Classic battle sees Alvarado even the score in upset win over Rios
Ringside report and photos byChris Cozzone
War can be so ugly, it's beautiful.
Ask any boxing fan who watched last night's epic, and, for once, you won't hear about snoozefests or robberies, politics or the UFC. You'll hear about blood and guts warfare and the names of two youngsters who just may keep the sport going once the obvious elders have called it a day.
You'll also hear satisfaction.
Bypassing both last year's original epic and the recent Bradley-Provodnikov war, Saturday night's rematch between Mike "Mile High" Alvarado and Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios was a classic battle that will leave fight fans remembering 2013 as the year they began mumbling, "Manny who? 'Money' what?"
In an insanely incessant seesaw struggle, Alvarado's box-&-batter blueprint for vengeance and victory edged the relentless, rock-domed Rios. Capping Top Rank's marathon snoozefest of overmatched undercard bouts and a sleepy co-main, Rios-Alvarado II not only jerked awake the 7,655 fight fans in attendance at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay, but kept them roused and riveted for 12 heart-rending, gut-wrenching rounds.
Rios didn't believe Alvarado could do anything differently this time around. To Rios – and everyone else, minus "Mile-High's" camp – the challenger who was stopped in seven rounds the first time, stuck to a solid plan that pulled off a unanimous-but-close decision.
It didn't take long for the war to start – approximately half a round. With Rios cutting off the ring and pushing the fight, Alvarado ceased his dancing to trade with his victor, sending the crowd into a seemingly ceaseless cheer. The fight was on.
Mixing boxing with, well, just plain mixing, Alvarado, already with a cut over his right eye, put his plan into action – that is, until the second round when Rios blasted him with a left that sent his pins spinning. Nearly down twice in the second, Alvarado somehow managed to stay upright, proving that, if nothing else, major adjustments in the matter of survival had been learned from the year before. Rebounding off a near knockdown, Alvarado, already clearly marked, dropped his hands and barked something at Rios to, c'mon, bring it on.
In fact, Rios never stopped. A brick in each hand wouldn't have stopped Rios from advancing. When Alvarado came out in the third, his limbs no longer swaying in the wind, he battered back at "Bam Bam," who was slightly stunned from a big right. Shaking his head and grinning, Rios moved ever forward, trying to draw his prey into a phone booth.
With a cheering Mike Tyson bouncing up and down from his front row seat, mirroring the up-and-down action between the combatants, the fourth frame saw Alvarado switching between orthodox to southpaw, while increasing movement, all the while Rios landing the heavier, though fewer punches.
Big overhand rights in the fifth saw momentum back in Rios' corner. In the sixth, Rios suckered his prey into center ring to brawl with Alvarado, who was able to return to jabbing by the round's end. In the seventh, the Denverite returned to boxing, though the wear and tear brought on by Rios did not mark this fight as a distance one. In fact, rumors that Alvarado had been in a bar fight and had received 30 stitches appeared true, for the right side of his face looked like it had been sandblasted.
There was no quarter in Rios and no quit in Alvarado, however, in the second half of the fight.
Rios was rocked several times in the eighth as Alvarado set a pattern, boxing and moving, surviving any surprise blows and all the while, giving the fans what they wanted by not shying away from battering back at the bruiser who'd beaten him the year before.
The two warriors acknowledged each other with a touch of gloves to start the ninth, before instantly reengaging in their give-and-take affair. Beating the odds and proving most of the ringbirds wrong, Alvarado pulled ahead in the final three rounds, not only landing the stronger, harder shots, which were beginning to show their effect on Rios, but wisely alternating his brawling with movement that kept Rios out of harm's way.
The twelfth and final round saw Alvarado shuffling around the ring, a la De La Hoya vs. Trinidad, but, in the final 30 seconds, leaping into the alleyway to end the fight with bloodcurdling exchanges.
Expressions told the tale. Though both combatants raised their gloves with the final bell, Rios' hands – and face – drooped as he walked around the ring, all the while Alvarado was raised high by an exuberant corner who clearly called their man winner.
The judges agreed. Two judges scored it 115-113 and the third, 114-113. Fightnews was in agreement, 115-113, giving the fight to Alvarado by unanimous decision.
Rios moved to his corner to incite his fans to protest.
