Coming up this Saturday on HBO, fans of the sport will bear witness to a rematch of one of the most exciting fights in recent memory - the rematch of Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios, of Oxnard, California, and "Mile High" Mike Alvarado of Denver, Colorado. In seven rounds of what was considered the "Fight of the Year" in our sport, these two combatants gave us the true definition of blood, sweat, and tears. The only question now is, can they repeat their EPIC performances from the first bout? That is what we are here to find out. In this first installment of FightHype Faceoff, we will take a look at the two fighters, their strengths and weaknesses, and what each fighter needs to do to come out victorious in one of the most anticipated rematches in years.
First up will be the breakdown of Greg Rowe; followed by the breakdown of Michael Samuels.
DEFENSE: Defense is obviously not the first word that comes to mind when you mention the names Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado, yet I believe that it may be the single biggest factor in this rematch. It is hard to provide valid information or examples that prove Mike Alvarado has better defense than Brandon Rios, considering the physical damage Alvarado's face and body have shown in the last three outings, but I do believe Alvarado has a more complete and versatile defense than what Brandon Rios possesses. The damage Alvarado has taken in his career, and especially in his last three fights, have come more from the warrior heart he possesses and his want to prove his toughness and to entertain the fans, than it does from a leaky defense. If you watch Alvarado, at his best, you will see a fighter that blocks and slips punches, as well as a fighter that rolls punches and is able to counter punch off of his defense. The first four rounds of their last fight are a perfect example of the defensive versatility Alvarado possesses, should he choose to use it. That, coupled with above-average footwork, and the ability to punch and turn an opponent or punch and slide to the side, is what can make or break Alvarado in this rematch. Rios is more of a keep-my-hands-up-put-my-head-on-your-chest-and-go-to-work type fighter that relies on an out of this world chin as his best form of defense.
EXPERIENCE: The experience differential in this fight isn't as drastic as has been the case in other big fights in recent memory, where one guy is completely in another stratosphere. Their experience is fairly even at this point in their careers. Rios does have the edge when it comes to fighting on the BIG stage, as they say, having recently headlined a couple times on HBO's Boxing After Dark, while Alvarado has spent time on various Mexican stations and PPV undercards. The real test of which boxer has more experience will come after the first few rounds of the rematch, where we will be able to tell which fighter looked at the tape, saw his mistakes, and made efforts to correct them. Only then will we be able to say who took more knowledge from the first fight and was able to apply it moving forward.
CHIN: When you have two fighters two warriors who come to fight, regardless of what the game plan is, when you know that what is in their heart is to bang and test the other guy's will, a chin is a very important part. Both fighters have shown great chins both in their past fights, and in their first meeting with each other absorbing enough punishment to put a small horse down and both stayed on their feet. The chin will again become an important factor in this fight as we are sure to get a toe-to-toe battle from the opening bell to the last punch. The one thing I took out of the first fight was that Rios was able to take and absorb Alvarado's punches better than Alvarado was able to take Rios' shots, especially further down the stretch.
POWER: When standing toe-to-toe, having a good chin is very important, but so is punching power. Both these guys have 23 knockouts in their careers. Some might suggest that because Rios stopped Alvarado in the first fight, that he has an obvious edge in power, while others would point out that, although Alvarado has the same amount of knockouts, he has them at a higher weight class than Rios, and therefore has the advantage. While Rios did "stop" Alvarado in the first fight, it was due to an accumulation of punches landed, not due to any one or two shots. Both of these guys punch hard enough to drop anyone at 140 pounds it is their chins that play a BIG part in neutralizing each other's punching power. Punching power doesn't mean a thing if you are in there with a guy that you cannot hurt or put down. We will see on fight night if that changes.
SPEED: Speed is not one of the skills that's on display in a forehead on chest, all-out slug fest type fight. Both boxers have been in fights where they have been the faster of the two in the ring, and both have been in fights where they didn't have the faster hands and had to adjust their game plan accordingly. The one thing I saw in the first fight between Rios and Alvarado was when Alvarado threw combinations they seemed to be faster and get there faster than those of Rios. Now I know you are wondering how I can say that, having seen Rios stop Alvarado in their first fight. What I observed was Alvarado throwing his shots then stopping to cover up, while watching Rios throw his shots, and that went on and on throughout the fight. When they did throw, Alvarado had an advantage in pure hand speed, which was very apparent. I expect more of that from Alvarado come fight night.
