Photo by Chris Farina/Top Rank.
Nearly two years after he last had his hand raised in the ring, Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios finally got a “W” on Saturday night when Argentino Diego Gabriel Chaves was tossed out as a repeat offender in the ninth round of a scheduled 10 at The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, Nevada. Driven to a sports psychologist after his one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao last year, Rios may now want to visit Catemaco to regain his mojo. An inconclusive win against a marginal pro who was repeatedly clocking him (and who lead on two of the three scorecards before the fight was stopped) is not the way a fighter wants to break a slump.
Chaves, 23-2 with 19 knockouts, has a style to match his crude tattoos—nearly as primitive as those of his paisano Marcos Maidana—but that hardly stopped him from trying to impersonate Sugar Ray Robinson from time to time. When Chaves kept his distance and worked behind his jab, he landed every conceivable punch imaginable, but Rios, 28, waded in as usual, belaboring the body in close when he could and occasionally connecting with a left hook or a jarring right uppercut.
Between these exciting if rudimentary exchanges, Rios and Chaves tried to disarticulate each other in ways you might see on a pier or in a back alley. It was a hell of a ruckus. At times, they looked like they were caught in a Sharknado together as they mauled, bucked, hauled, and clutched in a blur. They traded butts, rabbit punches, shoves, elbows, kidney shots, and takedowns until Referee Vic Drakulich ended matters abruptly and arbitrarily. Mediocrity is usually what Drakulich aims for, but on Saturday night he decided that he would outdo himself and go full rogue: he bumbled his way through this fight from the moment the opening bell rang.
Although Chaves, Buenos Aires, only arrived in Las Vegas on Thursday morning due to Visa issues, his grab-and-pummel strategy looked like it had been drawn up long before his overnight flight from Argentina and not as a response to jet lag or pressure from the ornery Rios. As early as the first round, Drakulich warned Chaves for holding, but Chaves continued to position limbs so that he resembled a drunk alpinist tucking ski poles under his arms. In the third, Drakulich deducted a point from Chaves for clinching, despite the fact that Rios, Oxnard, California, was leading with his head and trying to butt Chaves as often as possible.
Indeed, Rios showed chutzpah by fouling and complaining simultaneously. “Motherfucker!” Rios repeatedly shouted at Chaves, who seemed unfazed by a word that sounds nothing like “cabrón.”
Rios about to drop 100 f-bombs lol
— Michelle Rosado (@M_RagingBabe) August 3, 2014
Eventually, the fight took on a slapstick air, with both men making sucker vaudeville moves under the lights. Rios lost a point when he dumped Chaves onto the canvas in a corner during the fifth round. In the seventh, Chaves lost a point, apparently, for mushing Rios. In the ninth, he drove “Bam Bam” headfirst into the canvas with a backyard wrestling move. Finally, an innocuous front chancery had Rios yipping and yapping in rage. Rios, who had been bellyaching more and more as the rounds went by, finally barked himself out of the fight when his bewailing forced Drakulich to disqualify Chaves.
In general, referees should not take orders from fighters, but Drakulich seemed particularly obedient at The Cosmopolitan, letting Rios and his trainer, Robert Garcia, play on his sympathy. Still, it remains to be seen if Drakulich got a new chew toy or a fresh Smokehouse Pork Bone for his efforts. Why Drakulich lost control of the fight was apparent the moment he first admonished Chaves. See, Drakulich gave the final prefight instructions in English and Spanish, thereby acknowledging a very simple fact: that one of the combatants in the ring did not speak English. During the fight, however, he reprimanded Chaves in English over and over again. (For all Chaves could tell, Drakulich might have been saying, “When is Kat Von D going to visit Argentina to show you people what a decent tattoo looks like?”)
Later, Rios revealed that Chaves had been poking him the eye with his thumb. Of course, thumbs have been attached to gloves since the mid-1980s precisely so that such manipulation is improbable, but why be so cynical? Looking to revitalize his career after consecutive losses, Rios, now 32-2-1 with 23 knockouts, may have put a dent in his reputation as a hellion instead. If you are proud to rough it up and brawl, try not to bawl when you get the Treatment in return—unless, of course, you have Vic Drakulich in the ring watching over you.
Regardless of how he got the win—or how flat he looked—Rios will likely continue his recycling program in the future against either Timothy Bradley or Ruslan Provodnikov. But what occurred in the ring on Saturday night is probably best summed up by a befuddled Chaves after he was sent to his corner in the ninth round like a schoolboy framed by the class bully: “¿Pero que pasó?”
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.