by Sean Crose
It pretty much all comes down to Saturday night in Colorado.
Brandon Rios (32-2-1, 23 KOs), the onetime WBA champion of the lightweight division, has found himself in a true do-or-die moment. After getting handily beaten by Manny Pacquiao and then fighting the rugged Columbian Diego Chavez to a controversial and exceedingly ugly disqualification win, Rios must look good in this weekend’s rubber match against arch foe Mike Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) if he wants to stay on fans’ radar screens.
Indeed, Rios has admitted as much himself.
“If I lose this fight I may just call it a day as a fighter,” he mused recently.
Although some have balked at what they see as a defeatist attitude, it’s easy to understand why Rios sees things in this light. He’s no slickster, after all. Indeed, his style requires that Rios take a whole lot of punches in the ring. After being taken to school by Pacquiao in Macau in 2013, Rios asked if people thought he had looked like a punching bag. The truth was that he had.
Yet Rios is nothing if not an exciting fighter. The simple fact is that a Brandon Rios bout is never boring. And his two brawls with Mike Alvarado are widely considered to be modern classics.
“We went at it,” Alvarez has said of the first bout. “We killed each other.”
“I was a lost puppy in there,” Rios has said of the rematch.
So now, with each fighter holding a single victory over the other, a third fight aims to settle things once and for all.
Alvarado, for the record, may have a lot more things to worry about that losing to Rios. The Colorado slugger is once again in trouble with the law – this time for an incident involving a handgun. Rios, however, appears as if he might have one thing on his mind and one thing only.
“I know the fact that this fight is really a do or die fight for me,” Rios has said.
“I’d say Brandon Rios right now is at a crossroads in his career,” HBO analyst Max Kellerman recently stated, “where we need to see if he still has that thing in him that attracted everybody to him in the first place.”
If Kellerman was speaking of the warrior heart, there’s no doubt that Rios still possesses it in spades. The ability to win big matches, however, is another matter entirely. While few would argue that Rios belongs in the upper echelon of the sport, his ability to be a must-see brawler is now in question.
There’s no doubt that Rios is a tough guy who likes to talk tough. “I come to hunt,” he’s said. “I hunt to kill.”
On Saturday night, however, fans – both in attendance and in front of television screens – will see just how good a hunter Rios still is.
“We’re both ghetto,” Rios has claimed of Alvarado. “We’re both f—–g always in trouble.” Rios may not be in legal trouble like Alvarado is, but, like Alvarado, he’s most certainly at a dangerous point in his career.
“I am ready for anything Mike Alvarado brings to the table,” Rios has claimed. “I know all his tricks. He can’t surprise me this time.”
What won’t be a surprise is if this bout turns into another war. For both Rios and Alvarado are dyed in the wool brawlers in the mold of Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward. With everything on the line, neither man can afford to miss a step.
“You have two fighters,” HBO’s Jim Lampley has said, “both of whom are almost more committed to entertaining than to winning.”
Few doubt that both men will put on quite a show this weekend in Colorado.