The trilogy is one of boxing's greatest traditions because they usually pit two well-matched styles that produce compelling, and often unforgettable action. Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano, Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier, Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward, Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield and Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales are only five such trilogies that have made their mark in boxing lore and if their first two fights are any indicator, Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado is poised to comfortably stand with them.
Interestingly, both of their previous matches were staged on neutral turf. The first at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. saw Rios win by seventh round TKO while the rematch, which Alvarado won by unanimous decision, was at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. This time, however, Alvarado will enjoy a decided home ring advantage because "Mile High Mike" will perform in Bloomfield, Colo. Will that help lift Alvarado to sky-high levels or will Rios' fury serve as a neutralizer?
Statistical factors that may shape the outcome include:
The First Two Acts: Their initial meeting in October 2012 was a punch-fest of the highest order. Over six-and-two-thirds rounds Rios averaged 81.4 punches per round but Alvarado more than trumped him by unleashing 117.1 per round -- nearly double the junior welterweight average of 59.9.
Not only did they throw tons of punches, they unloaded tons of firepower. Of Rios' 541 punches, 440 -- or 81.4% -- were power shots while 423 of Alvarado's 779 punches (54.3%) were either hooks, crosses or uppercuts. Although Alvarado edged Rios 175-161 in total connects and 43-17 in landed jabs, Rios inflicted more damage with a 144-132 lead in power connects and by being the more accurate fighter (30%-22% overall, 17%-12% jabs and 33%-31% power).
Alvarado apparently learned he couldn't out-slug Rios from bell-to-bell, for before the rematch in March 2013 he promised to box smarter. He was as good as his word as his long-range tactics helped slow the tempo (71.7 per round for Alvarado to 68.6 for Rios), place Alvarado's jab at the forefront (33.2 thrown/7.0 connects per round), limited the percentage of punches landed (Alvarado led 30%-29% overall, 21.1%-20.9% jabs and 38%-34% power) and helped Alvarado pound out connects leads of 261-241 overall and 84-59 jabs (Rios had a 182-177 edge in power connects). The result was also reversed as Alvarado won a close but unanimous nod (115-113 twice, 114-113).
Rios and Alvarado combined to throw 158 total punches per round in their two fights- 42 more than the wgt. class average. Of their 44 combined punches landed per round, 33 were power shots. (75%)
Since Then: For Alvarado, the Rios win was his last, for the weight-weakened Coloradan lost the WBO junior welterweight belt to Ruslan Provodnikov by 10th round TKO, then dropped a wide decision to 40-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez last May. As for Rios, he lost a lopsided decision to Manny Pacquiao, then was narrowly losing to Diego Chaves in a foul-fest before Chaves committed one too many infractions and was disqualified.
Pacquiao's speed and mobility were too much for Rios, who was making his debut at 147. "The Pac Man" led 281-138 overall, 58-25 jabs and 223-113 power while landing 48% of his power shots. Rios, despite being badly out-boxed, still managed to land 43% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts but his 41.8 punches per round was far below past efforts (107.3 per round vs. Antillon, 91.1 vs. John Murray and the two Alvarado fights). Against Chaves, Rios was better as he and Chaves tied with 126 connects but was the more accurate fighter (36%-28% overall, 27%-20% jabs and 39%-32% power).
Alvarado hasn't fared nearly as well. Against Provodnikov he was out-landed 206-182 overall and 168-137 power and while he landed 46% of his power punches he simply didn't have the pep he needed to keep up against the bull-strong Siberian, who landed 42% of his power punches. He suffered two knockdowns in the eighth and looked totally wrung out when he retired on his stool after round 10.
Against Marquez his chin again failed him in round eight and his only bright moment was a knockdown in the ninth. Otherwise Marquez dominated statistically as he led 278-178 overall, 115-93 jabs and 163-85 power. Marquez landed almost at will on Alvarado as he registered 44% accuracy overall, 34% with his jab and 57% of his power shots. Alvarado fared OK -- 35% overall, 36% jabs and 34% power -- but his output was a mere 42.5 punches per round to Marquez's 52.2. He was nowhere near the same tornado that swallowed up Rios in fight one.
Prediction: On the positive side for Alvarado, he has had eight months to rest from the Marquez fight and he'll feed off the home-ring advantage. But will his best now be enough against Rios, who has also shown signs of being a spent force? Both are nowhere near what they once were, but against each other it will still produce fireworks.
More than most fights, conditioning and ring age will be factors. Whichever man is better in these two categories will come out the winner. The guess here is that Rios has a bit more left in the tank than Alvarado and he's also the kind of guy who will revel in the hostile environment. Those assets will help him win by decision.