By Derek Bonnett
Brandon Rios’ unbeaten record held diminished value after the boxing world watched him box lethargically against Richard Abril last April in a bout most observers felt he lost lopsidedly. Rios won an unpopular decision and quickly announced his long anticipated move to 140-pounds. Even though Rios, 26, remained unbeaten, the tough-man from Oxnard, California was placed in a position where he needed to seek redemption against a world class opponent to make his fans forget his bad moments against Abril. Mike Alvarado, a free-swinging slugger whose stock has steadily risen as he proved his entertainment value in the sport against Breidis Prescott and Mauricio Herrera, held a legitimately undefeated record in his professional campaign, but fittingly fell into the role of the underdog for their clash at the Home Depot Center in Carson.
Many experts predicted a fight of the year candidate in the mold of Gatti-Ward I. This writer saw something special as well, but predicted something more in the dimension of Ruelas-Gatti, which achieved the same honor. In terms of similarity, I think I was the more accurate in my pick as the favored fighter fell behind early and was forced to conjure a victory pushing even his insurmountable will to its limits. That fighter being Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios.
Boxing fans are familiar with phone booth warfare, but the Alvarado-Rios bout could have been contested in a picnic basket. The first six minutes set the tone of the evening as the fighters fought on near even terms administering a give and take assault worthy of round of the year honors twice over. After two rounds, my SecondsOut scorecard had the fight even 20-20 with both rounds even! Alvarado, 32, boxed more steadily behind his jab, but landed well with his power-shots. Rios bypassed the set-up shots and waded straight in for an inside attack to the body and head. Both fighters had their heads turned, but neither asserted his will over the other.
Alvarado began to create some distance on the scorecards and inside of the ropes in the third. His boxing improved as he continued to use an educated jab and control more of the round on the outside. Make no mistake, Alvarado still used the jab as a set-up for his bombs. This game adjustment allowed him to pulled ahead of Rios in punch connects by a margin of 75 to 49 after three rounds. The fourth round resembled the first two as Rios edged himself back into near even effectiveness with his punching. His set-up though was his use of his chin as defense to work his way inside on Alvarado. Exciting? Yes. However, after four, Alvarado went up 40-38 on SecondsOut’s tally.
The fifth looked like a bad round for Rios as Alvarado snapped his head back four times with consecutive power shots. Bam Bam never relented or looked unsteady on his feet and, in retrospect, this might have been where the tide turned in favor of Rios in spite of losing the round. Rios began the sixth round with greater confidence and "veto stamped" everything Alvarado had to offer with a barrage of wild shots, some landing, some not. In the closing seconds of the round Alvarado was stopped in his tracks, if not stunned.
The end came at 1:57 of the seventh round as an energized Rios waded in for war, rocking Alvarado with an onslaught of short punches. Alvarado never went down and kept his hands ready for cover, but referee Pat Russell had seen enough and stopped the contest without much protest throughout the arena. Rios enhanced his ring credentials to 31-0-1 (23). Alvarado tasted of defeat for the first time and dipped to 33-1 (23).
Amid numerous expletives, Rios acknowledge that a rematch was certainly an interest of his as long as the fans and promotional companies were interested. Redemption was certainly Rios’ as he stepped up in weight to score a KO in 2012’s most grueling battle.
For further boxing discussion, contact Derek DBO Bonnett on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.