By Gavan Casey
“The question is – will their names be hyphenated, the way Ward’s and Gatti’s are; the way Corrales and Castillo are?”
ALVARADO V RIOS III PREVIEW
Max Kellerman posed the question etched on everyone’s lips before both fighters even touched gloves for the first time. Brandon Ríos’ grin as the bell punctuated four rounds of nigh on combustible action in the frenzied Home Depot Center was chillingly illustrative. It portrayed a man who realised his name was about to become inextricably linked to that of his adversary. It was inescapable.
Ríos is a rare breed of warrior who may well take the old boxing cliché, ‘I’ll fight him in his back garden,’ in a literal sense. On Saturday night expect the sprinklers to rain down on him from the raucous stands, as ‘Bam Bam’ travels to the small city of Broomfield – not 17 kilometers northwest of ‘Mile High’ Mike Alvarado’s hometown. For both men, the aim is to apply the rubber stamp on an enthralling boxing rivalry, which currently stands at one win apiece – Ríos by a relatively controversial 5th round stoppage in October 2012, and Alvarado via unanimous decision in another real-life ‘Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em affair under six months later.
But this was always penned as a trilogy.
As the scores were read following their immediate rematch, a defeated but not deflated Ríos raised his hand trident-like in an appeal for an already anticipated third installment. Ultimately, it would be respective setbacks for both fighters against elite-level opposition that would culminate in a return to the impending barbarism of their rubber match almost two years later; Ríos would prove but an immovable heavy bag to Manny Pacquiao, while Alvarado – though managing to floor Pacquaio’s antagonistic equivalent – was outgunned and outclassed by Juan Manuel Marquez in an albeit more entertaining affair.
Perhaps more pertinently, however, the teak-tough Denverite had his heart ‘broken’ for the first time by explosive Russian slugger Ruslan Provodnikov in a one-sided bout sandwiched between his victory over Ríos and defeat to the future Hall of Famer. In failing to answer the bell for the 11th round versus Provodnikov, Alvarado’s near mythical endurance – as seen in both Ríos fights – was tainted, if only slightly.
‘Mile High’ Mike enters his third showdown with the Oxnard native on the back of two straight defeats, and seeking answers against a fighter of Ríos’s machine-like durability at such a critical point in his career is both admirable and dangerous. Brandon Ríos eats punches like they’re his last meal; his dicing at the hands of ‘Pac-Man’ proving him to be arguably the toughest fighter on the planet, if – as was expected – unbelonging of a place in boxing’s highest echelon. The beauty of Alvarado-Ríos III is that both men’s relative pugilistic limitations have, as if by faith, driven them back to the hellish reality of what they know best. War.
It seems fitting that Jim Lampley named Mike Alvarado on his ‘Gatti List’ back in 2012. Not unlike the thunderous Italian’s illustrious saga with ‘Irish’ Micky Ward, Alvarado will for the third time face his teak-tough opponent with no legitimate world belt on the line. The prize for victory will instead be a return to the precipice of title honours, this time at welterweight, with defeat for Alvarado in particular likely resulting in either a descent into boxing purgatory, or even retirement.
Former WBA lightweight champion Ríos enters the bout on the back of a disqualification victory over Diego Chaves – a contest that muddied the sport’s image, but a victory that nonetheless seems impressive in the context of the Argentine’s recent performance against Timothy Bradley. One senses, however, that momentum may become an irrelevance when ‘Bam Bam’ trades leather with his explosive nemesis on Saturday night. A championship level wrestler in high school, 2013’s rematch saw Alvarado better utilise his ability to establish angles between him and Ríos, allowing for more leverage on his shots. It proved crucial in his rebounding with a decision victory.
Both are born sluggers, but Ríos is the less adaptable of the two, and against Pacquiao in particular his plodding demeanor further exposed his susceptibility to clever movement; a shortcoming initially made clear during his hotly disputed victory over Richar Abril in 2012. Let’s not kid ourselves – at 34, Alvarado is unlikely to adopt a Rigondeaux-like approach. But in the midst of what is the nearest thing to a guaranteed boxing war, if ‘Mile High’ Mike can again maintain even a minimal level of movement in the face of an avalanche of concussive punches, the more square-on and flat-footed Ríos will likely find himself on the wrong end of a decision – especially within the cauldronised Colorado atmosphere.
And fear not – should Alvarado begin to skip around the ring in an attempt to establish his jab, the magnetism within the paradigm of what looks set to become a famed trilogy will surely haul both men into a typically vicious exchange before long.
The Godfather Part III was pretty good in its own right, and with Mike Alvarado and Brandon Ríos, its boxing equivalent – in entertainment terms – seems a worst case scenario.
Official Prediction: Mike Alvarado via unanimous decision.
Let us know your predictions in the comments section below! Gavan can be contacted on Twitter: @GavanCasey or at [email protected]
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