SAN DIEGO – October 13, 2012 – Rarely does a fight live up to its hype and beyond. The undercard fight on HBO’s “Boxing After Dark” between light welterweights Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios was crazy good from start to finish. For those of us old enough to remember, it was an action-packed toe-to-toe brawl between two guys who at times looked like two Rock’Em Sock’Em Robots on steroids. It’s the leading contender at this point for Fight of the Year in 2012.
HBO will replay this bout Sunday morning, November 13, at 9:30 a.m. Eastern and Pacific. If you read no more of this story, read this: DO. NOT. MISS. This. Fight.
Now, back to your regularly scheduled recap.
It was Rios’s first fight at 140 pounds, and Alvarado appeared to be the bigger boxer. From the opening bell, the pair went toe-to-toe, trading furious shots. There is no doubt both of these guys can stand up to some wicked punishment. Many of the blows they took were knockout quality punches, round after round of them. The crowd was energized and thoroughly elated with the action. The announcers were barely able to keep up with the pace.
In the first three rounds, the fighters each threw over 100 punches each. It was nearly impossible to score the fight. Thank goodness it didn’t end up going to the scorecard.
In the seventh round after damaging Alvarado with right hooks, Rios landed a perfectly placed roundhouse style right hook to the side of Alvarado’s head. He staggered against the ropes, but did not go down. Rios moved in for the kill. Referee Pat Russell let Rios get in a few more shots before determining that Alvarado was no longer able to defend himself, and stopped the fight at 1:57 of Round 7.
Good stoppage? Yes. I agree with Russell, who said after the fight in an interview with HBO’s Max Kellerman, “I thought he was defenseless, and I didn’t want him to get hurt.” Russell explained that he’ll let a man go underwater, but he won’t let him drown. This is precisely the job we ask the referee to perform. Better to see Alvarado make the rematch in top condition on another day.
Rios landed 161 out of 541 punches and Alvarado landed 175 out of 779 punches. Remember, that’s just a little over six rounds.
What’s next for these fighters? Boxing heads are having a lot of fun talking about it. When asked if he’d fight Alvarado (33-1-0, 23 KOs) again, Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) yelled to the crowd, “The fans, you want it?” They roared back, and Rios said “You want it, I’ll do it.” Fans are all about a Rios-Alvarado II.
But there are any numbers of good fighters available at light welterweight. Arum said that Rios could fight the winner of Pacquiao-Marquez IV if he wants to. It’s a tempting payday for Rios, no doubt. Lucas Matthysse is suggested as an opponent. I’d rather see Danny Garcia and Rios get to it, a far better fight from a style perspective. But we run into the refusal of the promoters to cooperate. Fights the fans want to see aren’t getting made, and it’s ridiculous. Arum claims he’s willing to work with De La Hoya, but we all know where the bigger payday lives.
Mike Alvarado earned a great deal of respect with this loss, and has nothing to hang his head over. How about putting up Alvarado againt Matthysse, or Marquez, if not a Rios rematch? Alvarado has the determination to take on any top opponent in the division and his career is not derailed in the slightest.
It would have been near impossible for the main event to live up to this crowd-pleasing spectacle, and it didn’t. As Top Rank’s Bob Arum said at the post-fight news conference, “You could’ve put Ali-Frazier on afterwards and it would’ve been tough.” Quite right, the Rios-Alvarado fight was that good.
The contest between Nonito Donaire and Toshiaki Nishioka wasn’t at all a bad fight. But it was in no way going to live up to Rios and Alvarado squaring off, far from it. Meanwhile, the fans at the Home Depot Center were like kids who’d eaten way too much candy and were bouncing off the walls. They started booing at the end of the first round because of the seeming lack of action. Then by the fourth round, they started leaving.
Sad to say it was a bit of an unexpected mismatch. Nishioka kept his distance from Donaire, giving him very little target to go after. This is not what Donaire signed up for. Since his destruction of Fernando Montiel at 118 pounds in February 2011, he’s cranked out three rather labored, boring 12-round decisions and it seemed there would be a fourth one.
Donaire could hear the fans booing. But he wasn’t about to do anything stupid, either. He finally saw his chance in the sixth round and knocked Nishioka down. What was left of the crowd roared with appreciation. Nishioka decided to fight back. He had little to lose at this point. Finally there was some action to enjoy between the two super bantamweights.
Donaire remained in charge although Nishioka finally connected a few times. In the ninth round, Nishioka had Donaire against the ropes and was starting to work him. It seemed Donaire decided he’d had enough, paused, and shot Nishioka straight back onto the canvas with a perfectly placed straight right counter punch. The timing couldn’t have been more precise. Nishioka got up, but when Donaire rushed straight at him, Nishoka’s corner stopped the fight at 1:54 of the ninth round.
Nishioka (39-5-3, 24 KOs) will go home to Japan and retire. He earned a nice payday from the Japanese TV broadcast and he’s had a great career. It’s a shame few American fans saw Nishioka in his prime years.
So what’s next for Donaire, now 30-1-0, 18 KOs? Cuban fighter Guillermo Rigondeaux has been calling out Donaire; he could certainly get a shot at Rigondeaux, who just renewed his contract with Top Rank. But a more fan-pleasing fight would put Donaire up against Abner Mares, assuming he wins his upcoming bout on November 10 against WBA 118-pound champion Anselmo Moreno. Donaire is a smart fighter and he knows he needs to get his fans energized with a crowd-pleasing win, not merely a win next time. As Brandon Rios will tell you, there’s a big difference.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is President/Owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego, California. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read more Ringside Seat in the Communities at The Washington Times. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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