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“Mile High” Opportunity for Alvarado

(Photo © Steve Kim)
(Photo © Steve Kim)

On Saturday night, perhaps the most anticipated bout for hardcore fight fans takes place when Mike Alvarado squares off against Brandon Rios at the Home Depot Center in Carson, California (HBO 10 p.m., ET). It’s a fight that many pundits and observers are openly comparing to the legendary contests featuring Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward. Some think this could be another version of Diego Corrales vs. Jose Luis Castillo.
No, this won’t be the main event on HBO (that designation belongs to the junior featherweight title bout featuring Nonito Donaire against Toshiaki Nishioka) but Alvarado-Rios is the reason why most of the fans bought tickets to this event.
Alvarado has heard those lofty expectations and comparisons.

“That’s pretty crazy to think about that,” he said last Thursday afternoon at “The Rock” in Carson, California, after his last day of sparring. “That’s the kind of fight I’m going to be in. But you never know; adjustments do get made in that fight. I’m going to be the one to control this whole fight. I mean, if it turns out to be that kind of fight, then I have nothing I can do about it but just fight and be victorious.”
Alvarado and his handlers talk about fighting a controlled match. While it sounds feasible in theory, it’s easier said than done. Because it seems this rugged wrestler-turned-pugilist simply can’t help but get into back-and-forth battles. His last two outings have been dramatic and eventful affairs versus the likes of Breidis Prescott and Mauricio Herrera, where he’s been bloodied and has eaten his share of leather (while dishing out much of his own). But get this: he finds this arduous work fun.
“I enjoy fighting; I like being in the mix. I get high off that. So it’s always what my style was. But I’m learning more about myself in the ring; I’m definitely polishing up on my boxing skills and they’re coming together a lot better. I’m able to adjust a little better and make the fight a little easier my way,” said Alvarado, who only took up the “Sweet Science” after wrestling throughout his days in high school.
But while it’s great for fans to see bouts like Gatti-Ward and Corrales-Castillo, it’s not such a great scenario for trainers and managers to see their charges go through such experiences. If it were up to Alvarado’s corner, they would see their man control things from the outside. Henry Delgado, who manages Alvarado, says, “We want to dictate the fight” through distance, range and tempo, while trainer Shann Vilhauer says, “Mike can box better than people give him credit for and he can fight with the best of them. So we have the versatility to box or to slug with Brandon, inside or outside.” But Rios is known for best being an inside grinder. You would think that, being the guy with superior reach and height, if Alvarado stays inside too much with Rios, he lessens his chance of winning. “Brandon’s a good body puncher, good hooks, good uppercuts, so you don’t want to be laying on the inside too long,” admitted Vilhauer.
But it is Rios who is moving up in weight (after recent struggles to hit 135 pounds); Alvarado is the natural junior welterweight. And looking at his solidly built frame, you get the sense he could fight effectively at 147. The 32-year-old banger from Denver believes this is a distinct advantage for him. “I mean, I’ve been able to hold that weight. I’ve been able to calculate the science of my diet so it hasn’t been an issue.” Right now, Rios is an unknown commodity at 140.
For several years, while “Bam Bam” built up his reputation and profile in the sport, Alvarado yearned for this particular fight yet never really believing he’d get it. Alvarado represented high risk and low reward. But as Rios has gone through some recent struggles and was then forced to move up, this became a logical fight from Top Rank’s standpoint. Still, they are surprised this bout was consummated. Alvarado admits, “I am surprised; I was shocked. And I was excited; I was like, ‘Really?’ and then once I see the contract, he’s going through with the fight, I was excited, man. I was thrilled. It was a shock.”
Delgado says flatly, “I thought they were going to dodge us.”
There’s no denying just how big of a fight this is for Alvarado, who’s been on big cards before. It’s by far the most important platform he will have ever been on.
“I think it is; this is going to make or break me right here, this fight,” said Alvarado, who has a perfect mark of 33-0 with 23 knockouts. “Brandon’s going in there; he has everything to lose. He’s trying to prove a point. I’m proving a point and we’re ready to catapult to that next level. This is the fight I’ve been waiting for.” And perhaps what’s really on the line (much more so than being just a WBO title eliminator) is consideration for the real money fights in the sport. “I think so, the big fights,” said Delgado, who is well aware of boxing’s “Cold War.” “After this, you look at it, who’s with Top Rank and with what’s going on with Golden Boy and Bob Arum, like us fighting each other, as it is right now, I don’t see our guys fighting their guys. So we gotta fight in camp and I dunno; Manny Pacquiao, Juan Manuel Marquez, that’s on the horizon.”
Alvarado sees it the same way, stating, “I think this is just going to open the doors to something huge and I’m just excited that I got this opportunity. I’m just blessed to be in this spot that I’m in right now.” Bob Arum, whose company Top Rank is promoting this event, adds, “I think this is going to have the chance to be a legendary fight and the guy who comes out of this fight winning is enhanced and this is the kind of fight that the guy who comes out losing the fight will also be enhanced.”
