By Sean Crose
It was a fight that almost didn’t happen. Argentine action fighter Diego Chavez was all set to fight stone cold warrior Brandon Rios when he learned that a computer shutdown might result in his not being allowed to enter the United States. With all the talk of illegal immigration, it was grimly ironic that a South American athlete couldn’t get to America legally.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
The problems were worked out however, and Chavez was able to meet Rios in the ring on Saturday night in Las Vegas. How, one might have wondered, would the bureaucratic chaos of earlier in the week effect Chavez’ ring performance? What was more, one might have wondered how the previous two losses of his opponent, Brandon Rios, would effect Rios’ ring performance.
The sound of the opening bell signified that all such questions would be answered. It was a brawl right off the bat. Chavez went to destroy and Rios decided that seemed like a pretty good strategy to use himself. Chavez was the more active puncher, but Rios swung to the body hard. There was a lot of leather thudding against skin, but the first round belonged to Chavez – albeit by a slim margin.
By the start of the second round it became clear that Chavez had been studying Manny Pacquiao’s decisive victory over Rios last year in the leadup to the bout. For he was peppering his man with combinations, while using his hand speed to his advantage. Chavez, game as he was, was not Pacquiao, however, and Rios was able to work on Chavez’ body effectively.
The third round was punctuated by referee Vic Drakulich deducting a point from Chavez for holding. It seemed like a bit of an excessive ruling, but it was what it was. One could only hope that Drakulich wouldn’t needlessly interfere throughout the rest of the bout.
The fourth turned into a far better affair for Chavez as he was able to keep Rios from doing too much damage while landing effective shots of his own. “Chavez needs to keep doing what he’s doing,” HBOs Andre Ward commented from ringside, “which is boxing Brandon Rios.”
By sending Chavez to the mat without a blow, Rios got himself a point taken away by Drakulich in the 5th (at least Drakulich didn’t seem to have a biased agenda). By the halfway point of the bout, it was anybody’s fight.
Rios entered the 6th like a furious bar patron on a Saturday night, swinging with bad intentions as he aggressively moved forward. Here was a man who was a pure fighter engaged in a rough, tough brawl. Drakulich seemed to think the entire affair was out of control, however, as he threatened to disqualify both men for their tactics.
The warning didn’t keep Chavez from rocking Rios repeatedly throughout the round, however. Yet Rios can do nothing if not take a punch. In fact, there’s video evidence that the man LIKES to take a punch (take a look at his smile as Pacquiao rapped away at him last fall). The ability to stay standing doesn’t win fights, however, so the 6th went to Chavez.
Truth be told, the fight did take on elements of a hockey brawl. Both guys held, wrestled, shoved and locked each other up. It was the sort of affair referee Drakulich clearly didn’t have a taste for, for he took yet another point away from Chavez (while again threatening to disqualify him). For the second week in a row, a referee was on the verge of altering the outcome of an HBO fight.
Both men crashed to the floor on the 9th thanks to the mutual use of wrestling tactics. And then, seconds later, Diego Chavez was disqualified for…something.
Only in boxing.