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