"F--- this s--," Rios shook his head. "This is bullsh--. F--- this f—kin' sh--!"
As quickly as his protests came a sudden urge for Rios to demand a rematch.
"Trilogy!" he shouted, plunging three fingers into the air. "I gave him one! I want a f—king rematch! I gave him one! I want one now! Trilogy, baby!"
"I did what I had to do to win this fight," said Alvarado, now the new WBO interim champ at 140. "It was that movement I was talking about. That focus. It was the game plan and strategic ways we had in camp, I had to capitalize on.
"I'm always better the second time around."
With both camps braced for a postfight bawl, Rios leapt off his perch in his corner where he'd been sulking, to break up an interview HBO had with Alvarado.
"I gave you a rematch!" he screamed at Alvarado. "Let's do it!"
The two launched into a feisty verbal 13th round, Alvarado agreeing to bring it on again. "I got no problem, I got no problem," he jabbed back at Rios.
In the end, there was really no arguing, for both agreed they were warriors and that, yes, a rubber match was the way to go.
"Brandon gave me a shot to redeem myself, so I'll give him a shot for a trilogy," said Alvarado.
The two did disagree on a location, however, at least initially.
"We got to take it home again," said Rios, intimating a West Coast site.
"I'm taking this title home, so we got to do this in the Mile High City," countered Alvarado.
"Respect, respect – I'll go to your backyard," shrugged Rios. "I ain't scared, dog, you know how I roll."
Bob Arum was open to the idea of a rematch, though not right away.
"I did this rematch because these guys are crazy and that's what they want to do," he explained at the postfight presser. "They'll fight again, but it doesn't necessarily have to be the next fight.
Neither victor nor vanquished were present at the presser. Both fighters were taken to a Las Vegas hospital for precautionary CT scans.
With the biggest win of his career, Alvarado will return to Denver with a record of 34-1, 23 Kos. Rios, on the other hand, suffering his first defeat, falls to 31-1-1, 22 KOs.
Crawford outboxes Prescott in co-main
In the co-main event, unbeaten jr. welterweight Terence Crawford (20-0, 15 KOs) outpopped and outclassed former Amir Khan-conqueror Breidis Prescott (27-4, 20 KOs) over ten tedious rounds.
Though Prescott was the bigger man with, it was thought, the bigger punch, Crawford's speed and movement had him plodding after his prey with little luck. Ignoring the boos of the crowd, Crawford's concentration never faltered and, as the fight went on, his popping pot shots began to get to his Colombian foe.
At the end of ten, all three judges saw it for Crawford, with scorecards ranging from 97-93 to 99-91 to a shutout.
Seven prelim bouts saw house fighters matched up poorly against guys chosen to supply the win – in all but one bout, that is, where an ill-equipped heavyweight had to actually get off the canvas to earn his win.
Unbeaten super featherweight Miguel Berchelt (17-0, 14 KOs) pummeled Carlos Claudio (15-10-3, 8 KOs) until referee Kenny Bayless called off the slaughter at the 1:53 mark.
Unbeaten U.S. Olympian jr welterweight Jose Ramirez (2-0, 2 KOs) needed just 66 seconds to annihilate Charles Dubray (1-1, 1 KO). Dubray went down twice and a left hook to the body ended it.
Unbeaten super welterweight Michael Finney (11-0, 9 KOs) scored a brutal fifth round knockout over Osvaldo Rojas (7-3-2, 2 KOs). A left hook to the body caved Rojas at 1:49.
Unbeaten super bantamweight Tremaine Williams (6-0, 2 KOs) outpointed John Herrera (4-6-1, 2 KOs) over four by scores of 40-36.
Unbeaten heavyweight and former UNLV collegiate boxer Brett Rather (3-0, 0 KOs) recovered from a first round knockdown to defeat Juan Guajardo (2-1, 1 KO) with scores of 38-37 on all three cards.
Unbeaten welterweight Juan Heraldez (5-0, 4 KOs) dropped Roberto Lopez (4-5-2, 1 KO) in round two, but was forced to go the distance for the first time in his career. Scores were 40-35 on all cards.
Unbeaten super lightweight Manuel Lopez (2-0, 2 KOs) scored a second round TKO over Jason Tresvan (0-2). Time was 2:06.