FINAL VERDICT: I fully expect Brandon Rios to come in with the same mentality as the first fight, because "if it isn't broken, don't fix it," with the exception of maybe keeping his hands higher when in close. I expect the biggest adjustments to be made by Mike Alvarado, because he lost the fight and needs to make certain adjustments in order to have his hand raised at the end of the fight. I expect Alvarado to box more at a distance, use his hand speed, combination punches and superior footwork while mixing in power shots in a more selective manner. We all know that this fight will turn into a carbon copy of the first fight, which is why we will all be tuned in, but Alvarado needs to keep a clear head in the ring and understand what he needs to do to win the fight, so he can move on to bigger and better things as opposed to satisfying a blood-thirsty crowd. If Alvarado can box and move while selecting when and where to slip his power shots in for at least the first half of the fight, I believe he can win the fight. Alvarado has to let go and forget about the first fight and its outcome, and approach this fight as if it is his last chance. If, (and that is a big "IF") he can do that, based upon his warrior spirit, I think he can wear Rios down and if not stop him late, at least take home a decision. If not, it will be another glory day for Brandon Rios. Another interesting factor may be that famed drug expert and strength trainer Angel Heredia has been in Oxnard the past 7 weeks working with Rios. With the clout hanging over his involvement with turning a 39-year-old Juan Manuel Marquez into a Greek statue, the Alvarado camp has to be a little worried.
ALVARADO KO 9
DEFENSE: Asking who the better defensive fighter is between Rios and Alvarado is like asking someone if they prefer death by a violent tornado or a gusting hurricane there is no easy answer. What boxing purists know is Rios and Alvarado are coming to do exactly what they did in the first fight hurt one another. Both fighters will be throwing bombs with devastating intentions, and more so than not, in a big fight with such magnitude, fighters that adopt that strategy don't put a whole lot of importance into making a defensive stand. The old adage goes, "The best defense is a good offense." And once again, whoever delivers the goods on the offensive side will come out with the W. That said, most people look at Brandon Rios' sloppy 'win' against Richar Abril a fight where he was clearly out boxed, hurt and subsequently beaten to the punch on most occasions and figure he has no defensive skill whatsoever. This couldn't be further from the truth. Neither Rios nor Alvarado will ever be mistaken for Willie Pep or Pernell Whitaker, but both fighters have the ability to show good head movement and a strong guard. Footwork remains to be an afterthought, but you usually don't need to worry about your feet when you plan on fighting from inside a phone booth. I tend to believe both guys defensive skills are pretty even, but I also expect Brandon Rios to put on more pressure than Alvarado, which will in turn make Alvarado fight on the defensive during more stanzas of the fight for however long it lasts. Can Alvarado turn the tide and muster enough offense to put Rios on the defensive? That remains to be seen. Until then, the answer is pretty clear.
EXPERIENCE: Both Rios and Alvarado have been fighting professionally since 2004. Both fighters have similar records: Rios, 31-0, 23 KO's and Alvarado: 33-1, 23 KO's. When we combine experience with the level of opposition each man has fought, it's pretty hard to make an argument for Alvarado over Rios. Brandon Rios' fights with Anthony Peterson, Richar Abril and Miguel Acosta aren't that significant when you hear them out loud, but putting them on the ledger with the best victories of Alvarado's career ( Mauricio Herrera, Breidis Prescott and Emmanuel Clottey) and suddenly they sound a bit more appetizing. Experience always plays a role in a fight, but in this rematch I don't see it making-or-breaking anyone. Rios and Alvarado are going to continue to fight the only way they know how despite what has transpired in the media. They will both throw murderous punches and they will both be tested early. But for the sake of argument, I don't see it any other way when it comes to the experience factor going into this fight.
CHIN: You can't have a heavy reliance on applying pressure and standing toe-to-toe without one hell of a chin. Both Alvarado and Rios can take it as well as they can dish it. Some people may believe Rios holds the upper hand in this department based on his 7th round TKO. Some people did not agree with the stoppage from a competitive point of view and not that of looking after a fighter's safety. I can't knock either guy, especially Alvarado, simply because he was stopped in an all-out war. Both of these guys can take a shot from anyone in the division as far as I'm concerned. Whether or not the residual effects from the first fight outweigh one fighter over the other going into the rematch remains to be seen.
POWER: Alvarado and Rios have almost the identical amount of professional fights as well as knockout percentages (Rios at 72% and Alvarado at 67%). Both fighters punch like mules. Both guys dig to the body and go for broke on the head. And frankly, I wouldn't want to take a single shot from either one of them. Leverage and balance are two very important factors in effective power, and honestly, both of these guys have solid fundamentals when it comes to throwing a wicked punch. Which fighter stands up to the other's power best? That is the question that was answered by Rios in their first fight. And I'm not sure it changes just yet.
SPEED: Many people have told me that Brandon Rios appeared much faster than Alvarado during their first fight and en route to his 7th round TKO victory. The more I watch the first fight, the more I tend to think that both guys possess a similar amount of skill when it comes to the speed department. But I think Rios did a better job of getting off first and for longer periods in the first war. Rios didn't appear to be any faster, but he did a much better job of keeping his punches tighter which improved his accuracy and allowed him to find the target on Alvarado, especially as he tired down the stretch.
FINAL VERDICT: I expect Mike Alvarado to try to box more, but after a few rounds of consistent pressure by Brandon Rios, the tough SOB from the Rockies will divert back into the slugging brawler he has always been, and that type of fight always favors Bam Bam.
RIOS TKO 10