Unbeaten contender Mike Alvarado (33-0, 23 KOs) will face former lightweight champion Brandon Rios (30-0-1, 22 KOs) on Saturday night at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., on the Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka undercard (HBO, 10 ET/PT).
Alvarado, a 32-year-old from Denver, came from behind to score a dramatic KO victory over former junior welterwight titlist Breidis Prescott in 2011, and then defeated Mauricio Herrera to position himself for better and bigger fights. Now, Alvarado and Rios are headed to a career-defining matchup between two young, undefeated fighters.
We caught up with Alvarado during the final days of his training camp, and here are his thoughts on this upcoming bout.
How was the training for this fight?
I am just preparing the way I always do. My strength and conditioning are good, my boxing skills are even better, and I am ready for this fight 100 percent. I've been doing everything I need to do as far as my weight, and all the other things that I need to do for this fight are on schedule. I am ready.
You'll have the natural weight advantage in this fight. How are you planning to translate that into an advantage for you?
I feel it is a little bit of an advantage for me. Brandon has had a hard time to make that weight [135 pounds], he is a big kid, so it's hard for him to keep his weight down. He is a natural 140-, 147-pounder, so it's hard for him to get down. Hopefully he is doing good on his weight and he is ready to make that weight, but I am comfortable and this could be an advantage for me, because I am used to this weight. I've been experimenting, I've been fighting at this weight for quite some time, so I am used to it.
Do you believe your resilience will be a key factor for you to drag this fight into the latter rounds and give you a chance to score an epic victory like you did against Prescott?
I think this fight will help me out to build up my fan base and help me build my name a little bit more as far as my fans and making my name bigger in boxing, and it will catapult me. The winner of this fight is obviously going to get a shot at a world title in this junior welterweight division, so it's a big step for both of us. It's all going to come down to who wants it more in this fight.
You had problems against pressure fighters like Prescott who throw lots of punches, and Rios throws dozens of punches. Is his punch rate a concern for you?
The timing was different for that [Prescott] fight, and they are both completely different types of fighters. I believe Prescott boxed me more than actually come forward to me. Brandon is a lot smaller, not as long and not as tall, so it's a little bit of a disadvantage between them two in terms of styles and types of fighters. But I am ready for Brandon, my boxing skills are superb, better than they've ever been, so I am ready for any kind of fight it turns out to be: inside fight, boxing match, whatever, I am ready for whatever he can bring.
Rios is a fighter who likes the infighting and has a tendency to lead with the head, too. Are you worried, being that you are prone to cuts?
We'll make some adjustments. I guess he'll try to fight his fight, and I can fight inside all night long. But why would I do that when I can step around and use my jab to keep him out of range and box him? We'll see what happens, but you never know until you get in the ring what type of fight it's going to be. I know he likes to come in with his head and to come straight forward a lot, so I am going to be real safe. I am going to be smart, I am going to fight a really smart fight. Move my head, stay away from his head, stay outside and make him walk into punches. I am the bigger fighter, so I have to control him in the fight, all the time. I am stronger, I am bigger and I am going to be on my weight, so it's going to be a one-sided fight. I am taking full control of this fight.
We already walked through the negative aspects of Brandon Rios as a fighter. But what virtues do you see in him?
He is a tough fighter, he is a warrior and he is skilled. He is not going to be easy at all. He's putting his whole life on the line, too, so he's going to let it all out. He's got something to prove, and he's going to come out at his best. I want him to come out at his best. I want no excuses at all at the end of this fight. I have nothing but respect for him, we're cool with each other outside the ring, but we gotta handle our business as this fight goes in the ring.
Tell me about the 140 pound division, which is undergoing major changes. With the departure of Khan and Ortiz and Maidana, and the arrival of J. Lopez and Matthysse, where do you see yourself in the division?
There are a lot of good fighters! I mean, right now I'd be in the mix with all of them top fighters. I am undefeated, I am ranked No. 1 in the WBO, I am going to win this world title in the WBO at 140, and I will be in the mix. There are a lot of good champions, it's a very competitive division, and we'll see what happens. I am ready for any one of those top fighters. We'll see.
Juan Manuel Marquez is still going strong at the top, but Danny Garcia is right next to it. If you had to choose one of them for a mega-fight and the bragging rights in the division, who would it be?
I want to fight all of them! I want to fight whoever has a world title belt in my division. That's who I want to go after. I want my big money fight, and I think I have a shot at any of those titles, so whoever is ranked No. 1 is the one I want to fight.
Finally, how do you envision the fight against Rios in your mind?
I don't see this fight going the distance. I am ready to fight for the whole 12 rounds, but I don't see it going the distance. We're both going to put our hearts into it, and it's going to be a good fight, we're going to go straight to a war. We're going to go at it, and may the best man win.