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Can “Mile High” Mike Alvarado Adjust?

(Photo © K9 Photos)
(Photo © K9 Photos)

The last time we saw junior welterweight contender “Mile High” Mike Alvarado, 33-1, 23 KOs, he was unloading everything and the kitchen sink on Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios, 31-0, 23 knockouts, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA to no avail. Time and again, Rios would pressure to get inside and Alvarado would drill him with a long jab followed a right hand that would crush the skull of most normal people. But Rios is not normal. No one nicknamed “Bam Bam” likely is. Rios is a rare fighter who thrives on getting hit. He lives for the give and take of combat and no matter how much Alvarado gave him, Rios kept asking for more while delivering chaotic carnage of his own.


Lucky for boxing fans, the two men will go at it again this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Nevada televised live on HBO and promoted by Top Rank.


“I was a little surprised,” said Alvarado of Rios’ ability to take and give on a recent episode of “I wasn’t too shocked about it. I knew he was tough. I knew he could take a good punch. I was still just sticking to my game plan. Still digging deeper. I just needed to dig a little deeper and throw twice as many shots. Just stick to my game plan. I just need to stay fighting my fight and not let my pride get to me and fall into his way of fighting. But I wasn’t shocked by it.”

But Alvarado, the taller man with the shorter boxing background, didn’t stick to the game plan. Coming into what many later deemed “Fight of the Year,” the expectation was that the fight would exceed any a boxing fan might have. It was a bloodthirsty throng at the Home Depot Center and they needed to be satisfied. Unwisely, Alvarado obliged. The pressure and infighting of Rios didn’t help.


“It might have. I think it had a little to do with that,” conceded Alvarado. “I knew my game plan was to keep him out a little bit. A little more at bay than to be inside with him which gave him more of a shot, which he got that shot off and made the fight go more his way. I don’t know. The fight ended up the way it did. I was just trying to control it my way and keep up with my pace. There were a couple minor adjustments I could have made or should have made.”  


By the end of the momentous seventh that saw a volley of violence back and forth that to this day leaves me in awe, Alvarado had gone too far into Rios’ way of fighting and was the worse for wear. It didn’t matter how many flush shots Rios took, he was relentless. Alvarado let him get inside and in an exchange, Rios struck pay dirt with a right hand that wobbled Alvarado, who stumbled a bit and went into guard along the ropes. Rios went after him, unloading. Alvarado slid along the ropes and before he could come back the fight was stopped. Whether or not it was too soon is a matter of debate. Alvarado had not lost consciousness. His eyes didn’t roll back. But he may have been a shot away from being knocked out. We’ll never know.


“Bing in there and going through that, I would be honest and say ‘It was a good stoppage. I was hurt and unable to continue.’ No. I was trying to fight still. I was trying to come back. The ref stopped it,” said Alvarado. “He stopped me from coming back and trying to fight. If he let it go just a little bit longer and he caught me with another shot and stung me, put me against the ropes and then stopped it. But I didn’t get that opportunity. It was stopped prematurely, I believe. I know it was.”


One could argue Alvarado was saved for another day. But warriors don’t want to be saved. Neither did Alvarado.


“I just know that as quick as he hurt me, the instant that he hurt me, I got my head back just as quick as he hurt me,” said Alvarado. “He was catching me with a couple shots, three or four shots but I was trying to come back and fight still and show heart. I don’t think the ref allowed me to come back and fight through that.”


Having gone through his war with Rios has prepared Alvarado for what is most likely going to occur on Saturday. Even before serious tape study began, Alvarado already had a sense of what he needed to fix.


“I’m going to fight pretty much the same way,” said Alvarado. “I’m going to make some adjustments that I knew I should have done. Just change a few things, nothing too drastic. Nothing too crazy but just certain little movements that I know will overcome the way his style of fighting is. He’s going to come the same way. I’m going to come the same way. It’s going to be another all-out war fight. It’s going to be another, exciting, longer fight this time around.”


To Alvarado, victory is just a few simple adjustments away. One of those is adding larger sparring partners all of whom possess pressure styles. This has forced Alvarado to adjust his game, use more angles and tighten his defense. But the cherry on top is the mental and emotional experience he gained from the first fight.


“In my mind, I feel it will be a lot more easier to know the situations,” said Alvarado. “We’re going to be put in the same type of situations. It’s just on me to make those adjustments and overcome in those situations and be the better fighter at that time. I know what to expect. I know his style. I know what to expect. He can’t change all that much. I was the better all-around fighter. I was winning that fight. He just caught me. He got that good punch. He caught me and then the tables went his way. It went his way and I couldn’t really do nothing about that. Just keep doing what I’m doing.”


When asked if he saw something in the first fight that he missed in preparing before, Alvarado said “Everything is a lot more clear. I put myself back in that ring. I know what not to do. What to adjust and what to overcome this time around. It will probably make me a better fighter and make me have a better fight this time around.”


If Alvarado came away from the first fight with anything beyond what adjustments to make, it is the impression Rios’ tenacious will left on him.


“Even though I know I was out-landing him, I was-throwing him  . . . I was working a little bit more harder, too. I was [impressed] by his will. He just kept coming and coming regardless of all the shots he took while he kept coming. I know he still wanted  it. I can’t be that open at all. I have to know that he is going to fight until the very last second. I have to stay on my toes with Brandon. He’s tough. He’s a warrior. He has a good chin and heart. I am looking forward to another war like that.”


Heading into an immediate rematch, the question is simple: Who can improve more between the two fights? Alvarado believes he has the answer.  


“I can. I was already  . . . I was the better fighter. I’m more talented. I work just as hard. I’m still learning this boxing game. There are techniques that are still coming to me. I am still developing. I know it’s just a learning process for me and now it’s on me to come back as a different fighter,” said Alvarado. “More hungry.”


Acknowledging the mistakes of the past is one thing, fixing them another. These things can be done. Successfully planning for the relentless pressure and iron will of Brandon Rios? We’ll see Saturday night. 



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