“For both of us it’s do or die. If I lose this fight I may just call it a day as a fighter. I’ve been at this a long time.” In or out of the ring, Brandon ‘Bam Bam’ Rios pulls no punches in his brutal rivalry with Mike ‘Mile High’ Alvarado. Between the ropes both men’s style mesh to formulate a savage rivalry. Outside the ring, their opinion’s fuse in agreement of the harsh reality for the loser of this rousing rivalry. “Brandon is right about one thing, it is do or die for us. We are both the same person inside the ring and outside the ring.”
The Home Depot Center in Carson, California, played host to the invigorating beginning of the Rios vs. Alvarado trilogy in October of 2012. In the weeks leading up to the fight, many uttered memories of Ward vs. Gatti or Coralles vs. Castillo, fights that ushered these men into boxing folklore. A lofty level of expectation to reach for any fight, in any era.
Rios vs. Alvarado was as close to a guaranteed fireworks display as one could hope for in this era. Whilst Rios and Alvarado may not have etched their place in history alongside Ward vs. Gatti, they did engage in a ferocious war of attrition that was voted the best fight of 2012. ‘Bam Bam’ tucked his formidable chin and launched loaded bombs on Alvarado from the opening bell. On his part, and to his own detriment, Alvarado obliged in kind. Following six rounds of engrossing exchanges, a breakthrough came in the seventh. Rios nailed Alvarado with a right hand that wobbled the Denver native. Smelling blood, Rios moved in for the grand finale, finishing off the courageous Alvarado against the ropes as referee Pat Russell saved him from further onslaught. Despite the fight ending in definitive fashion, fans and pundits alike called for a rematch, and so a date was set for the bell to ring for round eight.
March 30th, 2013, Mike Alvarado would grasp the opportunity to vanquish any demons and avenge the loss to Rios six months previously. Under the bright lights of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Alvarado put his pride aside and set out to utilize his boxing skill set to fight his fight this time around. Picking up where they left off, the Oxnard slugger came with intent, stunning Alvarado in the opening round with a left hand. In a back and forth battle of resilience and fortitude, it would be Alvarado who landed the more telling blows with frequency. Rios had many spells of success, but couldn’t quite find a comfortable rhythm as Alvarado refused to engage Rios for prolonged periods and would maintain a pocket of distance to see out a decision victory.
Brandon Rios would immediately hold up three fingers to the Mandalay Bay crowd, signaling his desire for a third and deciding fight. However, Rios and Alvarado would separate at this junction in their careers. Manny Pacquiao, coming off a knockout loss at the hands of arch nemesis Juan Manuel Marquez, was in search of a dance partner for his return in Macao, China in November of 2013. In the eyes of many, Brandon Rios was selected as the sacrificial lamb. Tailor made for a fleet footed puncher like Pacquiao, Rios struggled to make any impact of note from the opening bell. Absorbing a barrage of shots each minute of every round, Rios lost a wide decision in a career low performance.
Now on a two fight losing streak, Rios next faced off with Diego Gabriel Chaves in August, 2014. In a scrappy and uninspired performance that transcended into a farce loaded with intentional fouls, Rios emerged with a victory via disqualification. ‘Bam Bam’ Rios has left a lot to be desired in his last two outings. With his back placed firmly against the wall, Brandon’s career hangs in the balance coming into this third clash with Alvarado. As it turns out, ‘Mile High’ Alvarado stands opposite of Rios in the pit of high stakes.
Mike Alvarado had lifted the WBO world super lightweight title in beating Rios seven months previous. Alvarado would make his first defense of the title in a homecoming bout against the power punching Siberian, Ruslan Provodnikov in Denver, Colorado. Provodnikov charged Alvarado from the offset. Ruslan wired in a seek and destroy mode, looking to brutalize Alvarado in close quarter exchanges. Alvarado did manage to maintain a degree of separation over the first couple of rounds before the Siberian slugger closed the distance, working the body and nailing Alvarado up top with right hands. Alvarado began to suffocate as Provodnikov began to swarm him with punishing shots. A body shot had Alvarado down in the eighth, barely making it to his feet. A second knockdown came before Alvarado escaped the round. Provodnikov stepped up the pace over the next two rounds before Alvarado made the decision to call it a day, to “protect his own health.” A wise decision.
Alvarado was next matched with Mexican boxer-puncher, Juan Manuel Marquez in May, 2014. In a fight that took some time to create a spark, Marquez controlled much of the first half of the fight, including an eighth round knockdown of Alvarado. Alvarado took hold of matters in the ninth to score a knockdown of his own. In typical Marquez fashion, Juan Manuel rallied when he was floored to finish strong, securing a points victory. Faced with two definitive losses, Alvarado desperately needs a commanding performance to keep his head above water in the deep pool of the light welterweight division.
The first two chapters of this rivalry had resulted in the first blemish on each fighter’s resume. And so it is fitting that these two men would meet again at such a crucial point in their respective careers. Having lost two of their last three outings, neither man has ignited their career path as of late. In the result of a closely contested fight, a case could be made for the losing fighter clinging to the outer fringe of relevancy. However a clear cut loss for either man could result in that fighter left stranded on a barren landscape of opportunity.