This Saturday, with the new year just three weeks old, boxing fans are being served up a match that could prove to be one of the fights of the year, when Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 23koes) and Mike Alvarado (34-3-0, 23koes) clash at the 1st Bank Center in Bloomfield, Colorado. This will be the third time that Rios and Alvarado have fought each other, with Rios winning the first contest, Alvarado the second, and both brawls being ‘fight of the year’ candidates.
Boxing fans love the kind of all-action fights that both Rios and Alvarado tend to engage in every time they enter the ring. It is hardly surprising that when “Bam Bam” Rios and “Mile High” Alvardo face off against each other the action is reminiscent of the kind witnessed a decade ago between Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward.
Both men first clashed within the ring in October 2012, and produced the kind of hyper-brutal action that fans have been missing since the likes of Gatti and Ward hung up their gloves. With the fight poised evenly right up to its conclusion, Rios eventually emerged the winner after a worn down Alvarado suddenly crumbled in the 7th round, being stopped while still on his feet.
This had been a fight which called for a rematch almost before both fighters had finished dressing their respective wounds. Five months later in March 2013, fans were treated to a second installment. Again, the action was high-paced, with some toe-to-toe exchanges that would make even the most hardened fan wince a little inside, while enjoying it all the more. However, this time around, Alvarado chose to use his boxing skills, namely lateral movement and a decent jab, rather than standing stationary with Rios as he had in their first meeting. The change of tactics worked and Alvarado emerged the winner via a hard fought point’s decision.
Two years have passed since their second encounter and both men have seen plenty of action in that time. The question of who will emerge from this trilogy the victor may hinge upon which fighter has the most left in the tank. Both men may have only entered the ring two times since their last meeting, but each has taken more than their fair share of punishment in those respective contests.
Brandon Rios, surprisingly, went from his point’s defeat to Alvarado into a big money fight with Manny Pacquiao, in which he was heavily punished and out-pointed by a wide margin. In his only fight since that defeat, Rios took part in a messy foul-filled brawl with Diego Gabriel Chaves that he won by an unsatisfactory 9th round disqualification.
For Alvarado, his victory over Rios two years ago did not bring him a big money match against Pacquiao, instead, he defended the WBO world title that he’d won from Rios against the rock-tough Ruslan Provodnikov. He retired on his stool after the 10th round following a brutal battle that had seen him floored (for the first time in his career) and badly cut up. In what was to be his only outing in 2014, Alvarado faced Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez and lost a point’s decision after another hard fought fight in which much leather was swapped. Once more, Alvarado was badly cut, and tasted the canvas (although he then returned the favour by flooring Marquez in the next round.)
Both men enter this third installment of their trilogy with a significant amount of mileage added to their respective bodies. Of the two, Alvarado is the one who tends to mark and cut up the most. He has also been floored in his last two ring matches. Then there is the little question of Alvarado’s legal problems after he was found in possession of a gun just recently. Alvarado has always sailed a bit close to the edge outside of the ring (he entered the first fight with Rios carrying the scars of a recent bar room fight in which he had been glassed.) Will these latest legal problems prove to have been a distraction to Alvarado once he gets in the ring on Saturday or is he actually the type of character who thrives in such situations?
It is hard not to give Rios the edge in durability. The term ‘iron-chinned’ was made for fighters like Bam Bam. Yet, boxing history tells us that boxers like Rios generally have a short shelf life, and that sooner or later the iron tends to go rusty and break, sometimes over night. While Rios did not seem to be ’broken’ in his most recent fight with Chaves, he did not impress either. In fact, Rios has not really turned in an impressive performance since his first fight with Alvarado. Even in his second match with Alvarado, though the contest was once more a competitive war, there were signs that Rios’ way of fighting was starting to catch up with him. At times, Alvarado seemed to have punched him to a standstill.
Rios’s propensity for taking punches at times goes from the admirable, to the downright reckless, and as he has moved up in weight, his ability to outlast his opponents due to his own dogged durability seems to have waned. There is little doubt that Rios was at his most effective at lightweight. This may be a factor against Alvarado, as the men are now fighting each other at welterweight, rather than light-welterweight, as they did in their previous two contests. Originally a light welterweight, rather than a lightweight, like Rios, Mile High Alvarado seems better adjusted to the higher division.
Looking at both men’s recent fights, Alvarado seems to have worn a little better, despite his punishing defeat to Provodnikov. Despite the wide margin of his point’s defeat to Marquez, Mile High Alvarado was far more competitive against the Mexican than Rios was against Pacquiao. At times against the Pacman, Rios was reduced almost to a walking punch bag, with no answer to his opponent’s speed, and lateral movement.
It is this inability of Rios to cope with a mobile opponent that holds the key to victory for Alvarado. Just as he did in their second fight, Alvarado must use his superior boxing skills against Rios, utilizing his jab and movement, which gives him a crucial edge over Bam Bam. But, at 34 years of age, can Alvarado still keep to such a blue print or will he be worn down as he was by Provodnikov? However, for all his heart and durability, Rios is not Provodnikov. He has neither the strength nor workrate at the higher weight of the tank-like Russian.
Brandon’s six-year advantage in youth (28 years of age to Alvarado’s 34 years) is also not a huge advantage, with the amount of punishment that Bam Bam regularly takes in every fight, even when he wins. If Alvarado is not shy of taking a punch, or three, in his efforts to gain victory, Rios’ acceptance of his opponent’s blows, while so often his outstanding edge for much of his career, may also prove to be his Achilles ’ heel as he fights on at the higher weight. It is also interesting to note that in the build up to this third meeting it has been Rios who has talked about retirement should he lose. After a career of often brutally won contests, and big paydays, especially against Pacquiao, it’s possible that the hunger to keep putting himself through such punishing wars is waning in Rios.
Alvarado has all the tools to win this fight on Saturday, if he can stick to the tactics that won him the second fight. At welterweight, he should have a natural size advantage over Rios as well. Never the fastest of boxers on his feet, Rios sometimes looks as if he is walking through mud since his moved up to the higher division. With his jab and movement, Alvarado should be able to keep Bam Bam at bay for much of this contest, and fight his way to a hard won, but clear decision victory.
However, it is likely that this third fight will contain at least some episodes of the kind of leather explosions, which we saw in these warriors’ first two clashes. Much may rest upon Alvarado’s ability to keep mobile and avoid the temptation of getting into a static toe-to-toe slugfest with Rios. Bam Bam’s main chance of victory is to get onto the inside, look to bust up, and wear Alvarado down.
With two classic fights against each other already, both Rios and Alvarado have a lot to live up to this Saturday, but judging by their respective careers so far, whatever this trilogy’s outcome, it is unlikely to be boring.