Rios-Alvarado an all-time brawl?
Expectations run high for an electric action fight between known traders
Every now and then, a fight is made where even though folks have divergent opinions on who will win, there is one thing most everyone agrees on: that the bout in question will be a great fight.
That was the overwhelming feeling from fans and media in 2005, when Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo met to unify lightweight titles. Both men added to the anticipation by the way they spoke before the fight.
Rafael's Boxing Blog
Get the latest scoop and analysis on the world of boxing from ESPN.com's Dan Rafael in his blog.
"This fight will be like two buffaloes colliding," Castillo promised.
"On paper, this has the potential to be as exciting a fight as you will see," Corrales said. "I definitely feel that at some point it will be bombs away. ... I really do not see how it can go the distance with each of us dropping bombs on each other in the middle of the ring. I love these kinds of fights."
Sure enough, they delivered an all-time classic -- which Corrales won by an improbable comeback knockout in the 10th round -- that many view as the best action fight in boxing history.
There were similar feelings before the Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward and Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales fights, which also delivered the expected heavy action and excitement throughout their trilogies.
And now we have another fight that has elicited similar giddiness from fans: the scheduled 10-round junior welterweight showdown between all-action brawlers Mike Alvarado (33-0, 23 KOs) and former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios (30-0-1, 21 KOs), who meet in an HBO co-feature on Saturday night (10 ET/PT) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Two-belt junior featherweight titlist Nonito Donaire (29-1, 18 KOs) will defend against former titleholder Toshiaki Nishioka (39-4-3, 24 KOs), who is unbeaten over the past eight years, in a high-level main event, but it's the undercard fight that has drawn the most attention.
The reason is simple: It is universally expected to be a competitive bout that produces tremendous action and excitement.
"They're animals, both of them," Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. "That's the truth. I mean it in a good sense. Most fighters can't gear up for that type of physical punishment, receiving and giving. Some thrive on it. It's not something you can teach, but I think these guys have that in them."
Arum said he remembers sitting with his staff talking over possible fights when the prospect of Alvarado-Rios was raised.
"We all got together, we talked about the fight and everybody said, 'Oh, s---! If it gets made, it will be an unbelievable fight,'" Arum said. "The question was, could it be made? With Alvarado, there was no issue. Rios wanted the fight, too, but we had to convince [Rios' manager] Cameron [Dunkin]. But we sat at that staff meeting talking about the fight and said, 'Oooh, what a bloodbath!'
"We should just enjoy it. Just root for it to be a great fight. That's what I will do. If it's a great fight, there is no loser. We could build to an even bigger fight, make it a trilogy like Gatti-Ward, but with a pay-per-view audience."
I've been looking for my Gatti-Ward fight, and I think I found it.” -- Brandon Rios, on Saturday's bout with Mike Alvarado
Arum also said that if there was no rematch, he would consider matching the Rios-Alvarado winner with the winner of the Dec. 8 fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez.
"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," Arum said. "People want to see real fights. I always think, 'Who could be a good opponent for Pacquiao or Marquez, you know, besides a [Floyd] Mayweather fight, for Manny?' and it hit me [Wednesday]. I said, 'My god, they are standing right in front of me.' If the fight on Saturday lives up to the billing, why not?"
Rios knows there are heavy expectations for action and also invoked the hallowed Gatti-Ward trilogy at his media workout on Wednesday.
"I've been looking for my Gatti-Ward fight, and I think I found it," Rios said.
Maybe it's unfair to heap those kinds of expectations on a fight, but that's the kind of fight many expect. No less than Mr. Action himself, Ward, said the matchup lends itself to an all-out brawl.
"I think with these two guys it's possible, because they have that kind of style," Ward told ESPN.com. "Neither of these guys really wants to ever give in. They both come to fight. They both want to win. They both just let it all hang out and don't hold nothing back. They go all out every round. So I believe it can be a great fight."
Alvarado and Rios both have already been in multiple action-packed fights, so a high-contact slugfest is nothing new to either of them.
Alvarado's past two fights have been extremely violent and stole the show, despite being on the undercard of pay-per-view events. In November, Alvarado, 32, of Denver, was trailing and a bloody wreck from cuts when he rallied to knock out Breidis Prescott in the 10th (and final) round of what had been an intense fight.
In April, Alvarado outpointed Mauricio Herrera in an all-out slugfest that is one of the leading candidates for fight of the year.
Like everyone, Alvarado figures the fight with Rios will be a barnburner.
"It's going to be a very entertaining fight for the people," Alvarado said. "I am going to get in there and do what I do, and that's fight 'til the finish. I know it's going to be a great, thrilling, nonstop action fight. And I can't wait. I know that this is going to be a tough fight and I know I am prepared for it and confident."
Said Henry Delgado, Alvarado's trainer and manager: "I think Mike makes the fights tougher than they are. He is a gladiator. He is a warrior. And he has a lot of skills that we haven't even seen yet. For this fight, we have a different kind of game plan going. We are going to try and stick to our game plan, but like I said, the warrior always comes out."
Rios, 26, of Oxnard, Calif., is officially moving into the junior welterweight division after failing to make weight for his past two fights, which cost him his 135-pound world title and some of his reputation. In his most recent fight, a split decision win against Richard Abril in April, in the main event of the card Alvarado-Herrera was on, Rios was lethargic. Most observers thought he clearly lost.
ESPN.com Boxing on Twitter
Don't miss any of our wall-to-wall boxing coverage, including live analysis of Saturday's fights. Join »
Still, even with that poor performance fresh in the minds of many, Rios has been in his share of action-packed fights, including all three of his 2011 appearances: his world title win against Miguel Acosta, his shootout with Urbano Antillon and a fight with John Murray, despite Rios' failure to make weight.
Rios said he feels good in his new division, and he expects another fight that fans will remember.
"In my last two fights, I knew it was starting to get hard [to make 135]," Rios said. "I felt good in the fights, but the weight was starting to get harder. I put that behind me and now I am ready for a new division. This is going to be a tough fight. Alvarado is tough. Our styles are similar. He likes to come forward and I like to come forward. I don't like to play a chess game. I like to go in and handle business, and he likes to do that, too. It's going to be one helluva 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.
"The fight I see is, we both come forward and I strike him and it is a bloody massacre of a fight. It's going to be one of those fights that people are going to be on their feet the whole time. I told [my trainer] Robert [Garcia], since I started boxing I have been waiting for that type of fight and I hope this is that fight."
So does everybody else.
MORE BOXING HEADLINES
- Neurosurgeon: Abdusalamov won't fight again
- 'Ring of Gold' card set for Feb. 22 in Macau
- V. Klitschko vacates WBC heavyweight belt
- Peterson set to face Jean in January defense