- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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CARSON, Calif. -- From the moment the junior welterweight fight between Mike Alvarado and former lightweight titlist Brandon Rios was made, nearly everybody with a clue about boxing thought it would be a great one.
How could it not be? They love to slug, both have good chins and both have a fierce determination to win.
And guess what? It was a tremendous action fight, clearly one of the best of the year, as though it was made to order.
It was a pulsating action fight from the opening bell, but Rios gained the advantage and unloaded a flurry of shots to hurt Alvarado along the ropes and stop him in the seventh round on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center on the undercard of the Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka junior featherweight championship fight.
As good of a match as Donaire-Nishioka appeared to be on paper, most of the attention for the card was paid to Rios and Alvarado, and for good reason.
They delivered exactly what was expected in a closely contested fight all the way. Going into the seventh round, two judges had it 57-57 and the other had it 58-56 for Rios.
"Maybe the referee could have given it a little more time because [Alvarado] is a warrior," Rios said. "But that's the referee's job.
"I think it could have gone a little longer, a little more. But he tested my chin. I'm a warrior, too. I go forward. I keep doing my game."
Said a disappointed Alvarado: "He shook me up, but I think it was stopped a little too early. I was surprised about it. I was hurt, but I could have kept fighting."
Referee Pat Russell, when asked about the stoppage, said: "It was clear. I gave him opportunities. I thought he was defenseless and I didn't want to see him get hurt."
Neither man had much of an advantage as they fought toe-to-toe for most of the fight.
They combined to throw 190 punches in the first round and never let up.
They rocked each other repeatedly. There was a left hook from Rios that badly shook Alvarado at the end of the second round. By the fourth round, Alvarado's face was swelling.
The fifth round was a round of the year candidate. Alvarado looked like he had Rios in trouble early, rocking him with a right hand and sending his head wobbling all over the place. He hurt Rios (31-0-1, 22 KOs), 26, of Oxnard, Calif., with an uppercut, and he looked like he might knock him down. But Rios rallied over the final 30 seconds, landing his own big shots as the crowd went wild.
Both were hurt at different points in the sixth and seventh before Rios landed a flurry, including a right hand that sent Alvarado (33-1, 23 KOs), 32, of Denver, staggering into the ropes. A few shots later Russell jumped in to stop it at 1 minute, 57 seconds.
"It all comes down to conditioning, I don't f--- around in the ring. I come to fight," Rios said.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum suggested a few days before the fight that the winner could get a shot at the winner of the Dec. 8 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fourth fight.
Count Rios in for that.
"I have power. It followed me up to 140 and it will follow me up to 147," he said. "See what happened to Mike Alvarado? I think Mike Alvarado hits harder than them."
But there is also the prospect of a rematch with Alvarado, which surely would be another action fight.
"You want it?" Rios asked the crowd. "You can get it. Let's do it again."
Scare for Benavidez
Blue-chip junior welterweight prospect Jose Benavidez Jr. (17-0, 13 KOs), 20, of Phoenix, a former amateur standout and one of Top Rank's most heralded up-and-coming fighters, survived a major scare in the final round of his otherwise lopsided eight-round decision victory against Pavel Miranda (19-8-1, 10 KOs) of Mexico.
Benavidez was in total command of the fight, swelling Miranda's face with repeated stiff left jabs. Each round went the same as the previous one -- with Benavidez pitching and Miranda catching. But in the eighth, Miranda caught Benavidez with a hard left hook that badly staggered him. Miranda tried to follow up, and Benavidez had to hang on for dear life before he tumbled to the canvas, which was ruled a slip. He was fortunate that there wasn't much time left in the round, making it to the final bell and winning 79-73 on all three scorecards.
• Featherweights Evgeny Gradavich (14-0, 7 KOs), known as "The Mexican Russian," and Jose Angel Beranza (35-25-2, 27 KOs) of Mexico turned in a fan-friendly slugfest, but it was Gradavich who won the lopsided decision. The judges had it 80-72, 79-73, 79-73 for Gradavich, who was busier and controlled the action throughout the bout while Beranza, a journeyman, took a lot of shots and returned enough fire to make it a fun fight.
• Lightweights Jose Roman (14-0-1, 11 KOs) and Javier Garcia (8-2-2, 7 KOs) battled toe-to-toe for three rounds of hellacious action, but the fight was short-circuited and ruled a three-round technical draw. Referee Pat Russell, on advice from the ringside doctor, called it off after the third round due to the cut that Garcia, of Oxnard, Calif., suffered over his left eye on an accidental head-butt.
The fight was an all-out slugfest from the opening bell. Garcia dropped Roman, of Garden Grove, Calif., during a high-contact first round. After Roman hit the mat, Garcia stood over him and yelled at the fallen fighter, with whom he has feuded. Roman returned the favor, scoring a huge knockdown with a flush left hook-right hand combination in the second round. When the fight continued, the crowd roared as Roman went for the knockout, with Garcia wobbly but hanging on. It was more of the same in the third round, but the cut worsened to force the stoppage.
• Light heavyweight prospect Trevor McCumby (7-0, 7 KOs) of Chicago obliterated Eliseo Durazo (4-4, 1 KO) of Mexico in a first-round knockout victory. McCumby hammered Durazo at will, dropping him twice with powerful shots. After the second knockdown, on a flurry of blows, referee Wayne Hedgepeth immediately stopped it at 1 minute, 40 seconds.
• Super middleweight Ronald Ellis (4-0, 3 KOs) of Miami easily outboxed Denver's Katrell Straus (2-3, 1 KO) to win a shutout four-round decision. The three judges each scored the fight 40-36.
• Junior lightweight Saul Rodriguez (6-0-1, 5 KOs) of Riverside, Calif., and Cesar Garcia (6-12-1, 1 KO) of Mexico battled to a three-round technical draw. Although Rodriguez was taking it to Garcia and clearly winning, the fight was stopped after the third round on the advice of the ringside doctor, who deemed Garcia unable to continue because of a swollen right eye suffered on an accidental head clash in the third round. The crowd was treated to toe-to-toe action throughout the bout, but Rodriguez, trained by Robert Garcia, clearly was getting the better of it as he winged shots and connected with abandon. After the clash of heads, he continued to pound Garcia for the rest of the round and had him in retreat.