Despite what could be a fight that heats up quicker than a microwave, both Rios and Alvarado, who in the past have been very cordial towards each other, have been very low-key in their pre-fight rhetoric. Rios is usually a guy full of fire-and-brimstone toward his foes but, in the lead-up to this bout, he’s been unusually quiet and respectful towards his foe. So what can we read into that? Is it a kindler, gentler Rios?
“I read that he’s being more humble. He knows what he’s up against. So there’s no need to hype it up more than already is. He knows what he’s up against and he knows what kind of fight he’s going to get himself into. He’s already putting it into the Gatti-Ward category. So that’s the type of fight he wants,” said Alvarado.
“I’m just going the fight play the way it ends up and adjust when I have to.”
From the very beginning of summer, the trio of Alvarado, Delgado and Vilhauer have been in Los Angeles preparing for this date, switching off between “The Rock” in Carson and the Azteca Gym in Bell. It’s been, for the most part, a perfect camp.
“It has been,” said Alvarado. “Everything fell into place on the right schedule and everything’s going as planned. So this is by far one of the best camps I’ve had. Great sparring, just being on schedule, on point throughout this whole camp. It’s been tremendous, so I’m excited about it.”
Delgado described this camp as “a lot of learning, we got to know each other even more. Being together for so long, day in and day out. We learned each other a lot more; that was the key. And developing our corner, the trust.” They are no strangers to Southern California, having been out here before in preparation for past fights - but never this long. The bottom line is that the best atmosphere in which to prepare Alvarado for his fights is here. “Exactly, out here there’s nothing to do but training, eat, sleep and drink boxing. That’s all there is out here,” said Delgado, who’s actually a native of L.A. “Over there, there’s too many distractions and at this level, we can’t afford any mishaps.”
Alvarado just has a way of finding trouble with too much free time in the 303.
“It’s just a totally different mindset,” said Vilhauer. “We eat, sleep and live boxing out here. In Denver, it’s different."
If you ask any promoter if he thinks he has a great fight on his hands, of course he’ll tell you he’s got World War III scheduled. But there are times when what they say echoes the excitement of the public. Bob Arum believes he’s got a good one brewing this Saturday night.
“Absolutely, because we know the styles of the fighters and it’s not wishful thinking. Sometimes you put together a fight with excellent fighters and yet you know it may not end up to be an excellent fight because of the styles of the fighters,” said Arum this past Friday afternoon. “Sometimes, you know, because of the styles of the fighters, that the fight will turn out to be a great fight. As an example was [Erik] Morales-[Marco Antonio] Barrera, which we knew going in would be a sensational fight and it certainly was.”
The two events that really stand out at this venue for boxing are when Paul Williams took on Antonio Margarito and the third match between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez, when a crowd of right around 7,000 packed the tennis stadium (which seats just over seven grand). Todd duBoef, president of Top Rank, says that as of this weekend, right around 5,000 tickets have been purchased (with all the ringside seats accounted for).
“People know quality. These two fights are fights that people really want to see. That Rios-Alvarado fight is like watching a train wreck, a collision. But we’re very happy with the way tickets are going,” said Arum.
PAC 2013
So it’s set in stone; Manny Pacquiao’s next fight after he faces Marquez on December 8th will be April 20th, 2013, right? After all, it was in a few published reports last week. But Arum clarified to Maxboxing, “I didn’t announce it; I told the Philippine guy that the latest date that Manny could fight in the spring was April the 20th because of the elections in the Philippines. Not only is he running, the entire family seems like they’re running. So that’s all I said; I didn’t say it would be on April the 20th. I knew it couldn’t be on April the 13th because that’s Easter week but I certainly didn’t pick out the date, April 20th.”
Arum says that absolutely “nothing” has been set as it relates to Pacquiao’s first bout in 2013.
Here’s where I state the case for - and against - Arturo Gatti being inducted into the Hall of Fame: Rank will be announcing the signing of highly touted Puerto Rican Olympian Felix Verdejo on Monday on the island...Jorge Linares is still very gifted but his lack of power makes it difficult for him to keep guys off him for long stretches at 135...Adrian Hernandez was impressive in regaining his WBC 108-pound title versus Kompayak Porpramook in six punishing innings...Miami got another dose of reality from the hard-charging Fighting Irish. Bottom line, Warren Sapp, Cortez Kennedy and Jerome Brown aren’t walking through that door and until they get better upfront, they will struggle mightily on defense...Right now, my top three Heisman candidates are: Geno Smith, Collin Klein and Braxton Miller...I can be reached at and I tweet at We also have a Facebook fan page at, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.

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