Former world titleholders Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios and Humberto Soto will square off on Feb. 23 at the Municipal Auditorium Fausto Gutierrez Moreno in Soto’s adopted hometown of Tijuana, Mexico, in the main event of the first card promoted by Eddie Hearn’s Matchroom Boxing in Mexico.
Rios and Soto, while long past their best days, still have a reputation for being in action fights, and both also hold out hope of landing another shot at a world title, which they can bolster with a victory in their 10- or 12-round junior middleweight fight that will stream on DAZN.
“I want to stay active so I can get closer to my goal of becoming a champion once again,” said Rios, a former lightweight world titleholder.
Rios (35-4-1, 26 KOs), 32, of Oxnard, California, is 2-1 since coming out of a 19-month retirement in June 2017. He won his comeback fight, then got knocked out by two-division world titleholder Danny Garcia last February. After signing with Hearn, Garcia stopped Ramon Alvarez — Canelo Alvarez’s older brother — in the ninth round of a slugfest in November.
“Man, I’m excited to fight in Mexico. I haven’t fought there in 10 years,” Rios said. “The Mexican fan base has supported me since day one and everything I give in the ring is for my family and my fans, who have never let me down. I’ve been staying busy in the gym, so I’m ready to give the fans a great fight.”
Soto (68-9-2, 37 KOs), 38, who has won titles at junior lightweight and lightweight, has won three fights in a row since a 10-round decision loss to junior welterweight contender Antonio Orozco in 2015.
“I am so excited for this great opportunity in a city that feels like my second home,” said Soto, who has not boxed in Tijuana since 2013. “I know that this fight is a do-or-die. That is why I am very motivated and training really hard. We know that we have a tough opponent in Brandon Rios, a true warrior, but so am I. This will be a war and I will be ready to win.”
Hearn promotes mainly in the United Kingdom and has also promoted fights elsewhere in Europe, and recently began promoting regularly in the United States. He is partnering with top Mexican promoter Fernando Beltran of Zanfer Promotions to put on this a card with a main event he called “a real old-school shootout.”
The co-feature will pit Tijuana’s Jose Quirino (20-2-3, 9 KOs), 23, and countryman Joel Cordoba (7-4-2, 1 KO), 23, in a 10-round bantamweight rematch of their split draw in December at the same venue. The undercard will feature 17-year-old blue-chip light heavyweight prospect Diego Pacheco (1-0, 1 KO) of Los Angeles, flyweight Joselito Velasquez (7-0, 6 KOs), 25, a 2016 Mexican Olympian, and two unbeaten Mexican fighters, 19-year-old junior welterweight Omar Aguilar (11-0, 10 KOs) and flyweight Sulem Urbina (8-0, 1 KO), 28.