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Rios on Pacquiao, DMAA, Ariza, Heredia and More: Part One


There are few fighters in boxing more candid than former lightweight champion Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, 31-2-1 (23). A few months removed from his 12-round unanimous decision loss to Manny Pacquiao, 55-5-2 (38), in November, Rios joined last Thursday for a candid discussion about the loss, his positive post-fight drug test through the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association (VADA) and his relationship with strength-and-conditioning coaches Angel “Memo” Heredia and Alex Ariza.
Rios is a no-frills scrapper out of Lubbock, Texas by way of Kansas, turning professional in July of 2004. He is trained at the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Oxnard, CA by former IBF super featherweight champion Robert Garcia. Rios lost a lopsided decision to Pacquiao in Macao, China and while the fight was billed as a surefire war due to the aggressive natures of both fighters, it was more a brutal game of chess. Pacquiao punched Rios seemingly at will and was gone before the thought of a punch got near him all night long. The disciplined boxing performance was not what anyone, least of all Rios, expected.
“It was surprising to me,” Rios told co-hosts David Duenez and me. “We were going off all [Pacquiao’s] fights but he didn’t come out that way. He’s an aggressive fighter but he didn’t come out that way. He came out with a different game plan. I was ready to go to war.”

Pacquiao kept his boxing simple with a “one-two-three, then a duck under and step to the right” move that is emblematic of the Wild Card Boxing Club style. Add in Pacquiao’s speed and southpaw style and Macao was Nightmare City for Rios.
“Honestly, it was speed, man. The speed really got to me. It was really a factor. I had some guys in sparring with speed but this guy had tremendous speed,” said Rios. “I think also too it had to do with the southpaw [style]. I hadn’t fought a southpaw in a really long time. I was never used to a southpaw until Pacquiao. So sparring southpaws in the gym, they weren’t as great a southpaw as [Pacquiao]. He’s not only a unique southpaw but [the most] awkward southpaw out there and that what was had a lot to do with it.”
Rios said he was mesmerized by Pacquiao’s speed to the point of being “mind-f*cked,” which he explained was a kind of tunnel vision.
“Because honestly, after the second round, I got frustrated I just, like…once you get mind-f*cked in a fight, you lose the fight. You lose everything you have to do. You forget about the game plan; you forget about everything because you’re mind-f*cked. I was just like stuck, so that’s what happened,” explained Rios. “We had a great game plan going in. I was executing it in the gym. I was doing everything. I was doing a great job. Then all of a sudden and I get to the fight and we were doing great out there. We were out there for two weeks and I was still sparring and everything. I was still doing a great job still and then on fight night, I fought him; after the first round, I got a little bit confused. And then the second round, I was just totally mind-f*cked. I just, it just seemed like everything I’d throw, I was going to get countered. Every time I tried to do something, I was going to get caught. I really got mind-f*cked. It’s just one of those things. I fought one of the best southpaws in the world and not just a southpaw but one who is one of the best in the world, so f*ck it.”
In his last two fight camps, Rios has tried something new. For his rematch with Mike Alvarado for the WBO interim junior welterweight belt in March of 2013, Rios employed Angel “Memo” Heredia, a coach (who some question due to his past as a PED peddler) who bragged on camera in this German documentary in 2009 that he could create an undetectable PED.
Rios outlined the differences between Heredia and Ariza, the latter formerly serving as Pacquiao’s conditioning coach.
“The difference, Ariza was with me 24/7,” said Rios. “Heredia wasn’t really with me in the gym. Both are hard workers, man. I can’t say nothing bad about them. I’m not going to say anything bad about them. Both did a great job. I wouldn’t mind working with either one again. I mean, whatever.”
More on them later.
The talk drifted to a discussion of Yuriorkis Gamboa, the only boxer named by Miami’s New Times in its Biogenesis story, published February 1, 2013.
At one point, Gamboa and Rios were set to fight but Gamboa pulled out at the last minute and sued to get out of his fight contract. He was ultimately picked up by rapper-turned-boxing promoter 50 Cent, who paid a hefty fee to Top Rank Promotions to let the fighter go. When asked about Gamboa and his connection to Biogenesis, Rios seemed unfazed.
“My job is to go in the ring, prepare myself and get ready to fight and put on a great show. That’s my job,” said Rios. “If they do the steroids, they would have consequences. Everyone has to take the consequences later on in the day, so f*ck it. If [Gamboa] was on the juice, then that’s his mistake, not mine. Whatever they did, that is their problem, not my problem but I was ready to fight him. I never knew about this until I read about it that [Gamboa] was juicing up or something when he was supposed to fight me.”
