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Azad Championship Report - Alvarado vs. Rios II: Alvarado Gets Redemption; Everybody Wins

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

There is nothing more humbling than watching two prizefighters, each with iron will and fists of steel, hammer away round after spectacular round. Each bends the other while buckling under the pressure and pounding in turn. Great chemistry leads to terrific ebb-and-flow and this past Saturday night, “Mile High” Mike Alvarado, 34-1 (23), and Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, 31-1-1, (23), displayed exactly that for the second time in a row at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada. In hard-fought fashion, Alvarado avenged his first career loss at the hands of Rios, returning the favor by scores of 115-113 (twice) and 114-113 for a unanimous decision victory and the WBO interim 140-pound title. While fight fans will have to wait for interim matches before they get Alvarado-Rios III, the memories they have for the moment will do nicely.
The memorable second round, one in which Top Rank’s Bob Arum said was the best he’d seen since the epic first frame of Marvin Hagler-Thomas Hearns (he’s a promoter, folks; relax. Hyperbole is the name of Arum’s game), may not have been that but it certainly set the table for a thrill ride of a fight. As always, Rios pressed the action, constantly moving forward as if he were steel and Alvarado was a magnet.

Admittedly, Alvarado had bought into the pre-fight expectations of an all-out war hype leading up to their first fight at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA. Instead of using his long-range boxing skills to better effect, Alvarado quickly bought into Rios’ game plan and began to exchange far too early on. This eventually cost him as he was beat up by the seventh round and tired from throwing too many punches in order to keep Rios at bay.
In the rematch, Alvarado had a very clear game plan, which was to pick his spots and box from the outside as much as possible. Time and again, he would move away from Rios to create space and stick with the jab.
Rios’ conditioning and underrated boxing skills were in full effect. He nearly put Alvarado down with a leaping jab, the explosiveness seemingly born out of the new sprint regimen Rios is utilizing under strength coach and U.S. government informant Angel “Memo” Heredia.
If fight fans were surprised Alvarado was not only able to stick to a boxing game plan, they had two more surprises in store for them. For one, Rios’ chin was actually dented a few times by Alvarado, who found a home for his hard right hand early on Rios’ dome. Whether by looping it or shooting straight, Alvarado’s ability to not just score with the right hand but at times, wobble or freeze Rios with it is what won him the fight - that and the apparent second wind he got in the back end of the fight. While both men changed up their training regimens with Rios adding Heredia and Alvarado training in Colorado’s high altitude (as opposed to Los Angeles’ smoggy climes), it was the latter’s endurance that won the night.
The second very pleasant surprise of the night was the presence of veteran cutman/trainer Rudy Hernandez in the Alvarado corner. Hernandez was brought in not only to work cuts but to be the lead voice between frames. Each time Alvarado strayed from the plan or a new window of opportunity showed itself, there was Hernandez to guide Alvarado. It was masterful work. What is more, it spoke to the professionalism of the Alvarado camp. There are no egos over there, just a team who understands that in order to win, everyone must sacrifice themselves for the common goal.
“This past weekend will be one of the greatest highlights of my life,” Hernandez posted on his Facebook page. “Very few people who know can attest to that. For the RECORD, I didn’t step in and take over by cutting out Shan, Mike’s longtime trainer. It was agreed before the fight that I would step in and guide Mike. We all had a job to do and ‘we’ did it. It was not a one or two-man show. Jon Jon, Shan, Kiki and I worked into bring out the best in Mike ‘Mile High’ Alvarado. So to all, thank you for letting me be a part of this great moment. I know that the things I picked to do wasn’t traditional but I proved to you all, it worked! Enjoy.”
Rudy, believe us; we enjoyed.
There were no losers on this night. Both men, fight fans, media and anyone else who loves or benefits from a great night of title fight action all won.
Post-Fight Madness…
As soon as the scores were read, Rios threw up three fingers to signify what fans already knew: there was going to be a third fight. While some fans on Twitter or elsewhere complained that Rios was less than classy in his interrupting Alvarado’s post-fight interview on HBO, I would ask, who among you has ever done something for the first time so publicly and done it perfectly? The first loss is a very telling moment. How each person handles it doesn’t always speak to how they will down the line. Naseem Hamed handled his loss to Marco Antonio Barrera with class, stating the loss was written by Allah and he’d return. He fought one more time (against Manuel Calvo) and didn’t look very good doing it.
Something tells me the loss is going to light even more of a fire under Rios’ ass. Knowing he won’t get Alvarado next but will have to fight his way to him, well, I feel kinda sorry for Rios’ interim opponents.
Bottom line, not handling the loss well publicly spoke to how passionate Rios is about winning. Like the great Vince Lombardi said, “Show me a man that doesn’t mind losing and I will show you a loser.” Rios minds losing, as well he should.
The Possibilities…
Brandon Rios vs. Ruslan Provodnikov. Tim Bradley vs. Mike Alvarado. Mike Alvarado vs. Ruslan Provodnikov. Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao fighting any of them.
And that’s just for starters.

