By Sean Crose
Let’s get this right out of the way – Brandon Rios does not come across as a likable guy. He claims he likes hitting people in the face better than having sex. He associates with people who mock the sick. He’s proven to be less than gracious in defeat. Still, I believe we should hesitate before publicly crucifying famous fighters.
Why? Because, as I’ve said before, we should judge boxers on their boxing. It’s simply a “let he who is without sin cast the first stone,” sort of thing with me. And I think that’s the smart route for boxing’s writers and fans to take.
Brandon Rios’ questionable actions, however, may now have entered the realm of boxing itself. In case you haven’t heard, it’s been announced that Rios failed a post-fight drug test after losing to Manny Pacquaio last month in Macau. Apparently there were traces of a drug called methylhexanemine in the man’s system.
For those who don’t know – and I had never heard of the drug myself until the news broke – methylhexanemine is used as a dietary aid. Yet; according to Dan Rafael at ESPN, at least, the substance can also be employed as a PED. That’s bad news. Bad news for boxing. Bad news for boxing fans. Bad news for boxing super-promoter Bob Arum.
Of course, Arum is trying to downplay Rios’ involvement in the whole affair, claiming the young fighter isn’t responsible for what happened. Instead, Arum is blaming Alex Ariza for the embarrassing situation. Ariza, in case anyone has forgotten, is the “conditioning expert” who acted like a first rate piece of humanity weeks ago when he mocked Freddy Roach for having Parkinson’s disease.
By behaving like a villain on camera, Azira can easily be cast in the role of villain in this situation, as well. Is it right to make him the bad guy in this, though? Was Ariza, we should ask ourselves, actually the one who gave Rios the methylhexanemine? Did Rios even know he was taking a banned substance, for that matter? Is there any way the truth will ever get out at all?
Who knows? What we do know, however, is that at least one individual in the camp of a boxer entering one of the biggest fights of the year took part in cheating. That’s right, someone in Rios’ camp cheated. People can downplay the effects of methylhexanemine all they want, it’s still a banned substance. And when you bring in a banned substance to replace hard work, you’re a cheater.
Truth be told, I have no idea whether or not Rios was aware that he was taking a drug that wasn’t allowed in the fight game. Only he and perhaps a handful of other people know for sure. If Rios was an innocent victim, however, he should rightfully be furious. He should also be ready, eager and willing to let the truth get out. Unless the whole thing was some kind of galactic screw up, someone needs to be responsible for willfully breaking the rules.
If Rios knew he was taking a banned substance however, well…here’s hoping he’s enjoying his just desert. He’s now been further embarrassed by the whole Pacquaio affair. Not only did he lose his match with the Filipino legend in a big way, he’s now been suspended by authorities in Macau. Fair or unfair, the man’s integrity has been brought into question in a very public way.
Still, Rios’ career is far from over. Boxing may be brutal, but it’s also a perfect outlet for redemption. How many unsavory characters has the sport helped save? Probably too many to count. Guilty or innocent, Brandon Rios is in a bad place right now. Let’s hope his sport of choice can help him get to a better place – and sooner rather than later.