All of this led us to the most recent heart of the Rios matter: a positive post-Pacquiao fight drug test for the substance known as DMAA.
Rios’ story about how he tested positive for the substance needs some prologue. The story broke on the morning of December 13, 2013. Rios tested positive for a substance that had been banned by the FDA and the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) within the last year for being dangerous to one’s health as well as for being a powerful stimulant beneficial to an athlete in competition.
In the first interview he gave, Rios mentions that what he tested positive for could have been an energy drink.
“The banned substance wasn’t even…it was an energy drink. That’s what we tested [positive] for. People say, ‘Oh, Brandon was this; Brandon was on the juice. Brandon was having trouble making weight.’ No, I was making [weight] perfectly. It was an energy drink that we got tested for. I didn’t know it was anything banned. It was just an energy drink. I bought the energy drink at the Vitamin D store and that’s what it was.”
The drink in question, according to Rios, “was Jack3d, I think.”
I explained to Rios that DMAA was banned and the products which contained it, Jack3d and OxyElite Pro, have been off the shelves well before this fight.
On April 12, 2012, the FDA issued a warning stating that DMAA “did not qualify as a legal dietary supplement ingredient and that it could raise blood pressure, potentially causing heart attacks and other health problems.”
By July of 2013, the FDA had destroyed more than $10 million dollars worth of products that contained DMAA.
“Not on the shelves? Well, you can buy it at the Vitamin D store,” said Rios. At press time, I have not yet been able to locate that store.
A reconfigured version of Jack3d is available on the market. It does not contain DMAA.
Rios explained that his team had its supply of the drink containing DMAA and brought it over to China.
“We had it here in Oxnard already. We had it here in Oxnard and we took it to China but we didn’t really use that much in China. We used it in Oxnard,” said Rios.
“Bam Bam” explained that the energy drink containing the banned substance was used as energy boost on days in which he was tired from strenuous training.
“There are days when you train your ass off,” explained Rios, “and even with ‘Memo,’ I’d train my ass off. There’s days where I’m like ‘F*ck, I’m tired.’ ‘Memo’ would give me something to wake me up and [Ariza] did the same thing here. He woke me up. That was it. It wasn’t that I was taking it because I had problems or anything. It was just that I was exhausted from all the training, from [early] in the morning training to the afternoon training. To the middle training to the f*cking running in the morning. Hard running and sh*t like that. But it was just to wake me up, wake my body up. That was it. I wasn’t taking it because I was having problems with anything. Or I thought it was going to be…or it was going to help me out or anything. It’s an energy drink. How can an energy drink help you out in a fight?”
Good question. DMAA is a central nervous system stimulant so powerful and effective, it’s banned for active competition. It affects reaction time, alertness and reflexes. There’s a reason track athletes, particularly sprinters, risk getting caught taking it: it helps them get off the block quicker. “How can’t an energy drink with a powerful central nervous system substance help you in a fight?” is a better question.
Rios takes issue with the quantity of the substance found in his system.
“When they said [I tested positive], they said they found traces of it,” Rios said. “They didn’t find the whole thing. They found traces of it. So that’s like me saying if I sniff a line of cocaine on the table and I finish it off but there’s still traces of it on the table. They didn’t find the whole cocaine. They found traces of it on the table. They didn’t find the whole evidence of it. They didn’t find the whole thing. They said they found traces of this supplement in this urine test or whatever.”
Cocaine is illegal. DMAA is a banned substance prohibited for use in competition at the highest levels of sport. It is also so dangerous, the FDA took it off the shelves to the tune of tens of millions of dollars.
“Trace” is a scientific word. Typically, trace analysis of an athlete’s blood and metabolites found therein is measured to parts per million. Anything up to and beyond parts per billion or trillion is considered “ultra-trace,” an even lower concentration. Either way, million, billion or trillion - guess what? You have a banned substance in your body while competing. And it’s qualitative. It’s either in your system or it’s not and there is no legal allowance for DMAA in competition.
It should be noted that by and large, stimulants are not tested for during training camp AKA “out of competition.”
Beyond his issue with the word “trace,” Rios would complain that his sample itself was mishandled. Part Two of this story will further delve into this and why Rios and his team decided not to file a protest or test his B-sample. Part Two also sheds light on contractual agreements Rios claims he has had with both Angel Heredia and Alex Ariza that protect the fighter in the case of a positive drug test. All this and more coming up later this week on
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim, now at its new home, or via iTunes subscription at You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PT.
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