hell of a long time ago, and today most boxers seem incapable of entering the ring with slight style modifications designed to exploit weaknesses. Whether Antillon has worked on improving his right hand—a useful weapon against any opponent, but more so against a fighter who can barely get out of the way of one—remains to be seen.
Antillon will also be entering the ring with one of the biggest bugaboos haunting boxing these days on his back: inactivity. More than seven months have passed since Antillon last entered the ring and no one knows how much his war with Soto took out of him—if anything—and having to find out against a swarming banger like Rios is like learning how to swim in whitewater rapids. Most fighters today are merely gym ready, so it is never easy to evaluate recent form, but Antillon looked wobbly at times against Soto, who is not a noted puncher at lightweight.
For his part, Rios, Oxnard, California, looks like he has to sleep in a rubber suit for two months in order to get down to 135 pounds, and if he leaves anything in the sweatbox, he may be ceding an edge to Antillon before the opening bell even rings.
If Antillon can force Rios to give ground by jabbing more frequently and putting his right hand into play, then he might be able to score enough to force a late stoppage. But Rios is the fighter on the upswing and Antillon does not have a significant edge in any tangible department. In the end, this fight may come down to who can take the most best. In that case, Rios proved against Acosta that he can take a lacing and persevere to win. Antillon has yet to prove that he can do the same.
Spoiler or steppingtone—Antillon has his options, limited as they are, clearly laid out before him. Most prizefighters know what the latter leads to in boxing, and none of them look forward to $10,000 paydays on Fox Sports or short money against house fighters. Judging by the effort Antillon put in against Soto last December, he wants to avoid that at all costs. What neither fighter can avoid tomorrow night, except by one of the strange quirks of fortune or misfortune this sport regularly specializes in, are the small objects, quotidian in boxing but rarely ever seen: Icepacks, Epsom salt, Excedrin.