Ronny Rios (32-3, 16 KOs) has always been driven towards greatness. That was apparent from the outset in our interview.
He recounted his first time walking into a boxing gym as a kid. Rios looked around at the fighters plastered on the walls. Amateurs from the gym who had won tournaments and were showing off their belts. He asked the coach, “Who has the most belts here?”
The coach pointed to a fighter and said, “He has three.”
Without hesitation, young Ronny said, “I want to win more than him.”
The coach told him it wasn’t that easy: that those belts were national championships. But Ronny’s mind was made up. By the end of his amateur career, he’d eclipsed that number, nearly earning himself a berth in the 2008 Olympics in the process.
After missing out on the Olympics, Rios remained an amateur until late 2008, winning two more national titles in the process. The added experience helped, as he methodically rose through the ranks during his four years on the pro circuit.
His first major exposure came as the headliner on a January 2013 Showtime card. Rios beat Rico Ramos via 10-round decision, but confessed that it wasn’t his best work.
“I put way too much pressure on myself there,” said Rios. “I just built it up so much in my mind that I couldn’t perform how I wanted, which was on me.”
His honesty there is refreshing. Ultimately, he learned from the fight, while still getting the win.
He went on to log wins over future champion Andrew Cancio and then-undefeated Jayson Velez before getting a world title shot.
Then-WBC champion Rey Vargas was making his first title defense on a Miguel Cotto undercard–big-time exposure. Rios said he was in the best shape of his career but in his up-front manner, offers no excuses for the outcome.
“I blew it. He beat me,” said Rios. “After that one, I should’ve taken time off, but I rushed back. My next fight was terrible (in December 2017,) and after that, I took another loss.”
The loss he refers to was a stoppage in March 2018, at the hands of Azat Hovhannisyan. Rios thought he was done with boxing at that point. He tried his hand at a few other things, but nothing suited him. Eventually, he found himself back in the gym.
“Man, even the amateurs I was sparring with at the start were kicking my ass,” said Rios, bemused. It was a reminder of all the hard work he had once put in to reach the level he was at. The same work he’d need to get back to that point.
Rios had one comeback fight in April 2019 before getting a shot against unbeaten rising prospect Diego De La Hoya. Going into that bout, he remembered the lessons from his previous setbacks.
He was a big underdog going in, but none of that mattered. Some mixture of gratitude for his position, assuredness in his training, and confidence in his ability led to him making a huge leap forward in his career.
“I had no fear going into that fight,” said Rios. “I knew I could do it.”
Self-belief is key in boxing.
Rios battered De La Hoya, before dropping him with a perfect uppercut to the jaw in the sixth round.
De La Hoya rose, but signaled that he couldn’t continue. Rios was jubilant in victory. As the WBA Gold 122 pound title was on the line, it put him in prime position for a legitimate world title shot.
That confidence, much like Rios’ unceasing work ethic, simply cannot be taught. Ask any trainer; it has to come from within.
Ronny last fought in November 2019–a knockout of Hugo Berrio. Enduring a career long layoff due to the pandemic is a common experience many fighters have shared, but he hasn’t allowed his skills to languish on the sidelines.
“Since my last fight, my longest break has been two days,” said Rios. “And I’ve only done that twice.”
That kind of consistency over a now 15 month period is impressive, no matter the circumstances.
He and his brother–fellow pro and Welterweight prospect Alexis Rocha–set up a gym in his garage during the early days of the shutdown. Aside from running every day, Rios has credited this with helping immeasurably. Being able to do boxing-related activities, bag work and simulated sparring with his brother have been of no small benefit.
After the win over De La Hoya, Rios has had his world title aspirations renewed, and is acutely aware of the belt holders and big names at 122 pounds.
Of special interest is unified champ, Murodjon Akhmadaliev (8-0, 6 KOs), who holds the WBA and IBF straps. Holding the WBA Gold title would give him an easier route to making a challenge for those belts, but right now, Rios’ focus lies elsewhere.
“Right now, I’m only focused on Oscar Negrete and February 13th,” said Rios.
Ronny will be making his return on that Golden Boy card at Fantasy Springs Casino in Indio, California. It’s a fight that he has been waiting for for far too long, which he hopes will be the next step towards becoming a world champion.
Rios’ work ethic and self belief have brought him this far, and it’s likely to take him much further. You won’t want to miss him in action.