Chris Farina/Top Rank
Saturday night's fight between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado on HBO promises to be a toe-to-toe war, and could be the Fight of the Year.
Some fights are very easy to preview. You give some background, you talk about the matchup, potential stylistic troubles, try to read between the lines of recent performances, and you figure out whether this will be good to watch or potentially forgettable, or even worse, a true turd in your Saturday night punch bowl.
Some fights are hard to preview because there's just not a lot to say about them. Most likely the fight isn't that big of a deal, but it's important enough that it should be talked about. Some matchups just don't lend themselves well to a lengthy discussion.
Saturday night's fight between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado is somewhere in between.
A Very Brief Summary: Rios vs Alvarado
These two junior welterweights are going to beat the shit out of each other in an attempt to further their careers and entertain you at the same time. You do not want to miss this fight.
You could very easily leave it at that. Rios vs Alvarado does not need hype. From the moment it was signed, it has been a fight that boxing fans have greatly anticipated, somewhat making up for the canceled fight earlier this year between Rios and Yuriorkis Gamboa.
That matchup was about contrasts, about size differences, as true a "Thunder vs Lightning" matchup as you could have made in the sport at the time. When Gamboa bailed, it was a bummer, but overall, are we much worse off? Rios instead wound up fighting Richard Abril on April 14, and was so weight-drained that he couldn't do anything with the "other" Cuban, a tricky technician, yes, but someone far from being considered an elite fighter going in. Rios' win was a robbery that night, but there are built-in excuses, and Rios has gone on record saying he didn't want to fight at 135 pounds again, but that he was pressured into it.
For Gamboa, that was one thing. I never understood staying for Abril, but that's just me.
Two straight fights, Rios has missed weight. It was very clear when he came to the scales last December looking like Skeletor with a flu bug that he was done at 135 pounds. Rios did not just fail to make weight for these fights, he tried very hard and still failed. Whatever you blame it on -- bad diet, bad discipline, just plain growing out of the division, which happens -- he did himself no favors. He struggled a bit through a shoulder-to-shoulder brawl with John Murray, ultimately winning by stoppage, and then looked like he was waist deep in a pool trying to move around against Abril, who didn't simply stand still.
The other question about Rios now is whether or not he will always badly struggle with guys who can move, like Abril could, and whether being in better condition can hide the fact that he is, with all due respect, a fairly one-dimensional fighter.
We'd seen Rios (30-0-1, 22 KO) have problems with guys who can box before. Miguel Acosta was ahead of Rios for most of their fight before Brandon caught up with him and hammered him down. After that, Rios was matched well -- he faced fellow brawlers Antillon and Murray, good pressure fighters, tough sons of bitches who can bang and hang in there, but were outmuscled and outfought by Rios, who is one of the sport's best inside fighters, and one of its grittiest, too.
When Rios was in shape, he could catch up with Acosta. When he was not, he couldn't find Abril. Against Abril, he never had any sustained success, and I personally felt that he had quite clearly lost. It wasn't a pretty fight, it wasn't even that Abril was so great, it was just that Abril won that fight only to be told he had not. Rios didn't win that night, no matter what the records say.
And though he doesn't "admit" anything, I think Brandon Rios knows he was fortunate to leave with his "0," and that's why he sounds so ready for this fight. Now fighting at 140 pounds, and back against a guy who comes to fight the way that Rios comes to fight, the hope for Rios is that he can make fans and critics overlook the Abril fight a little more, if not just plain forget that it happened.
He'll need a dandy of a performance to truly erase the sour taste that fight left, but if he's going to deliver something "vintage," he's got the right opponent.
Mike Alvarado is 32 years old now. Unlike the 26-year-old Rios, Alvarado doesn't really have a lot of time to waste. It's not that he's old, it's that he's ambitious. He wants to be a top fighter. He wants to be a world champion. He wants to take on the sport's very elite.
And at 32, with the way he fights, time's ticking away on those lofty goals. A loss to Rios wouldn't kill his career or anything like that -- especially considering this has a chance of being a fight where at the end, nobody cares who won or lost more than they just want to talk about how great it was. But a loss to Rios would hurt his chances of fighting someone like Manny Pacquiao or Timothy Bradley or Juan Manuel Marquez, none of whom are out of the question if Alvarado (or Rios) wins Saturday in Carson, California.
Alvarado (33-0, 23 KO) had a Fight of the Year contender on April 14 on that Rios-Abril card in Las Vegas. The Denver native overpowered Mauricio Herrera over ten brutal rounds that night, stealing the show and putting on the performance of the evening (runner-up was Herrera). But as good a fighter as Herrera is, he's not Brandon Rios, and this is a whole other ball of wax.
One "worrisome" bit of talk out there has come from Alvarado himself, mostly, and a bit from Rios, that the fight could be disappointing if Alvarado uses his boxing, stays outside, and tries to pick Rios apart from out there, and tag his way to a decision win.
I want to address that before it spirals out of control, and I again say this with all due respect to the fighter: Mike Alvarado isn't a good enough boxer to do that for 12 rounds against Brandon Rios, and for another thing, I don't think that's really in his fighter DNA. I just cannot see Alvarado being able to stay outside enough to cruise -- Rios is going to be able to draw him into the war we all expect, and Alvarado's just not going to want to stay out of it badly enough, even if he really does try to do that.
So sure, Alvarado might try to box, but if he does, I don't think it will last. On the other hand, he's also said he's bigger, stronger, and just plain better than Rios, and is confident he'll win the fight no matter how it turns out in tempo, pace, and action.
Both have repeated four words in lead-up interviews: "I love to fight." They're going to get their chance on Saturday night, each of them facing as close to a mirror image as possible. Both have left their blood in the ring, and the blood of their opponents. Expect more of it on Saturday night, from both of them.
As Jim Lampley said on The Fight Game, it's foolish to ever predict a Fight of the Year. So many things can go wrong. But it's damn hard to ignore the urge with this matchup. If there has been a must-see fight in boxing in 2012, this is it. There have been bigger and more "important" fights than this one, but nothing has been made that on paper can provide the punishing brutality of Brandon Rios vs Mike Alvarado.
Full Coverage Hub: Donaire-Nishioka / Rios-Alvarado