image: Top Rank

DAMAGE, INC. : Brandon Rios TKO7 Mike Alvarado


They forgot the Catherine Wheel, the strappado, and the whirligig, but Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado took turns torturing each other in medieval ways on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California. Rios emerged as the winner via 7th-round TKO after more than twenty minutes of GBH.

There was a time when the only way to make good living as a prizefighter was to stir the passions of the crowd. If you failed to do that often enough, promoters (who, for the most part, did not have long-term contracts with fighters prior to the late 1970s) would avoid your phone calls or dash across the street if they saw you sauntering down the block. Fighters were legitimate independent contractors back then, freelancers, whose pay was based on tangible results: delirious crowds, worn out turnstiles, ticket stubs stamped “SRO.”

Neither Rios nor Alvarado has any problem causing mass hysteria. And on Saturday night they proved it to a feverish audience of over 7,000. They whipsawed punches in close, lashed out with uppercuts, scored with crosses, hooks, and haymakers, and bared the dark allure behind all legitimate blood sports: the revelation of character and style in the face of adversity.

Although Alvarado, now 33-1 (23), is not the footloose kind, he was nimble enough to dominate on the outside, where he peppered Rios with jabs and flurries. In close, however, things were equal, and the two men assaulted each other without pause. Unable to keep the charging Rios at a distance, Alvarado, 139 ¾, slugged it out at close quarters, thereby negating his own advantages in range and hand speed.

Still, Alvarado looked like he was taking over in the fifth and early in the sixth, when he nailed Rios repeatedly with jarring blows. But Rios, Oxnard, California, finally began to exploit a leak Alvarado was incapable of shoring up: as a rule, “Mile High” keeps his left hand dangling down low by his thigh. If you lack the speed and reflexes of Floyd Mayweather, Jr., or the incredible physical advantages of Thomas Hearns, then this affectation is little more than an amateur flaw allowed to thrive like crabgrass in Versailles. And Rios, 140, finally took advantage of it late in the sixth, dropping a hard right over the top that shook Alvarado to his boots.

After recuperating between rounds, Alvarado, Thornton, Colorado, came out looking to reestablish himself with a torrent of punches. About halfway through the seventh round, however, Rios rattled Alvarado with an overhand right over the low guard. Another right drove Alvarado to the ropes, where Rios unleashed a fusillade of vicious blows. Referee Pat Russell intervened with Alvarado, glassy-eyed against the ropes, in distress. It was the right call. Rios has a legitimate killer instinct to go with his power, and Alvarado, with a serious case of the staggers, was only a punch or two away from possible harm. After what both fighters gave of themselves through six grueling rounds, a gloomy coda was unnecessary. No matter how much damage these two men were willing to inflict on each other, it must never go any further than what can be termed, almost paradoxically, “sporting hurt.”

Since Rios and Alvarado were never spoken of with the Cloister-like reverence given to those who have the misapplied imprimatur of HBO, this fight did not have the usual caterwauling from Fantasy League Pontiffs, whose heavenly standards go far beyond mere notions of competition and fighting spirit. But the rest of us, forced to live in the ordinary world of simple wants, will settle for what is possible. In that case, the traditional mores of prizefighting—rewarding boxers who put the-larger-than-life into what is, after all, a larger-than-life pursuit—are what matter most. It may be hard to keep that in mind when the ritual system of meritocracy has been capsized over the years by a strange premium cable network junta, where caprice and demographics rule with an ironic hand. Celebrating the bland in boxing is like getting the bends in a wading pool: it makes no damn sense whatsoever. For one night, Rios and Alvarado demonstrated everything that makes boxing worth being mesmerized by.

With the dramatic victory, Rios, who improves to 31-0-1 (23), is now set to face the winner of the upcoming Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez bout. Except for his humdrum waltz against Richard Abril a few months ago, “Bam Bam” has built the kind of in-the-ring reputation that deserves rewarding. And how can you tell such a thing? Well, think about that quick pulse again, the sweaty palms, that thick and thickening knot in your heart, now tight as a padlock, that oh so brief aching for havoc.


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Tags: Boxing Brandon Rios Manny Pacquiao Mike Alvarado

  • dennis wise

    Great write up, Carlos. Really impressive work from Rios. On the stool before the seventh you could see that he knew he was falling behind and needed to find another gear.

    • thenonpareil

      Hi Dennis, thank you, buddy. Yes, Rios seemed aware that he had to turn it around. I tend to overrate that kind of stuff because we so often see fighters give in meekly to their destinies (like Chad Dawson) these days. But Rios knew he had Alvarado hurt in the sixth and came out to see if he could finish the job. I never thought too much of Alvarado’s power, but I was surprised that Rios could take all those flush shots and come back. He showed incredible resolve and an amazing chin.

  • Michael Nelson

    Hey CA,

    “For one night, Rios and Alvarado demonstrated everything that makes boxing worth being mesmerized by.” Great stuff. A phenomenal night (I’ve washed the main event from memory), and definitely the best fight I’ve attended.

    Any number of Rios matchups is froth inducing, but as JT suggested afterwards, a Matthysse fight would be insane. I feel guilty even thinking about that level of violence though.

    • thenonpareil

      Hi MN,

      that must have been a hell of a spectacle to witness live. Sheesh. I even heard that The JPF short-circuited his own electric deely boppers during the action…

      Matthysse and Rios would be insane….too bad it will never happen, although I actually believe De La Hoya when he says he would make that match. Arum has other plans, alas, and they will never involve GBP. But the thought does tend to give you shivers….I have to say, I would probably give the edge to Matthysse, who hits harder than Alvarado, and has a varied, imaginative offense. It would be mayhem while it lasted….

  • Jimmy Tobin

    Hi CA, great stuff.

    What I loved most about this fight is that, while undeniably savage, it wasn’t just two guys banging away (which is perfectly acceptable too!). Alvarado worked his right hand into the fight to gain an advantage, and he took control until Rios found a home for his own right. Two crucial adjustments that evidenced the skill underlying the brutality.
    Rios is the better fighter, and he takes and gives a little better too. I’m all for a rematch if it pays these guys what they deserve for irreparably damaging their bodies, but I don’t see Alvarado winning. Like Michael said, I want to see Rios against Matthysse. I know there’s the promotional issue, blah, blah, blah, but the Matthysse that stopped Olusegun might be the only fighter at 140 who can knock Rios out. Marquez could slice him up–but Matthysse is the only dude who can put his ass out. That’s the fight that answers any lingering questions about both guys–and I want answers!!

    • thenonpareil

      Hi JT,

      thank you. I agree with you on your first statement, and I don’t understand this whole Rios-Alvarado-No Skill argument, I really don’t. There were times when Rios was raw and wide open, but he put some thought into what he was doing and certainly it was his ability to execute and exploit that won him the fight. The funny thing about a lot of these “skill” pundits is that they are always lording it over everyone about how only they–THE OMNISCIENT–can see the science, nuances, subtlety, etc. Then they fail to see the very same ingredients shown by Rios and Alvarado. Not surprising, though. As someone who’s seen Pernell Whitaker, Buddy McGirt, Roy Jones, Jr., and Finito Lopez live, I’ll say flat out that the subtleties these people see in Andre Ward, Chad Dawson, etc. are not very subtle at all, if that makes sense.

      I’m with you, re: Matthysse, Rios, JMM. I like Matthysse’s destructive imagination, and if he hits Rios with half as many shots as Alvarado did, then it might be lights out for “Bam Bam.” I’d love–LOVE–to see that fight, and there’s not that much I’d love to see in boxing these days…