HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Brandon Rios' drubbing of Mike Alvarado and what's next for both fighters.
Highlights from the final chapter in the Rios vs. Alvarado trilogy, where Brandon Rios earned a TKO victory in Mike Alvarado's home state.
Photos: Ed Mullholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
Brandon Rios began fight week by suggesting that, were he to lose to Mike Alvarado in the third fight of their trilogy in Broomfield, Colorado on Saturday night, he would have to seriously consider retiring. He ended it standing on the turnbuckle, pounding his chest and screaming to the ringside media “I’m back! I’m back!” Meanwhile, Alvarado sat slumped on his stool, battered and beaten after three rounds before referee Jay Nady called a halt to the contest prior to the bell sounding to mark the start of the fourth.
Boxing is the cruelest of sports at the best of times, exposing even its most successful practitioners to the kind of punishment that no other athlete would even contemplate having to endure; over the course of a career, the physical and mental beatings of multiple battles can exact a terrible toll, and the determination of all too many fighters to keep seeking that final elusive victory means that far too many careers, however successful at their peak, end in sad defeat. And the flip side to Rios’ dramatic and dominant victory is that Alvarado, a warrior who has never shirked a challenge, found himself booed by his hometown crowd for his capitulation.
Almost as sad as the brutality of his beating was the fact that, though the fight itself was mercifully brief, its denouement was foretold in predictable slow-motion during the bout’s build-up. The fact that Alvarado was arrested for firearms possession at 4:15 a.m. three weeks beforehand, the comments by some fight camp observers that he looked like the shell of a prizefighter during training, the realization that this marked his fifth successive exceptionally tough contest – after two previous bouts with Rios, and one apiece with Juan Manuel Marquez and Ruslan Provodnikov – all combined to create the impression that Alvarado was entering the ring as a dead man walking.
Still, a fighter can only fight the man in front of him, and if Alvarado was either overly-depleted or under-trained – or both – Rios was the epitome of a man who threw punches as if his future depended on them. After a brief period in the opening round when Alvarado, dry and stiff, circled and Rios, lean and hungry, sought to close him down with his jab, Rios soon found his range and raked his opponent with vicious combinations to head and body, each of them punctuated by uppercuts that sliced through Alvarado’s guard. A huge Alvarado right hand missed by a country mile, and Rios went back to bouncing punches off his foe’s head as the round ended.
Sensing that his prey was already mortally wounded, Rios flew across the ring and resumed his attack at the start of the second, unleashing a relentless barrage of punches that Alvarado, with his guard high and his legs stiff, did little to deflect or avoid. By the time six minutes had elapsed on the clock, Alvarado was giving an uncomfortably accurate impression of an unwilling bobblehead as the Rios uppercut found its mark again and again.
The assault was interrupted only by Rios being briefly felled by an Alvarado low blow in round two, and then again by the one-minute rest between the second and third frames. When the third round began, Rios resumed his brutalization. A massive uppercut snapped back Alvarado’s head with extra force, and the Colorado native dropped to his knees for an eight count. He rose to his feet and, to his immense credit, fought back as best he could for the rest of the round, but the end was clearly near and was ultimately made official by Nady after a long conversation with the boxer and his corner team.
CompuBox statistics underlined the one-sided nature of the beating. Alvarado threw just 87 punches and landed only 20, while Rios scored with 120 of 290 and outlanded his opponent in the third and final round by a staggering 52 punches to 4.
Alvarado (34-4, 24 KOs) did not exactly endear himself to the crowd by confessing that he probably had not prepared as well as he could have done. But, he defiantly asserted, “I'm not done yet. At all. I'm far from being at my best. I will be back. I guarantee to everyone in this place. I will be back.” After his performance on Saturday night, that’s far less certain than he might want to believe; but for Rios (33-2-1, 23 KOs), whose previous two outings were a lopsided loss to Manny Pacquiao and an uncomfortable disqualification win over Diego Chaves, this was a career resurgence.
“This could have been the end of my career,” the victor said afterward. “I have a lot of gas left in the tank. This was my best fight ever.” And then he repeated the cry he had let loose at the end of the fight.
Photos: Ed Mullholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
Gilberto 'Zurdo' Ramirez won his HBO debut and remained undefeated in Saturday's co-main event, but while his ten-round decision win over Russia's Maxim Vlasov demonstrated some of the skills and boxing fundamentals that have garnered him high praise, it also highlighted enough weaknesses to suggest the super-middleweight's coronation as Mexico's next big thing can wait awhile yet. Still, as super-middleweight champion and HBO Boxing analyst Andre Ward noted, the grueling fight could prove to be a good learning experience for the young contender, and ultimately of greater value than an early blowout victory might have been.
For the first couple of rounds, Ramirez had some difficulty landing cleanly, given the herky-jerky upper body movement of Vlasov. But by the third round, a relentless body attack had stunted the Russian's elusiveness, and a barrage of ripping left hands threatened to pay early dividends. Ramirez's punches, however, were sufficiently slow and wide that Vlasov began to experience some success with sneaky right hands down the middle. By the end of the bout, the heavily marked left eye of Ramirez was evidence that the Mexican had been in a tough struggle. But ultimately, the strength and variety of the Ramirez attack was too much for Vlasov (30-2, 15 KOs) to overcome, and Ramirez was awarded a unanimous decision with scores of 97-93, 97-93, and 96-94.
