DENVER (December 22, 2017) The 2017 Elite and Youth National Championships & Junior and Prep Open ended Saturday night, December 9, 2017, at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, where 42 boxers were named 2017 National Champions. Colorado was well represented with 3 Elite Female boxers and 1 Elite Male boxer named 2017 USA National Champions. For most boxers, timing is everything and for one Colorado female amateur boxer, that time was at this tournament.
Former U.S. Army WCAP (World Class Athlete Program) boxer Rianna Rios captured the 125 lbs. Elite Female title in Finals action, defeating Nephateria Miller (Connecticut) by way of a dominating 5-0 score. Rios was seeded #5 in the tournament and won her first bout against the #4 seed. Her second night of competition she defeated the #1 seed and in the Finals, Rios dismantled the #2 seed, validating her position as the best 125 lbs. Elite Female amateur boxer in the country.
No ‘flash in the pan’, Rianna Rios was a silver medalist at the 2013 USA Nationals. She did not compete in 2014. In 2015, she recalls that being her “worst performance ever” in Nationals competition at 132 lbs. where she did not place. In 2016 Nationals competition she fought at 119 lbs., again coming up short earning the silver medal. In 2017 she would not be denied.
For the now 23 years-old Rianna Rios, 2017 started off rough. Early in the year she seriously contemplated giving up boxing after a number of minor injuries (and other distractions) had her questioning what direction she wanted her life to go. Her ‘big brother’, mentor, coach and confidant over the last 3 years, Reyes Marquez (a WCAP athlete), was always just a phone call away. After the 2016 USA Nationals Tournament Rianna took a long break just to let her body rest and recover from several minor injuries and allow her mind to refocus. From January until May of 2017, Rios wasn’t doing much in the way of training and traveled to Arizona for what was supposed to be a 6 weeks camp. She lasted 10 days before deciding she still was not right mentally nor physically to compete at the level she had established for herself and came home. WCAP decided it was in the best interests of both to part ways.
Rianna felt she needed more intense one-on-one work that would push her as far as she could go. That led her to completely dedicate herself to the style and time offered by Coach Marquez. The idea of hanging up the gloves had indeed been a serious thought. “I called Coach Marquez who told me to just ‘get away, get your mind right for a bit and let’s talk’. “I began training exclusively with Coach Marquez beginning in late May of 2017. Since I was no longer a member of WCAP, I was sent to a regular Army unit where training was to set my own schedule after work. It didn’t take long to rekindle my passion for the sport with Coach Marquez solidly in my corner. In October I went down to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for some Army pre-deployment training for an entire month, so I missed about 30 days of what should have been an intense training camp for the Nationals with Coach Marquez. I was in great shape. I ran, got the proper rest, ate right, and came back to Colorado totally focused on winning the 2017 USA Nationals. I felt great both mentally and physically with a solid 2 weeks of work specifically targeting high altitude training. I was ready to handle my business”.
For Rianna Rios, her family means everything and her eyes light up when speaking of the bond she shares with her mother. “My mom is my inspiration”, begins Rios. “She has a small piece of paper with various goals for me written on it. She reads them to me whenever I get down. This is just the beginning and now that we have our foot in the door, international experience along with staying in the gym is my main objective. I’ll continue going to school, Psychology my Major”.
Coach Reyes Marquez vividly remembers the first time he saw Rianna Rios back in 2013. “I first saw her at the 2013 Nationals (where she took Silver) and found out she’d be coming to the WCAP team. Rianna told me she’d been boxing since age 10 and I could tell that boxing was in her blood. I couldn’t wait to work with her and we’ve been working together ever since. She’s the type of boxer who needs constant motivation and without that, she doesn’t feel challenged. She called me in August of this year and I could tell she was close to being ready for the challenge of the 2017 USA Nationals. In the 2 weeks leading up to this tournament, I’d never seen her as focused since first seeing her in 2013 when joining WCAP. This year she put on a fantastic display of boxing and would not be denied”. Marquez is himself in the process of leaving the WCAP, hopefully to then be stationed at the Fort Carson Army Base. His hope is to then go to either Fort Meyers, Virginia, (The Old Guard), as a member of the Drill Team or the Rifle Team, or West Point, as a boxing coach.
Both Rianna Rios and Reyes Marquez are extremely proud of their Mexican heritage. Rios’ family consists of her mom and dad, an older brother, along with two younger brothers who all live in South Texas. Rianna stresses the importance of her ‘doing the right things’, the two younger brothers looking up to her as a role model. Marquez is single with a girlfriend but remains close to his family that resides in Mexico, North Carolina, Texas and Colorado. “I had shoulder surgery a month ago”, began Marquez. “During this entire camp I worked Rianna with one arm. Mitt work, warming her up, the whole bit, with one arm. That was quite the experience but in the end, it was well worth it”.
As an official member of the 2018 USA Boxing National Squad, Rianna Rios will now have the opportunity to travel internationally and gain that much needed experience. First up is a scheduled trip to Bulgaria in mid-February, where Coach Marquez has been extended the invitation to coach. Rianna is unsure exactly which events she will travel to. Nagging injuries that need rest will help finalize those individual decisions. Rianna Rios and Coach Reyes Marquez are on the same page regarding most every issue, this need for rest definitely one of them. They will travel together internationally and domestically, as often as possible. “I’ll never lose Rianna”, says coach Marquez. “No matter where she ends up, I’ll always be just a phone call away. She now fully understands her body and won’t take any unnecessary risks”.
So what’s next personally for Rianna Rios you might ask? In her immediate future, as in today, Friday, December 22, 2017, Riana Rios and fiancé Karla Felix will officially tie the knot in front of friends and family down in Colorado Springs. Karla is also a member of the U.S. Army and has accepted a position in Washington, D.C., beginning in March, 2018. Rios’ own term of duty in the U.S. Army expires in August of 2018 and she will be moving to the D.C. area where she will join wife Karla. The 2020 Summer Olympic Games held in Tokyo, Japan, is where Rianna ultimately plans to be, representing Team USA Female Boxing.
Rianna Rios ended our conversation by reflecting on her time with the WCAP. “The experience was phenomenal. Coach Leverette understood it was time for me to move on and is a great friend. I learned a lot, gained many good friends such as my soon to be wife, Karla Felix and maybe my best friend, Alex Love. I worked with some very special and talented athletes such as Melissa Parker, DeRae Crane, Steven Nelson, Charles Williams and Reyes Marquez. Those were just a few of the many being a major part of my development. I was just 18 when I got to WCAP and was kind of ‘star-struck’ by the overall atmosphere. This year it became obvious it was time to move on but the great memories are forever. Everything happens for a reason and now is my time”.
*The U.S. Army’s WCAP (World Class Athlete Program) coached by 2015 Colorado Golden Gloves Hall-Of-Fame inductee, Charles Leverette, had outstanding female performances led by 132 lbs. PFC Jajaira Gonzalez (Named Outstanding Boxer in her division) defeating Rashida Ellis (Massachusetts) 3-2, and SGT Naomi Graham (165 lbs.) dominating Leah Cooper (New York) 5-0. Both women were on Christmas vacation, enjoying time with family. They will be interviewed in early 2018.