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Rios vs Chaves preview and prediction: The return or the end for Brandon Rios?

Is tonight the end of the line for Brandon Rios, or is this the big return for the popular fighter? Fraser Coffeen tries to answer the question in this fight preview.

Brandon Rios vs Manny Pacquiao, 2013
Brandon Rios vs Manny Pacquiao, 2013
Nicky Loh

October 2012. Two undefeated boxers, Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios, step in to the ring in what many analysts are cautiously predicting will be an all time classic. They are not dissappointed. Over the course of seven rounds, the two men go to war. It may not be "the sweet science", but it is an incredible display. Both men's stock rise, but the big winner is the man who emerged victorious - Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios. As 2012 drew to a close, Rios looked like a man with a world of opportunity ahead of him.

Tonight, Rios returns to the ring. It's been not quite two years and only two fights since that momentous evening, but the story on Rios could not be any more different. The once undefeated highly promising fighter is now on a 2 fight losing skid. He's shown that he is no longer progressing as a fighter. His defense is clearly flawed; he can't deal with opponents who use movement or technical boxing; he has no plan B when his brawling plan A fails; he struggles to make weight consistently.

In short, he's a fighter who looks like he might be done.

Where the Brandon Rios of 2012 saw boxing's future as bright and open, the Brandon Rios of 2014 is at a crossroads. Lose against the relatively unknown Diego Chaves and it will be a third straight loss - devastating in the sport of boxing. He'll be banished from HBO, and you can guarantee Monday morning will be met by calls for his retirement.

And yet...

As devastating as a loss to Chaves would be, a win would be equally impactful. Chaves may not be a name, but Rios is, and a strong win here will immediately rebuild the star power of that name. This is particularly true because of Rios's weight class - the Top Rank side of the 140 / 147 pound divisions is stacked with marquee names in need of notable opponents. Manny Pacquiao, Timothy Bradley, Juan Manuel Marquez, Ruslan Provodnikov... all provide big fights, and all need men to stand across the ring from them. A win, particularly the kind of exciting memorable win Rios is likely to deliver, sets Rios up to be that opponent once again. A loss closes that door probably forever.

So which will it be tonight? The end of the line for Rios, or a return to the big fight scene?

While Rios opened as the favorite, the past week has seen more analysts come out in support of Chaves to pull off the upset. There's certainly a compelling argument for a Chaves win. He's more hungry and he does have some of the technical boxing ability that can trouble Rios. But in many ways a Chaves pick is more of an anti-Rios pick from those who say his style has been solved and Chaves will simply be the latest man to execute the blueprint.

All of that makes sense, but it also seems to ignore the aggressive, high-output game of Chaves. He may be a bit more technical, but like Rios, he tends to throw a lot of punches and let fights get a little wild. And that plays right into the strengths of Brandon Rios.

It's entirely possible Rios is done and the upset is the right pick. But I like Rios to absorb Chaves's offense, keep his own offensive output high, land those big hooks, and shut Chaves down, showing that there's enough left in the tank for one more run up the ladder before it's time to walk away.

Prediction: Brandon Rios by KO

Join us here at Bloody Elbow for Rios vs. Chaves results, discussion, and live fight coverage this Saturday, August 2.

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