Over before it began
It was very evident from the early moments on Saturday night at the 1stBank Center near Denver, Colorado that this wasn’t going to be a long affair. Mike Alvarado was shook from every punch and his legs buckled from every piece of leather thrown his way by Brandon Rios. And after taking a shellacking for the better part of nine minutes – in which he was bloodied and knocked down – the fight was waved off before the start of the fourth round.
“Mile High” Mike had hit a Rocky Mountain low.
For Alvarado, it’s his third consecutive loss; what made it worse was that on this particular occasion, he didn’t even put up a fight.
Adding insult to injury was that the expected home crowd wasn’t all that partisan. As Rios unloaded and started to dominate the proceedings from the very onset, it sounded like this bout was being held in Garden City, Kansas or Oxnard.”REEE-OS! REEE-OS! REEE-OS!” chants reverberated throughout the arena. As he stepped out of the ring, Alvarado was hit with catcalls and taunts from former loyalists who have finally jumped off a bandwagon that had hit bumpy terrain.
The reality is this fight wasn’t lost on the evening of Jan. 24, 2015; it was really the result of the long-term residual effects of a turbulent lifestyle that saw Alvarado wind up on police blotters and the local news. Sources say Alvarado only trained for a few weeks in the lead-up to this rubber match against his rival, who dutifully came to nearby Greeley a few weeks early to acclimate to the altitude (all this while Alvarado was getting arrested on gun charges in the early morning hours in early January, almost putting this event in jeopardy). They say this sport is a truth machine; you can only con it for so long. Alvarado, who is an old 34 both in and out of the ring, simply couldn’t overcome himself anymore.
When Bob Arum was asked if he would advise Alvarado to retire, the 83-year old promoter stated, “I don’t want anyone to tell me to retire, so I’m not going to tell any fucking guy to retire. That’s a decision he makes for himself.” But Arum did admit, “I thought [Alvarado] had nothing; he came up zero.”
“[Alvarado’s] got his issues; I concentrate on my stuff,” said Rios, when asked about his dance partner. “I had to do what I had to do to win the fight and thought I was just better.”
It’s not clear just how much credit Rios should get for his dominant outing. Yes, he showed a certain spark that had been missing in recent performances but then it’s easy to look good against a heavy bag – an undisciplined one at that too. But “Bam Bam” did fight with purpose, regardless.
“I’m back now; I prepared myself very well. I’m motivated again to get back to the top and I’m ready,” he barked to the media on press row after his decisive victory. Asked what the difference was on this evening, he explained, “I didn’t want my career to end right now. I figured that the person that lost, there would go their career. I didn’t want that to happen to me. I’m still young in the sport. I’ve got a lot of gas in my tank and I can improve, improve and improve and you seen that today. That there’s still more to come.”
Again, it’s not clear how much this fight tells us about Rios but he forever cemented himself as the victor in this rivalry.
“It feels good to me that I won and I told everybody that I’m here to stay and I’m young in the sport and I got a lot of gas in my tank. I’m not done yet. Everybody criticized me that I’m a punching bag, that I don’t have no head movement, that I’m just flat-footed. I’m not dedicated. I’m lazy. I don’t make weight, stuff like that,” said Rios, excitedly. “This was the best camp I ever had in my life and I showed that and I proved that I’m back.”
Rios and his trainer, Robert Garcia, prepared by flying out to Colorado early and paying out of their own pockets for lodging and meals before heading to the Denver area. Rios stated, “I did everything right for this camp and I came out with a victory. I was not going to let him win, beat me in the trilogy. I was here to stay; I’m back, baby.”
There was a clear sense of urgency with Rios. Yeah, it wasn’t that long ago when he was the fan-friendly lightweight and one of its most colorful (and foul-mouthed) characters. But he recently had hit tough times, losing lopsidedly to Manny Pacquiao – certainly no shame in that – but more alarmingly netting a lackluster disqualification victory against Diego Chaves back in August. To many observers, Rios’ best was in the rear view mirror.
“I got caught up because I’m a young kid,” the 28-year-old Rios explained. “I was poor, fucking ghetto, made all this type of money and I just got caught up in the emotion. That’s what happens when you’re young and make a lot of money. So now I’m back and I’m not fucking around no more. I’m back to stay and be dedicated to the sport. I’ve been boxing since I was eight years old and I’m not going nowhere.”
Rios still has a very viable career and Arum told the press, “There’s four guys: Jessie Vargas; there’s Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley and Miguel Cotto and we’re gonna see what we can do to match the four of them up.”
On the flipside, Alvarado’s career seems to have to come a crashing halt, at least that of a world-class performer who can headline on premium cable. More important than his career as a prizefighter, perhaps there should really be concern for him as a person. Talking to those in that camp – who for years had to rationalize his behavior and sometimes flat out cover-up his actions – there is distinct sense of relief that this saga has finally come to an end.
There is a foreboding sense that this won’t end well for him.
In certain respects, Alvarado is eerily reminiscent of Kelly Pavlik, another boxer who was popular in his hometown, a troubled individual who never fulfilled his potential. For a fleeting moment, Youngstown, Ohio was a boxing market and Pavlik would be the one carrying it. Alvarado, like Stevie Johnston before him, was the flagship fighter of the 303 and was expected to turn his city into a regular destination for high-profile fights. Only it wasn’t meant to be. He simply wasn’t built for the long haul.
This past weekend showed that Rios still has some life left. And that Alvarado needs to move on with the rest of his.
Boxingscene.com reported on Sunday that Al Haymon had signed 10 more fighters, which now means he has over 150 boxers under contract.
There’s no doubt that Haymon is doing these mass signings because he will need boxers to fill all his television dates (and yes, more deals outside of NBC and Spike TV are on the way). But he’s also squeezing – some would say distorting – the market by taking away potential opponents for every other entity in boxing and driving up the price of B-sides everywhere else for everyone else.
Yes, this is a game of Monopoly played here and everything from Baltic Avenue to Boardwalk is fair game.
Gilberto Ramirez showed in beating Maxim Vlasov that he still isn’t quite ready for prime time at 168 pounds but he got some tough rounds under his belt…I’m told the next hope for Denver is featherweight David Escamilla…Looking forward to Rocky Juarez vs. Robinson Castellanos tonight on FOX Sports 1…Doesn’t look like there will be an edition of “Showtime Championship Boxing” in February…Speaking of someone who needs help, Josh Gordon…”Cookie” from “Empire” is one of my favorite characters on TV and on my pound-for-pound list…So how did you do in your Pro Bowl pool?…I can be reached at email@example.com and I tweet (a lot) at http://twitter.com/steveucnlive. I also share photos of stuff at http://instagram.com/steveucnlive and I can also be found at www.tsu.co/steveucnlive.