"It was a very hard fight," conceded Ramirez, now 31-0 with 24 KOs. "The only difference was my body work. When I throw a combination, I always finish with a shot to the body" – an assertion validated by CompuBox recording him landing 112 power punches to the body, out of 164 total. "It was a great experience and I'm glad I got the win."
By Frank Della Femina
Simply put, 2014 was one hell of a year for Terence Crawford. By year's end, the lightweight champion from Omaha, Nebraska was hearing his name bandied about in discussions about Fighter of the Year, Fight of the Year, and KO of the Year.
Fresh off his November win over Ray Beltran, Crawford says he may be eyeing a return to the ring sometime in the spring. But time away from the ring doesn't necessarily mean time away from the game, which is what brings Crawford to Denver for this weekend's fight between Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios.
"I know it's going to be a very exciting fight," Crawford said while on hand for Friday's fighter weigh-ins. "I fought on the undercard of Alvarado vs. Rios 2, and it was a great, exciting fight. So I was like, 'I want to be there for the third one.'"
"Neither one of them can afford a loss at this point in their career," Crawford continued. "That's why I think it's going to lead to more excitement in the fight, because both of them are going to throw their heart out there and throw it all on the line."
Headed into the first meeting in October 2012 both fighters put their undefeated records on the line in a fight that, in all likelihood, could have been avoided had either man chosen to do so. But they didn't then, nor did they in a 2013 rematch and, subsequently, still haven't decided to steer clear of one another, resulting this weekend's third chapter.
Action is just about the only thing guaranteed in this fight – the winner is very much up in the air. In 2012, Rios bested Alvarado in what the Denver native still considers an early stoppage. One year later, it was Alvarado who boxed his way to victory in a heated exchange that turned into an all-out war.
Crawford lends a bit of his boxing expertise to the mix as he makes his own pick.
"Honestly, I think Rios is going to get the edge in this one," he said. "I just feel like Mike has been in too many wars lately. Too many wars getting hurt with [Ruslan] Provodnikov and [Juan Manuel] Marquez. All those fights are taking a toll on him. I think he's been in more wars in the long run that hurt him."
Nevertheless, Saturday's main event is bound to be an interesting one between two fighters who enter the ring with everything to lose.
"They just go out with a bang," Crawford said. "I'm looking forward to seeing a lot of fireworks in this fight."
Alvarado vs. Rios 3 happens tonight at 9:45 PM ET/PT on HBO Boxing After Dark.
Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios make weight ahead of Saturday's fight on HBO Boxing After Dark.
Photos: Ed Mulholland
By Kieran Mulvaney
Every Friday morning during fight week, the boxers who are appearing on Saturday’s night telecast sit down with the HBO announce team to discuss biographical and background details that Jim Lampley, Max Kellerman and company can bring up or draw upon during the broadcast. On a bright and cool morning just outside Denver, Lampley sat across the table from Mike Alvarado and asked him to describe his relationship with Brandon Rios, whom he is about to face in the third bout of their trilogy.
Lampley noted that Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales fought each other three times and hated each other more and more with each outing; Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward, in contrast, became so close that Ward trained Gatti for his last fight and went to his wedding. It seemed, Lampley posited, that Alvarado and Rios were far more like the latter than the former.
Yes, Alvarado acknowledged, he and Rios were tight. “But I’m not inviting Brandon to my wedding.”
The respect, though, is clear between two men who have shared 19 rounds of hell and who, in a way that only boxers can truly understand, have developed a respect and rapport as a result of the punishment they have meted out to, and absorbed from, one another.
“Yeah, Alvarado is a cool cat,” Rios told Inside HBO Boxing on Wednesday. “We’re like the same person. We’re both screw ups. We’re both fuck ups. When I was [living] in Kansas, I was always in and out of jail. Same with him. He’s always in jail, he’s always in trouble and everything.”
That, it should be pointed out, is meant to be an endorsement from someone who likes Mike Alvarado, but Alvarado’s frequent brushes with the law have been a subplot of the build-up to Saturday’s fight. After he was pulled over by police at 4:15 a.m. on January 3, officers found a gun in the glovebox, and Alvarado – as a convicted felon, legally unable to possess a weapon – was booked on a firearms charge.
Of greater concern than having a handgun in his car is the fact that he was out at 4:15 a.m. three weeks before a big fight; there have been plenty of questions about Alvarado’s dedication to training, as well as how much he has left after a succession of brutal bouts against Rios (twice), Ruslan Provodnikov and Juan Manuel Marquez that have seen him go 1-3 after starting his career 33-0. Rios has also all too often been slovenly in his prefight preparation (although he insists that this time is different), and he too, even at the age of 28, may have seen his best days, thanks largely to the punches he has taken from Alvarado and, in November 2013, Manny Pacquiao.
But both men made weight easily enough on Friday – Rios weighing 146.75 and Alvarado 146.5. Smiling and joking and showing that aforementioned camaraderie, the two men couldn’t even pull off a fake face-off; instead, they shook hands and hugged as they left the stage. When the bell rings on Saturday night, however, they will tear into each other with all the skilled savagery they can muster. What remains to be seen is the amount of reserves either man has in his depleted gas tank after a succession of brutal battles. That question will be answered, one way or the other, on Saturday night.
Mike Alvarado: 146.5 lbs.
Brandon Rios: 146.75 lbs.
Gilberto Ramirez: 170.5 lbs.
Maxim Vlasov: 170 lbs