LAS VEGAS (AP) — Former two-division world champion Danny Garcia is returning to the ring Saturday night against former world champion Brandon Rios in a WBC welterweight world title elimination bout.
Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs) and Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs) are looking to get back on top of one of boxing’s deepest weight classes, the 147-pound welterweight division. The winner at Mandalay Bay Events Center will be in world-title contention with unified champion Keith Thurman, the holder of the WBC and WBA belts.
Garcia last fought in March, losing the WBC title in a unification fight with Thurman.
“More than anything, I just felt like I needed the rest,” Garcia said about the layoff. “It wasn’t about the hunger because I’ve always had passion for the sport. I love boxing. I love the competition.”
Garcia, who was reigning world champion for six years dating to his win over Hall of Famer Erik Morales in 2012 through March 2017, also holds victories over current WBA welterweight world champion Lucas Matthysse and unified light-welterweight world champion Amir Khan.
“It’s great to be back here in Vegas,” said Garcia, who was a unified world champion at super lightweight and welterweight. “This is a big-fight atmosphere and it just motivates me. I’m 29 years old and in the prime of my career. It starts now. I’m ready to get back on track.”
The Philadelphia fighter Garcia faces a tough former lightweight champion in Rios, who is training for the fight with renowned trainer Robert Garcia in Southern California. Like Garcia, Rios has fought many of the top welterweights of this era, including world champions Timothy Bradley and Manny Pacquiao.
“Everyone knows the way I fight,” said Rios, from Oxnard, California. “Going all out is my style. I’ll walk through brick walls to get the victory.”
Rios is one of boxing’s most aggressive, come-forward fighters.
“Danny’s a strong fighter and he has power in both hands,” Rios said. “He’s a great counter-puncher. One thing I like is he doesn’t move or run. He likes to bang it out, and that suits my style better. But if he does run, we’ll be ready for that too.”
In the co-feature, boxing’s youngest world champion David Benavidez will defend his WBC super middleweight title for the first time against Ronald Gavril in a rematch of their September bout in which Benavidez won the vacant title via narrow split decision.
The 21-year-old Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs) became the youngest reigning world champion in boxing and the youngest 168-pound champion in history at 20 years, 9 months when he scored a victory against Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs) to win the super middleweight title Sept. 8. The bout featured multiple swings of momentum, thrilling exchanges and a wild 12th round in which Gavril knocked Benavidez to the canvas.