Ever the fighter, Brandon Rios knew he just couldn't stay away from the game—not when he still has enough of the game left inside of him.
The former lightweight titlist returns to the ring for the first time in 19 months, this time with an entirely new team in tow as he faces Aaron Herrera in a scheduled 10 round welterweight battle. Their bouts tops a special Sunday evening edition of "Premier Boxing Champions (PBC) on FS1: Toe-to-Toe", airing live on FS1 (10:30pm ET/7:30pm PT) from The Pioneer Event Center in Lancaster, California.
Both boxers easily made weight for the televised main event. Rios (33-3-1, 24KOs) checked in at 146.4 lbs, a full pound lighter than Herrera (32-6-1, 21KOs) who tipped the scales at 147.4 lbs.
The last time boxing fans saw Rios in the ring and on the tube, he was being manhandled by then-welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley Jr. en route to the lone stoppage loss of his career. In suffering two knockdowns en route to the 9th round technical knockout loss, the outspoken all-action slugger declared that he was done with the sport as his body was no longer responsive to the necessary commitment it took to survive at the top level.
As time passed by, Rios decided rest and thorough reexamination was the best course of action before making what he hopes will be a triumphant return to the sport he so deeply loves.
"I'm just ready to get back to the top," insists Rios. "I know that I have to climb the ladder and that's what I'm here for.
"When I said that I was done, I was done. Eventually though I started getting that urge again, to get on that stage and perform on TV. My wife told me that if I wanted to fight again, I had to come back dedicated."
It meant leaving behind the team that helped him rise to prominence in the pro ranks. Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum's Top Rank outfit is no longer in the picture, nor is longtime trainer Robert Garcia, the only voice that has ever been in Rios' corner since the tail end of his amateur career in 2004.
"I felt like I needed a new voice in my corner," explains Rios. "There's nothing against (former trainer) Robert Garcia, I respect him and he got me to where I am today, but I felt like I got too used to that situation."
It was an amicable split without regret, as Garcia—a former 130-pound titlist during his heyday and still a top trainer today—was understanding of Rios' decision to return to the sport while moving in a different direction.
By his own admission, the 31-year old boxer wasn't exactly sure where to start—but much like his first meeting with Garcia, the hook-up with new trainer Ricky Fuñez was a mix of fate and luck.
"I Googled 'Southern California boxing trainers' and Ten Goose Boxing and Ricky came up, and I decided to hit him up," Rios recalls. "So I direct messaged him on Instagram and the rest is history. I told Ricky Funez that I wanted to come back and have him train me and thankfully he was excited to work with me. We started working really hard and we took some time to get to know each other more and more.
"I feel like I'm in really good shape after working with a nutritionist for the first time. My nutritionist is with me 12 hours a day and it's had me feeling great heading into this fight."
Brandon Rios, 146.4 lbs. vs. vs Aaron Herrera, 147.4 lbs.—10 rounds, welterweight
Mario Barrios, 140.2 lbs. vs. Jose Luis Rodriguez, 138.8 lbs.—10 rounds, super lightweight
Jose Miguel Borrego, 140.2 lbs. vs Kevin WATTS, 139.4 lbs.—8 rounds, super lightweight
Roberto Marroquin, 135 lbs vs Jonathan Perez, 135.2 lbs—8 rounds, lightweight
Danny Fabella, 141.6 lbs vs Phillip Percy, 144.4 lbs—4 rounds, super lightweight
Eridanni Leon, 146.2 lbs vs Isaac Freeman, 146.6 lbs—6 rounds, welterweight
Juan Fuñez, 139.2 lbs vs Edgar Ivnn Garcia, 141.8 lbs—6 rounds, super lightweight