Record: 33-1 (19 KO) … Streak: L1 … Last 5: 4-1 … Last 10: 9-1 … Stance: Orthodox … Height/Reach: 5’8½” / 68½” … Age: 29
Thoughts: Garcia is a former 140- and 147-pound titleholder coming off of the first loss of his career, a fairly dull split decision in a highly-anticipated bout with Keith Thurman in March of last year.
Garcia hasn’t fought since, so he’ll have been off right about 11 months by the time he gets into the ring on Saturday. And he’s never had to come back from a loss before, and there’s always a question of how a fighter will rebound from that first defeat, perhaps especially when it comes after they’ve already reached the mountain top.
Will the motivation still be there? Garcia, of course, is saying all the right things about a new chapter in his career, wanting a rematch with Thurman, wanting the big fights, et cetera, but the proof will come Saturday, either way.
Garcia is the clear favorite here. He’s the better boxer, has more dimensions to his game, and simply has had the better career and track record. He’s also a couple years younger, hasn’t taken the same punishment, and has never announced a retirement after a bad loss. So he’s the guy expected to win, obviously, and this is meant to be a name tune-up for him as he gets back into the mix at 147.
Record: 34-3-1 (25 KO) … Streak: W1 … Last 5: 3-2 … Last 10: 7-3 … Stance: Orthodox … Height/Reach: 5’8” / 68” … Age: 31
Thoughts: Most people haven’t seen Rios fight since November 2015, when he was beaten up badly and stopped by Timothy Bradley, a bad enough whooping for Rios to announce a retirement. And the reality is, he’s only fought once since then, beating Aaron Herrera last June in a comeback outing.
So we really can’t know where Rios is at at this point, other than to say he’s 31, was always limited, and will need to turn back the clock, become the vintage, all-action, fearless, punishment-absorbing Rios to beat Danny Garcia.
The question is, can he? He might have the spirit up front to be that guy still, and he says he’s going to prove he’s got a lot left, but you always have to wonder about a fighter who has taken the punishment Rios has, once they reach the other side of 30. Plus, again, he would never have been favored to beat Garcia. And he’s not now.
Brandon Rios became the star he became because he’s a true fighter, but that comes with a heavy price, and he was also at his best as a big, durable, and punishing lightweight. As a welterweight, he’s 3-2, with one-sided loss to his best opponents (Bradley and Manny Pacquiao).
Matchup Grade: C. I’ll go middle of the road here. I don’t know what Rios really has left, and I honestly expect him to lose a fight that Garcia largely winds up dominating. That would be my prediction. That said, Garcia has also been off a year, and we’ve never seen him have to come back from a loss. Maybe Rios has something left in the tank and this winds up a much harder fight than most of us are expecting. Hopefully, just for the sake of our entertainment, we get something competitive. I do think there’s some sleeper potential here, but it could also wind up a wipeout.
- David Benavidez vs Ronald Gavril: A rematch of a 2017 BWAA Fight of the Year finalist from September, this one will see 21-year-old Benavidez (19-0, 17 KO) put the WBC super middleweight title he won in their first bout on the line against Gavril (18-2, 14 KO), a 31-year-old Romanian who was a replacement opponent last time out. The two went to war last fall, and had a very close, very debatable fight. It takes balls from Benavidez and his team to jump right back in with a guy who gave them serious trouble, especially considering Benavidez wasn’t ordered by the sanctioning body to do this; in other words, there were options, and Benavidez has some potential star qualities. I don’t know if this one can live up to the first fight, but hopefully it does. Matchup Grade: A-
- Yordenis Ugas vs Ray Robinson: Ray Robinson (24-2, 12 KO) first sorta popped up on the radar way back in 2009, when he lost to Brad Solomon, and followed that with a loss against Shawn Porter. It was easy at the time to write him off, but here he is, on a 13-fight win streak, going into an IBF welterweight eliminator. That win streak has not exactly come against top flight competition, mind you. Ugas (20-3, 9 KO) is also a guy on a hot streak after a tough spell, winning five in a row follow consecutive losses in 2014 and a full year off in 2015. The winner is in line to face Errol Spence Jr, which is certainly no easy task, but would be a dream opportunity for either one of these guys. On paper, it’s well-matched. We’ll see how it plays out in the ring, but I like this one a lot as a tripleheader opener. Matchup Grade: B-