Brandon Rios has packed more drama into the past few years than many boxers manage in their entire careers.
If he beats Richard Abril on Saturday night to reclaim the WBA lightweight title, Rios will be in position for even bigger achievements.
With a victory, Rios (29-0-1, 21 KOs) also could earn a shot at Juan Manuel Marquez, who will fight Sergey Fedchenko in Mexico City on Saturday in a split-site pay-per-view doubleheader. Top Rank already has discussed putting Rios and Marquez together in a 140-pound bout at Cowboys Stadium on July 14.
But given Rios' unpredictability, nobody is looking too far past his current bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, even though Abril (17-2-1, 8 KOs) is a fill-in opponent for fellow Cuban Yuriorkis Gamboa, who bailed out of the matchup last month in a contract dispute.
"I'm not letting this unknown coming in and ruining eight years of hard work I put into building my professional boxing career," Rios said.
Rios ruined much of that hard work last December when he lost his lightweight title on the scales, unable to make 135 pounds before facing John Murray. After stopping Murray in the 11th round, Rios immediately went back into training and worked with a nutritionist.
"It was the best decision I ever made," Rios said. "I'm a beast. I feel so much more energetic and powerful, and I'm not missing meals. I'm never hungry."
The hard-partying, free-swearing Rios has made other mistakes, too. He's still known to many boxing fans largely for mocking Freddie Roach in video footage before Manny Pacquiao's fight with Antonio Margarito, who trains alongside Rios in Oxnard, Calif. Roach has Parkinson's disease and suffers from tremors.
Rios has publicly apologized for his behavior toward Roach, yet he has a history of indiscretions, including a two-month jail stint for getting into a fight outside the ring.
Rios and Abril haven't exactly been gentlemanly to each other, either. The fighters have exchanged insults and criticism throughout the promotion, even scuffling at a promotional news conference earlier this week. Their promoters refused to pose them together in Las Vegas for fear of another incident.
Top Rank still raised the stakes Thursday by announcing the company will pay a $50,000 bonus to the winner. With Abril only guaranteed $100,000 for the fight, the prizefighting-model bonus would be significant.
"I'm going to break Rios' mouth when we fight," Abril said through a translator. "I don't like Rios. He's got a big mouth. Rios is a good fighter. He has a Mexican fighting style, but Saturday is going to be the end for him."
The 38-year-old Marquez (53-6-1, 39 KOs) will return to the ring in his hometown for the first time since losing another decision to Pacquiao last November in a fight many thought he won. Marquez still is in the running for a fourth fight with Pacquiao, who faces Timothy Bradley Jr. in June.