CARSON, Calif. – The fight lived up to its billing, which is little consolation to Mike Alvarado.
Alvarado and Brandon Rios waged war for six-plus rounds in a matchup of undefeated brawlers everyone knew would be fun to watch, giving the fans at the Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka show their money’s worth before the main event even started Saturday at the Home Depot Center.
Someone had to crack, it seemed. That someone turned out to be Alvarado.
And it was one punch that turned the tide, an overhand right mid-way through the seventh round that rocked Alvarado. Rios, smelling blood, followed with several more big shots as a dazed Alvarado leaned against the ropes, prompting referee Pat Russell to end matters at 1:57.
Some will argue that the stoppage was premature but, without question, Alvarado was hurt badly when Russell waved his arms.
“I had him hurt,” said Rios, who was fighting at 140 pounds for the first time. “It took me a while to get him out of there, but I have power and I brought it up to 140. And I can take it up to 147. I have power, it just takes a little longer.”
It didn’t look as if it would happen at all to many at ringside.
The fight was everything the fans expected it to be, a whirlwind of nonstop action that saw both fighters give and take eye-catching punches from all angles. They combined to throw 1,320 punches in only half a fight, a remarkable sum.
However, Alvarado (33-1, 23 knockouts) appeared to be winning until he met his demise, at least in the eyes of many on press row. He seemed to outwork Rios (31-0-1, 22 KOs) for most of the fight and landed the more-obvious punches, taking advantage of Rios’ suspect defense.
Although you wouldn’t have known that based on the reaction of the pro-Rios crowd, which cheered vociferously any time their man did anything and chanted “RIOS! RIOS! RIOS!” at several junctures.
For what it’s worth, Alvarado landed slightly more punches (175 to 161) but threw many more (779 to 541). And somehow the judges had it even — 57-57 on two cards, 58-56 for Rios on the third.
None of that mattered once Rios landed that big right, though. He hurt Alvarado badly with one shot and then proved again that he knows how to finish the job, landing at least three more punishing blows to score a spectacular knockout.
Some at ringside grumbled that the fight was stopped too soon. Alvarado said he was surprised at the stoppage but didn’t complain too passionately.
“He shook me up a little bit, but I thought that it was stopped a little to early,” he said. “I could have kept going, and I would have gotten my head back into it and fought through it. I was surprised [about the stoppage]. It was only a couple of shots.”
Russell defended his decision in a post-fight interview.
“You’ve got to show me something when you in there defenseless,” he said of Alvarado. “I thought that he was defenseless, and I didn’t want to see him get hurt. So I stopped the fight. … I don’t think there’s a fan out there, and there’s not a referee that I know, that wants to see a fighter get permanently hurt.
“I want to take them out in deep waters, but I do not want to drown them.”
Rios is proving to be a survivor. He stopped Miguel Acosta in a fight he was losing. He squeaked past Richard Abril in a fight many thought he lost. And he stopped Alvarado when things didn’t appear to be going particularly well.
The bottom line is that he wins, usually in an entertaining manner. That can pay big dividends.
The resident of Oxnard, Calif., could be in line to fight the winner of the Dec. 8 Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez fight, which for Rios would be the windfall every fighter dreams of.
Then there’s the possibility of a rematch with Alvarado, which would be warranted but seems unlikely.
“Obviously boxing is a business,” said Bob Arum, the promoter of all the fighters mentioned above. “The possibility of fighting either Pacquiao or Marquez for really bonanza money … how can you take the risk of putting him in with Alvaraez because he may lose?”
Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank