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Brandon Rios: 'I still got the fire in me'

LAS VEGAS -- Brandon Rios and his trainer, Robert Garcia, have heard it time and again about how much of an underdog Rios is heading into his fight with welterweight titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr.

Although they claim it doesn't bother them, their comments and body language would seem to indicate otherwise.

At Thursday's final news conference at host hotel The Wynn Las Vegas, Johnny Avello, the casino's sportsbook director, was introduced by Top Rank promoter Bob Arum and proceeded to rattle off the odds on various betting propositions for the fight.

He mentioned that the odds on Rios had grown longer and that he was now a 5-1 underdog, considered long odds in a fight.

"That's motivation for you, isn't it, Brandon," Avello said, turning to Rios, who was seated a few feet away from him on the dais.

If looks could kill. Rios and Garcia shot Avello disgusted looks and rolled their eyes, seemingly displeased to be reminded of the odds facing Rios when he tangles with Bradley on Saturday night (HBO, 9:30 p.m. ET/PT) at the Thomas & Mack Center.

In the opening fight, featherweight titlist Vasyl Lomachenko (4-1, 2 KOs), 27, the two-time Olympic gold medalist from Ukraine, will make his third title defense when he faces Romulo Koasicha (25-4, 15 KOs), 24, of Mexico.

"I'm just ready for this fight," Rios said a few minutes later when it was his turn to speak. "It's about time I get back in the ring. I've been ready for a fight. People can talk, but the odds don't bother me. All that's in my mind is going out there and giving a great performance and doing the best that I can do.

"I'm happy to be back in the spotlight. I still got the fire in me. I'm still young, I still got a lot of gas in my tank, and I'm not going nowhere yet."

It is no surprise that Rios is an underdog, but it is rather surprising that he is such a long one. After all, Bradley (32-1-1, 12 KOs), 32, of Palm Springs, California, nearly got knocked out by Jessie Vargas in the final seconds of their vacant welterweight title fight on June 27, although he held on for a clear decision. Rios, a former lightweight titleholder, is a noticeably bigger man than Bradley and carries a much bigger punch than Vargas.

Garcia, while calm, almost sounded incensed that Rios (33-2-1, 24 KOs), 29, of Oxnard, California, was not given much of a chance to win, telling ESPN.com, "In our minds, there is no way Bradley could beat Brandon. That's how Brandon is training and thinking. Me, as a trainer and co-manager, I know the fight is not easy. Bradley is a tremendous fighter and has had a tremendous career. He's been one of the best welterweights in the world for the past several years. But Brandon is a fighter who does not care about that. He goes in there and makes the fight his way. He did it against [Anthony] Peterson when Peterson was supposed to be the next superstar."

Garcia said Rios' height advantage and relentlessness would be the difference.

"Bradley is short [5-foot-6], and I don't think he's got the boxing style to do it for 12 rounds," Garcia said. "He can box a little, but Brandon has the height advantage [5-8]. He's bigger in the ring. He'll get him into a fight. Maybe it turns into a war."

Both fighters have had their share, Bradley with his unforgettable victory over Ruslan Provodnikov in the 2013 fight of the year and Rios in splitting the first two savage battles with rival Mike Alvarado.

"I don't care about all the B.S. All I know is I'm ready for the fight. I can be a 10-1 underdog. It doesn't matter."

Brandon Rios

In January, Rios faced Alvarado in a rubber match, going to his hometown of Denver to complete their trilogy and doing so in impressive fashion. Rios came in top condition and pounded Alvarado in the third round of a one-sided fight.

But for as good as Rios looked, he did not get much credit because of how ill prepared Alvarado was, having barely trained and mired in legal problems.

"I think Brandon will never, ever get the credit he deserves," Garcia said. "He's always gonna be the fighter with no defense, no discipline, doesn't make weight. Even beating Alvarado, he got no credit. And I bet even if he beats Bradley, the boxing critics still won't consider him one of the best welterweights.

"They'll say, 'What we have is a Bradley who was done, that Provodnikov finished him.' Same thing happened when Brandon beat Alvarado in the third fight. He looked so good, but it's not Brandon's fault Alvarado didn't train. That's all we heard -- he didn't train, he came for the payday. If Brandon can have a sensational victory here, they'll just say Bradley was finished. I guarantee you that. It's just the way Brandon's career is going to be. Never gets the credit, but we don't really care."

Rios wears the perceived disrespect like a chip on his shoulder, constantly being reminded of it during a three-month training camp in which he left his hometown of Oxnard, California, to train in Riverside, just far enough away from the distractions of home.

Rios, idle since January -- he says he couldn't get a fight, while Top Rank says he turned down fights -- said he arrived at camp out of shape because of the long layoff.

"First two weeks of training camp was the worst ever, like I didn't know s--- about boxing," he said. "It was hard going back into camp. Eight months out of the gym, not working, not running, being a daddy and a family man. It was hard getting back the momentum. After that I got back into it, and as of today I am ready. Everything is perfect. I'm ready.

"I know Tim Bradley is a great fighter. He has shown he has heart. He always comes prepared. He always comes to fight. I'm looking for the Bradley who fought [and beat Juan Manuel] Marquez and was on top of his game."

Rios said he was not concerned about what kind of improvements Bradley might have made in his first training camp with Teddy Atlas after firing career-long trainer Joel Diaz.

"What's happening with Bradley and Atlas is none of my business. Bradley knows what he is doing," Rios said. "Our team is intact, and I am ready to take on the best Bradley."

Garcia, however, said he was not convinced that the change for Bradley would make a difference and, in fact, could be a detriment.

"I don't think [Atlas] will make a big difference," Garcia said. "With Bradley, it's not like he hasn't been a good boxer or a fast fighter with good jab. He's always been good at that. What can Teddy Atlas do to improve it? What can Bradley do differently? They'll try to box, which is what he's done before. He's used to having Joel Diaz -- for 10 years and so many titles. Now he'll have Teddy. It won't be the same. It could be a disadvantage."

Obviously, those who set the line don't agree.

"It doesn't bother us all," Garcia said. "Brandon never gets credit for anything. I've had a few great wins in my career as trainer, and I don't get credit. We don't care. That's just the way boxing is. We do our work and prove ourselves and just move on."

Said Rios, "I don't get credit. It's all good. I don't need credit. I'm not really worried about it. I can go buy a house without a down payment because I have good credit.

"I don't care about all the B.S. All I know is I'm ready for the fight. I can be a 10-1 underdog. It doesn't matter."