There wasn't much not to like when Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado met for the first time in October. Though the instant rematch has been criticised in some quarters by those who'd have preferred either to explore different options, the truth of the matter is that, if the second fight is anything like as good the first, it won't have come a moment too soon.
A stoppage win - after six-and-a-half rounds of otherwise seemingly interminable back-and-forth infighting - for the first fight's betting favourite, means that there's no surprise when it comes to who the layers are keeping onside this Saturday night.
Rios ended up going off at around the -162, -200, type mark for that first contest. While the stoppage can be disputed as being at least marginally too early, it was nonetheless a terrific performance from the Oxnard man, and one reflected in his quotes this time round. The opening line on Rios looked off the mark though, and as the market's formed, there's a much more competitive - perhaps realistic - look about his price. As a five-to-one (-500) favourite, which the cautious early price told us he was (Alvarado a +330 underdog), in other words that particular bookmaker made a second successive Rios victory 83% likely.
From this viewpoint - and it should be said that it's a viewpoint which ultimately does think that, hell, Rios might just be a little bit better than his opponent after all is said and done - that kind of figure was really doing Alvarado somewhat of a disservice. Six months wouldn't appear to be an adequate timeframe for any real revisionism, yet certainly that -500 was a price that suggests that Rios had it all his own way in the last meeting. Alvarado had a strong claim for, on this card, four of those six completed rounds, and was arguably stopped before he was ready. On second, third, fourth viewing of the fight, it's clear what advantages Alvarado does have over the smaller Rios, and that he had plenty of success in the early part of that fight in making them count.
The question, though, is whether Alvarado can take control of the pace of the fight and really utilise the jab, so effective at times in the last fight, whether he can avoid being drawn into another dogfight at close quarters. The revised market-best quotes of -350 (Rios) and +360 (Alvarado) say no, or at least not decisively enough to get his hand raised at the end of the night. There is an argument to say Rios looks still a little tight at the price, albeit one not quite as compelling.
There are at least a couple of other interesting variables in play here too, though. The fact that referee Tony Weeks has handed been this particular assignment bodes well for a contest that looks likely to replicate the fascinating ebb and flow that made the first instalment so memorable, while there's another consideration in the scheduling of the fight for twelve rounds, as opposed to October's ten. With fighters like Rios and Alvarado standing front-on in the centre of the ring and throwing with the same kind of intent they did first time out, the full distance of the bout may well be a moot point.
It's interesting to note that Rios is the same price just to win by stoppage (-150, but as short as -250) as he was by any method in the first fight, such is the support he's seen in the market. Logic suggests it's the most obvious outcome. It's a price that contrasts starkly with that on Alvarado to win early himself (+800). Given the sheer amount of shots he landed flush on Rios last time, it does - at least initially - look very generous. The problem is, for both Alvarado and his potential backers, is that even his best efforts couldn't dissuade his opponent that night, with Rios displaying his usual masochistic tendencies, happy to eat a right hand or three on his way to landing a bunch of uppercuts of his own.
There may be a touch of a value about the +450 (+300 more widely available) on Rios to win by decision, given the presence of Weeks and the fact that Alvarado may look to at least keep out of harm's way for a few rounds. Another +800 is on offer for Alvarado to pick up the points nod of his own, while for those fancying a war of attrition without ever picking a winner, there's +200 that we go to the scorecards. It's +3300 the draw.
Also this weekend:
Tony Bellew (-200) vs. Isaac Chilemba (+250)
Gennady Golovkin (-3300) vs. Nobuhiro Ishida (+1400)
Anthony Crolla (-110) vs. Derry Mathews (+120)