Like the title suggests, everybody won on Saturday night.
Alvarado-Rios III and Better Testing…
At the final press conference for Tim Bradley vs. Ruslan Provodnikov, a great fight that saw both men ask for and receive extra testing under the auspices of the Voluntary Anti-Doping Association, Top Rank’s Bob Arum indicated to this writer that the fight was a sign of better testing to come from his stable. He said he’d talked to Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao about testing. When I asked “Really?” Arum answered, “Of course. They’re all going to be doing [testing].”
That’s all well and good and I applaud Arum for educating himself on the subject and allowing his fighters to test as they wish.
But then we got Alvarado-Rios II with Memo Heredia working in a closed camp for roughly two months with Rios and no extra in-camp testing.
I am not accusing Rios of anything nefarious. That is not my intention.
Let me be clear; this sport is highly unregulated. Anyone with just about any past can step right in. Because of this, I suggest to anyone facing someone with a questionable member on his team demand anti-doping testing beyond the parameters of what the local commission offers. Meaning, if your opponent has Victor Conte in the camp or Memo Heredia or anyone with a history in the world of doping, you should demand randomized training camp testing. If you are looking down the road at a rematch, demand that, from now on, if the rematch is to happen, testing should begin to monitor the time between camps.
While some may question that tactic, it’s my opinion that knowing for sure, as opposed to letting the public speculate blindly, is a much better way of handling this issue.
When it was revealed that Rios had Heredia in his camp, he responded with a rhetorical question to Victor Conte on Twitter: “Who cares who I train with?”
To answer Rios’ question, Floyd Mayweather Jr. (USADA), Nonito Donaire (testing year-round with VADA), Tim Bradley (VADA), Ruslan Provodnikov (VADA), Shane Mosley (USADA and VADA), Miguel Cotto (USADA), Amir Khan (VADA and USADA), Lamont Peterson (VADA), Andre Berto (VADA), Robert Guerrero (USADA), Guillermo Rigondeaux (VADA) and Victor Ortiz (VADA and USADA) all have shown they care who their opponents train with. They’ve all shown a commitment to clean fighting by undergoing some form of testing through the training camp process or, in Donaire’s case, year-round random testing.
To any fighter working with someone who was dirty in the past but now claims to be clean, there is only one way to remove doubt. The mechanisms are in place. You even have your choice between two agencies. Now the real choice to test or not is up to you.
Arturo Gatti-Joey Gamache and the Trouble with Day-Before Weigh-ins…
Is it crazy to think that only 13 years ago, fight fans were shocked to see Arturo Gatti go from a reported weigh-in of 141 pounds to 160 on the fight night some 36 hours later against Joey Gamache on February 26, 2000? It is hard to forget the brutal destruction that Gatti laid down with that huge weight advantage (Gamache weighed 140 at the weigh-in and 146 on fight night)?
Granted, there was a major question as to how much Gatti officially weighed as reported thoroughly by the New York Daily News.
The judgment in the Gatti-Gamache case was covered well by
Still, it is amazing to think how comfortable the boxing world has become with fighters gaining large amounts of weight on the day of the fight. Rios and Alvarado each weighed 140 at the weigh-in. On the night of the fight, Rios weighed 161 pounds to Alvarado’s 158. Even with HBO’s unofficial scales being exactly that, the sport has become too comfortable allowing fighters to drop massively in weight only to rehydrate like this on the night. The issue isn’t so much one guy being larger than the other; it is what can happen if a fighter doesn’t properly rehydrate. And let’s be honest; the long-term effects of putting your body through the physical ordeal of dropping weight all week, shooting up in weight in a short timeframe, then fighting a long war are not yet fully known.
The day-before weigh-in was enacted as a safety measure, not a loophole to gain a size advantage in a given division. As with all things in boxing, an inch of leeway is given and is quickly perverted.
This is a problem we should be looking at.
And Finally…
I know he was supposed to win but Gennady Golovkin’s right hand hammering of the normally durable Nobuhiro Ishida was impressive nonetheless.
Did Oscar De la Hoya really cancel his HBO subscription or did it just lapse with Golden Boy Promotions’ exclusive output deal with the network? Seriously, I’m all for competitive nature and a few harsh Twitter quips now and again but how does denigrating a “Fight of the Year” candidate as it’s happening make you look anything other than catty? It doesn’t serve the sport in any way…well, with the exception of making for great post-fight comments from Bob Arum. I love a good Twitter softball lobbed my way now and again.
For those not in the know,’s “The Next Round” is on a technical hiatus. We are retooling the show to reflect the current internet landscape better. We should be up by mid-April in a way that will surprise and hopefully delight our loyal viewers. More to come on that soon.
You can email Gabriel at, follow him on Twitter at and catch him every Monday on “The Next Round” with Steve Kim. You can also tune in to hear him and co-host David Duenez live on the BlogTalk radio show, Thursdays at 5-8 p.m., PST.
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