Tonight marks the eagerly awaited rematch between junior welterweights Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado. Last October, the two engaged in one of the best fights of 2012, where both fighters waged intense combat over seven rounds. Ultimate, Rios' shots proved to be more damaging, and he secured the seventh-round TKO victory. For tonight's match, will the fight be a continuation of last year's memorable brawl, or will we see the bout play out differently? Read below for my preview and prediction.
Quite honestly, Alvarado entered the first fight with overconfidence. In his previous fight before Alvarado, Rios had escaped with a dubious victory over Richar Abril. He had drained himself trying to make weight and this partly explained his lackluster performance. (Alvarado either overlooked this factor or didn't take the threat posed by Rios that seriously.) To face Alvarado, Rios would move up to the junior welterweight limit. Alvarado, who had been used to slugfests at 140, albeit against lesser opposition, believed that his power and volume would be enough to overwhelm Rios. Alvarado had advantages in height and reach but he gave them up to try and impose his will on the inside. He didn't expect Rios to take his shots and keep coming forward. He also was unable to adjust to Rios' lead right hands.
The fight illustrated Alvarado's inability to make adjustments in the ring. It was reasonable to test Rios' chin at 140 and see if the fighter had problems taking shots at the higher weight. Alvarado landed barrages of his best power shots, but Rios wasn't dissuaded. Despite the mounting evidence that Rios wouldn't fold, Alvarado believed that his power would wear Rios down; in fact, the opposite happened. It was a severe miscalculation by Alvarado. He needed to adjust his strategy and thinking in the fight but he just couldn't overcome his initial overconfidence in his own power. There were moments in the fight where Alvarado had success boxing from the outside and using the ring to his advantage. However, as Rios kept advancing, Alvarado was too content to trade in the pocket. Ultimately, his underestimation of Rios' power and will led to his loss.
For Alvarado to have more success tonight, he needs to change his approach. He must pick his spots. The more time he stands in front of Rios, the more vulnerable he becomes. Alvarado needs to jab from the outside, throw lead straight right hands and keep his combinations to no more than three punches.
In fact, I'd like to see Alvarado throw fewer punches per round than he did in the first fight. Instead of throwing 110 punchers per frame, I'd like to see that number come down closer to 70. By using the ring and being more selective when engaging, he will limit Rios' ability to win exchanges in the pocket. Rios wins fights by causing an accumulation of punishment that his opponents can't overcome. By reducing his punch output, Alvarado will take far fewer of Rios' blows in return. Alvarado also has a significant foot speed advantage from the outside. He needs to make Rios expend a lot of energy to get into position to throw punches.
In order for Alvarado to win the fight, he has to go for the decision. With his jab, flashy right hands, quick combinations and ring generalship, he needs to count on the mercy of the judges. The more he trades the better chance he has of losing.
This will be a tall order for Alvarado. The key for him will not be machismo or toughness, but discipline. Alvarado fancies himself as a tough brawler; he is that, but sometimes adjustments are needed to win fights and prolong a career. I'm not sure if Alvarado has the ring awareness and composure to stick with a more limited approach to engagement. If he does, he has a real shot at picking up a close decision, but I wouldn't bet that Alvarado can execute this game plan.
Rios needs to build off of the advances that he made in their first fight. Often a slow starter, Rios moved his hands freely in the opening rounds in October. He may still have been behind on the cards after three rounds or so, but he inflicted a lot of damage that helped lead to the eventual stoppage. In addition, Rios should open with lead right hands. He needs to see if Alvarado made any adjustments to that punch. If Alvarado still can't defend against it, the fight could be shorter than the first one.
Rios can be clumsy getting inside. He applies constant pressure but he doesn't jab his way in or apply angles. He relies on his solid chin and his ability to pick off shots here and there. In a perfect world, I'd like to see Rios come in with a little more polish. He doesn't HAVE to take as many shots as he does. The concern is that one day Rios' chin will get cracked. But is Alvarado the man to do it?
I see the fight playing out a little differently than the first one. I think Alvarado boxes a little more selectively in the early rounds than he did in their last encounter and builds an early lead. (I wouldn't be surprised if he's up 3-0). Ultimately, I see Alvarado getting into bad habits with his lead; the old overconfidence will rear its ugly head. He'll fall into the classic trap against Rios: it's so easy to his him, why not just stand in front of him and hit him some more. Alvarado will get caught standing and trading a little too much. He'll overcommit with his punches. His jab will be left behind.
As is the case with many Rios fights, his pressure and short shots will slowly turn the fight in his favor. I see him absorbing a lot of punishment but slowly grinding down Alvarado as the fight moves towards the later rounds. Eventually, Rios' hooks to the body and pinpoint head shots will be too much for Alvarado to handle. Alvarado goes down multiple times in the later rounds and ultimately referee Tony Weeks stops the fight.
Brandon Rios TKO 9 Mike Alvarado.
Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of saturdaynightboxing.com.
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
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