There has been talk for months about a possible fight between former world titleholders Danny Garcia and Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios. Now it is a reality.
Garcia and Rios will meet in a welterweight fight scheduled for 10 rounds -- though it might increase to 12 rounds -- on Feb. 17 in the main event of a Showtime-televised card at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Co-promoters Tom Brown of TGB Promotions and Leonard Ellerbe of Mayweather Promotions announced the fight on Thursday.
The co-feature will be a rematch between super middleweight world titleholder David Benavidez and Ronald Gavril, who had an action-packed slugfest earlier this year.
"Danny Garcia is one of the most battle-tested, skillful boxers in the sport," Brown said. "What he did in running through the 140-pound division before moving up to welterweight is simply amazing. 'Bam Bam' Rios is a throwback warrior. He never met a fight that he backed down from. Putting Garcia and Rios into the ring against each other promises nothing but fireworks."
Garcia (33-1, 19 KOs), 29, of Philadelphia, the former unified junior welterweight world champion, moved up in weight and won a vacant welterweight title against Robert Guerrero in 2016, but he lost it by split decision in his first defense to Keith Thurman in their highly anticipated unification fight on March 4. Garcia has not fought since.
"I'm excited just to get back in the ring," Garcia said. "I needed the time off to recuperate and let my body heal. I was the reigning champion [between two divisions for most of] six years, so I needed the rest. I'm ready to kick off the year in style and take over the welterweight division."
He will begin that quest as a big favorite over the faded Rios, a former lightweight world titleholder on the backside of his career who has been involved in several action-packed fights.
"What's interesting in this fight with Brandon Rios is our styles," Garcia said. "We both like to come forward. This kind of matchup will bring out the best in both of us. I'm excited to be back in Las Vegas. I've had some of my best performances and some of my biggest fights there. I beat Lucas Matthysse and Amir Khan in Vegas. You fight in Las Vegas, you're a superstar."
Rios (34-3-1, 25 KOs), 31, of Oxnard, California, is 3-3 in his past six fights, including a one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao in 2013 and a ninth-round knockout to Timothy Bradley in 2015. After the loss to Bradley, Rios immediately announced his retirement, but had a change of heart.
He returned from a 19-month layoff to knock out journeyman Aaron Herrera in the seventh round on June 11 in what was a tuneup fight for the long-discussed bout against Garcia.
"I'm excited to prove my critics wrong again," Rios said. "I'm bring a 'Bam Bam' Rios slugfest to my fans. Danny is a great fighter, but I will beat him just like I have beat others in the past. I am focused and will make this a classic Mexican-Puerto Rican battle."
Phoenix's Benavidez (19-0, 17 KOs), one of boxing's rising stars, turned 21 on Sunday. Gavril (18-2, 14 KOs), 31, is a Romania native fighting out of Las Vegas. They first met on Sept. 8 at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and produced a classic fight of the year contender.
Benavidez survived multiple momentum swings and a 12th-round knockdown to win a split decision and claim a vacant 168-pound world title. With the victory, Benavidez became boxing's youngest active world titleholder and the youngest in super middleweight history.
"This is a fight that my father [trainer Jose Benavidez Sr.], my team and I decided to take again to show everybody that I'm really the champion and there's more to me than just being the youngest world champion," Benavidez said. "I feel like I'm the better fighter and I'm going to definitely show it this time. I learned from that first fight that he puts on a lot of pressure. He likes to throw at the same time that I'm throwing. There are a couple different approaches to take against that. It's going to be a great night of fights.
"Danny Garcia and 'Bam Bam' Rios, these are two fighters I look up to in the sport and it's an honor to fight in their undercard. My training has been going well. We decided to bring in a strength and conditioning coach and I feel really strong. I believe I'll be very prepared."
Said Sampson Lewkowicz, Benavidez's promoter, "The minute Benavidez finished the fight I requested the rematch on behalf of the winner, for the sole reason that he needed to win emphatically and not by split decision. I wanted the public to be able to have the rematch so that everyone will know who the best is. I expect this time Gavril will say that he's really been beaten. As the youngest reigning champion in the sport today, I want no doubt that Benavidez is the better man. It was a great fight the first time and this time we'll see who the best truly is. No excuses. No doubt.''
Immediately after the fight ended in September, Gavril said he also wanted a rematch and he is happy to get one so quickly.
"I can't wait to get into the ring again and take that belt," Gavril said. "He has fast hands and power. I won't take that from him, but I am prepared for whatever plan he comes in the ring with. I know I have what it takes to win this time. Preparing for this fight the second time around has been different, training has been more intense, and my team is preparing me to take him out once and for all. I can't let him win.
"Some people said I won back in September, and [they] were surprised by my performance. I thought it was close, and I thought the knockdown gave me the advantage to win. All I can do is be ready. I don't think either of us will upset the fans on fight night. He's a great fighter and tough competitor and this will certainly be a great fight."