LAS VEGAS/GRAND ISLAND Neb. In an all action fight, Brandon Rios captured the World Boxing Association (WBA) Lightweight championship from Miguel Acosta via 10th round knockout in the first night of a stacked 2011 lineup for SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING® and SHOWTIME PPV®. In the evening’s co-feature, Antonio DeMarco won a unanimous decision over Reyes Sanchez.
“A star was born tonight,” said Hall of Fame Top Rank promoter Bob Arum as Rios (27-0-1, 19 KOs) thrilled the crowd with an action-packed performance and 10th round knockout victory over Acosta at the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas. The 32-year-old Venezuelan had the early upper hand over Rios by moving around the ring and landing hard punches to the head. Acosta (28-4-2, 22 KOs) was able to stifle Rios’ game plan by boxing the brawler with a strong jab through the first several rounds. But by the end of the fifth, Rios finished with a flurry and walked back to his corner with a sense of confidence that shined throughout the rest of the fight.
In the sixth, Rios, 27, was finally able to force Acosta to engage in an inside scrap. Rios, the naturally larger fighter, started unloading his heavy hands and eventually dropped Acosta with a left jab. “I’ve got a pretty good jab … when I use it,” joked the predominantly come-forward fighter.
The knockdowns didn’t stop there. Rios, fighting out of Oxnard, Calif., continued to apply pressure and forced an off-balance Acosta to the canvas with a left in the eighth before pleasing the pro-Rios crowd in the 10th with a knockout punch that landed Acosta off his feet for the final time at 1:14 in the 10th round.
With tears of joy in his eyes after the fight, the newly-crowned champ showed tremendous modesty in his reaction. “I proved I’ve got a good chin now,” Rios said with a smile. As for what’s next for Rios, the determined fighter said he would fight anyone in the lightweight division. “Whatever Bob Arum wants,” said Rios as Arum looked on with a proud smile.
Following his first loss since 2003, a disheartened Acosta admitted, “I’m more sad than hurt. I prepared for the fight but Brandon Rios has power.”
Though in vastly different locales, the SHOWTIME sweet science scenario in the Midwest featured the same division as Las Vegas. In front of a near sellout crowd of 6,000 at Heartland Events Center in Grand Island, Neb., lightweight DeMarco (25-2-1, 18 KOs) earned his position as the mandatory challenger for the WBC lightweight belt by defeating a game Sanchez.
In the opening minute of the 12-round distance bout between two Mexican fighters, DeMarco landed a big left hand that opened a cut above Sanchez’ left eye. The third round featured DeMarco scoring with a left hook that brought Sanchez (20-4-1, 11 KOs) down before referee Vic Drakulich correctly ruled it a slip. The gash and near knockdown, however, had little impact on Sanchez as the cut fighter proceeded to back up DeMarco throughout the second half of the fight. Though aggressive, Sanchez’ punches were slow, soft and caused little to no damage.
Sanchez kept the fight competitive but eventually lost a unanimous decision by the scores of 116-112, 117-111, 115-113.
Coming off of his first career loss to Edwin Valero one year ago, DeMarco didn’t have the dominant performance he hoped for against the long and lanky Sanchez but showed poise throughout the fight in contrast to his barroom brawler days of yesteryear on ShoBox: The New Generation.
Said DeMarco: “Sanchez is a great fighter and he threw a lot of punches. It was a great fight. I love fighting in Nebraska. The crowd was really into it. That really motivated me.”
As part of the crowd, former world champions Frank Tate and Leon Spinks looked on from Nebraska where the state held its first night of boxing in three years. In contrast, the host of countless boxing matches, Las Vegas, featured some current boxing stars in the crowd including Urbano Antillon, who will rematch Humberto Soto after their 2010 fight of the year barnburner on the May 7 Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley undercard on SHOWTIME PPV, and Rios’ stablemate Nonito Donaire.
Tonight’s lightweight action will replay on Tuesday, March 1, at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT on SHO Extreme and be available On Demand beginning March 1 through March 14.
Steve Albert called the action with Al Bernstein serving as expert analyst and Jim Gray as ringside reporter in Las Vegas, while Curt Menefee handled blow-by-blow in Nebraska with Steve Farhood on hand for color commentary.
The fights were promoted by Top Rank Inc. and Gary Shaw Productions.