Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, highly ranked super bantamweight contender and former world title challenger Ronny Rios was on the verge of receiving another championship opportunity. In March, the WBA (World Boxing Association) ordered a fight between WBA “regular” titleholder Brandon Figueroa and Rios.
Unfortunately for Rios, he’ll have to wait a little while longer for his second title shot.
“I’m not really frustrated because at the end of the day, I’m not gonna sit here and say ‘aw man I missed my shot!’, when all these people are dying from COVID-19. So I can’t say I’m frustrated, I’m just happy that my family is fine,” Rios said in an interview with ESBR.
In the meantime, Rios has been hard at work in the gym, waiting to get the call for the Figueroa fight. Unlike some fighters nowadays, Rios hasn’t had to endure any limitations to his training.
“Training has not changed, we’re still training five to six days a week”. Rios said. “Training is going good, we’ve been sparring three days a week, my weight’s good, but since we haven’t gotten a date, I had to cut back a little bit.”
While Rios hasn’t been in the ring since November of last year, the Southern California native has no interest in taking any tuneup fights. “I don’t believe in tuneup fights, I would want to go directly to any titleholder. [The Brandon Figueroa fight was] the fight we were getting ready for before everything shut down because the WBA ordered it, so that’s the fight that me and my team have our minds set on.”
Brandon Figueroa (20-0-1, 15 KO) won the interim WBA title with a TKO over Yonfrez Parejo in April of 2019, and after defending the interim belt that August with another stoppage win over Javier Nicolas Chacon, Figueroa was promoted to WBA “regular” champion. Figueroa successfully defended the title in November, as he fought to a draw with Julio Ceja on the undercard of Deontay Wilder’s rematch with Luis Ortiz in Las Vegas. Rios says that he thinks his style would mesh well with Figueroa’s.
“I think that would be a helluva fight, that would be an entertaining fight for the fight fans. I know Brandon is an undefeated world champion and I can’t take that away from him, he’s exciting and he throws a lot of shots.”
In 2017, Rios earned the first title shot of his career against WBC super bantamweight titleholder Rey Vargas at the then StubHub Center in Carson, California. In his highest profile fight yet, Rios would be challenging for a world title, on the HBO-televised undercard of Miguel Cotto’s bout against Yoshihiro Kamegai.
“That was a true experience, it was my first title shot. The thing that sucks is that I came up short,” Rios said about his unanimous decision loss to Vargas. “To be honest I didn’t think that he was gonna be that fluid of a boxer and he surprised me. He beat me fair and square, he was the better fighter that night, but that was just that night. I’ve been trying to capture a title so I can get another crack at Rey because he did mention that he would not give me another opportunity unless it makes sense, and obviously it would make more sense if two belts were on the line.”
Rios picked up a rebound stoppage win against Deivi Julio Bassa that December, before losing via knockout in the sixth round to Azat Hovhannisyan in March of 2018. Since then though, Rios has won three straight fights, all by stoppage. The most notable of those three was his sixth round upset knockout over undefeated prospect Diego De La Hoya in July of 2019. But Rios believes his best performance is yet to come.
“People ask me what my biggest win is and I say: It’s always the next one, because I can’t just sit here and dwell on the past. I’m the type of guy that just likes to move forward. After the Diego fight, I literally only took two to three days off and I was already back at the gym. My coach was kind of upset because I came back too soon. Maybe once my career is over I can analyze everything and pick my best win, but until then I’m just gonna say the next one.”
If he manages to get a shot at Figueroa and/or Rey Vargas and win a world title, Rios has expressed interest in moving up in weight to capture other belts. Rios says boxing IQ and ring smarts will be instrumental in making that plan a reality.
“My boxing IQ and experience are both major keys. I always tell my brother Alexis [Rocha], ‘You’re probably going to fight someone that hits harder than you or is faster than you, it’s about how you figure out how to beat them and become victorious.’”