It’s been said that boxing is different from any other sport on the earth, defined by its sheer brutality and courage. People ‘play’ baseball, people ‘play’ football, and people ‘play’ basketball. Nobody ‘plays’ boxing. Every so often a fight comes along that defines the mettle of the sport (Pryor vs. Arguello, Corrales vs. Castillo, and the Ward vs. Gatti trilogy come to mind) and transcends expectations beyond comprehension. Generations prior have been privy to such battles and come this Saturday, the sport just might be in store for yet one more defining fight when Mike Alvarado (33-0, 23 KOs) and Brandon Rios (30-0-1, 21 KOs) step between the ropes in Carson, California. The fight has fans giddy and those within the boxing community perhaps even more excited. "They're animals, both of them," said Top Rank promoter Bob Arum in reference to Alvarado and Rios, both of whom have yet to taste defeat in their respective professional careers. Though they share that in common, the roads that have led the two fighters to this crossroad are anything but ‘common’.
‘Mile High’ Mike Alvarado, of Denver, Co, isn’t your typical boxing prodigy. In fact, boxing might not even be his best sport. Alvarado was a two time Colorado State Wrestling Champion during his time in high school in the late 90’s. Opting to pick up boxing instead of continuing his wrestling career, Alvarado quickly compiled an impressive amateur record and won his first seven professional bouts by KO or TKO and has carried his power with him through stepping up in competition (23 career Kos) and becoming one of the most feared fighters in the junior welterweight division (140lbs). His exciting, all action style landed him multiple appearances on the undercard of superstar Manny Pacquiao’s bouts. Alvarado has been in his fair share of slugfests, including his most notable fight to date in a dramatic 10th round stoppage of Breidis Prescott last November. Alvarado co-headlined an April card earlier this year with Brandon Rios, both of whom picked up victories over Mauricio Herrera and Richard Abril respectively which would ultimately lead to the two squaring off on Saturday.
The results of the April card no doubt set the plan in motion for the clash awaiting the public on Saturday. Many thought there was no way Top Rank would put two of its prized pupils, Alvarado and Rios, in against each other as is often not the case but here it is. Despite his recent weight issues, Rios is confident that his move up to the junior welterweight division and the extra 5 pounds of wiggle room on the scales will reap dividends come Saturday. “I’m going to be better. Of course the weight when I was at 135, I was killing myself just to make it. Now I’m at 140 and I feel great.” said Rios in a recent interview. “It's going to be one hell of a fight. The fans are going to love it, and I'm going to come out victorious in this one. It is going to be one of those fights that is like Gatti-Ward.”
Sure, everybody who tunes in Saturday will likely come away winners after what has been dubbed by fans and pundits for a likely shoe in as ‘Fight of the Year’ but to the winner of the Rios/Alvarado clash will truly go the spoils. The fight has been labeled as a WBO junior welterweight title eliminator meaning the winner will automatically get a shot at the crown (which is currently vacant) and Top Rank honcho Bob Arum through gasoline on the fights fire when he announced the winner might be in eventual line for a shot at fighting the winner of Manny Pacquiao/Juan Manuel Marquez IV. "If the fight goes the way I think, there will be a lot of excitement and the public will go nuts to see the winner fight the winner of Pacquiao-Marquez" said Arum. “People want action and people are going to get action in Alvarado and Rios, and Manny against either guy is going to be all-action. It’s going to be fun to watch.” added Arum from the Fortune Gym in Hollywood, California during the open media workout.
It’s true, nobody ‘plays’ boxing and neither Mike Alvarado nor Brandon Rios will be playing come Saturday. This is the biggest fight of each fighter’s career and they both know it. Alvarado knows it: “I know after this fight, people will know and will see and I will be talked about. This is the fight I need. “Rios knows it: "He’s pretty much going to have to kill me to get me out of there because I’m not giving up”. Fans aren’t the only ones believing the fight has the potential to go down in folk lore, the combatants do to. "I've been looking for my Gatti-Ward fight, and I think I found it." said Brandon Rios in final preparation for the fight. Let’s hope so. For Rios, for Alvarado, and for our own selfish selves. Hey, it’s not every day you get to see mortal men transform into gods.
Mike Alvarado vs. Brandon Rios will air live on HBO Boxing, October 13th (10 ET/PT)