It was somewhat fitting that earlier this week HBO announced that they will be producing a one hour version of the “Legendary Nights” series that will focus on the epic trilogy between the late future Hall of Famer Arturo “Thunder” Gatti and “Irish” Mickey Ward. That is because on Saturday night, HBO will air the rematch between junior welterweights Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios (31-0-1) and “Mile High” Mike Alvarado (33-1) originating from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is fitting not only because Rios-Alvarado I was a terrific back and forth slugfest but because many are hoping for an Alvarado victory solely with the hope that such a result will lead to a third fight. In other words, Rios and Alvarado are brave warriors whose styles match up such that they can only produce tremendous action fights that Gatti and Ward could be proud of.
The biggest questions surrounding the rematch appear to focus on Alvarado. The first is did the epic first fight with Rios, where Alvarado was stopped in the 7th round in October, take too much out of Alvarado. Indeed, that fight was not the only tough fight Alvarado was involved in during the 12 months prior to the Rios bout: he endured punishment in his November 2011 come-from-behind knock out victory over Bredis Prescott and took a number of punches during an April 2012 decision victory over Mauricio Herrera. Convential wisdom suggests that fighters who take punishment do not tend to come back stronger after a knock out loss. Then again, there are some (though not this writer) who argue that the stoppage in Rios-Alvarado I was premature and although Alvarado was hurt, he should have been given the chance to recover and continue with the fight. If you buy that argument, then it is likely that you feel that Alvarado is not damaged goods.
The second question relative to Alvarado is that after losing the first fight, what adjustments will he make. In the first fight, Alvarado through all pretense of boxing and defense out the window and slugged it out with Rios. Although he stunned Rios on a number of occassions and landed a good amount of leather, he allowed Rios to return fire, get on the inside and land his own punches which eventually wore Alvarado down. One would expect Alvarado to change his game plan. He is the taller fighter with a good jab. Thus, it may be appropriate for Alvarado to jab and move and generally try to outbox Rios. After all, Gatti boxed from the outside to decision Ward in the rematch after their hellacious first bout. Easier said than done: Rios is a relentless pressure fighter with heavy hands and a tremendous chin. He may not let Alvarado stick and move for 12 rounds. Additionally, Alvarado has never been a movement based boxer; rather, he is straight-ahead brawler and that is who he will always be. A leopard does not change its stripes.
For these reasons, Rios has been installed as a substantial favorite (www.sportbet.com has him listed at -475 and www.bet365.com has Rios as a 5 to 1 favorite). I agree. Rios is a beast and he is no longer weight drained at junior welterweight as he was in making 135 pounds. He has already shown he can hurt and stop Alvarado and I see no reason why he does not do so again. Especially since his winning could put him in line for a big money showdown with Manny Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez or, more likely, a high-profile action fight with Tim Bradley. Rios is the pick.
On the undercard, Prescott (26-4) faces late-replacement Terrence Crawford (19-0). No odds are available but I would imagine Prescott, with victories over Amir Khan and Richar Abril is the favorite. Additionally, he has been at junior welterweight longer than Crawford whose manager has described him as a “natural lightweight.” That said, Prescott has been outboxed by Miguel Vasquez (a lightweight) and light hitting Paul McCloskey (in a controversial decision loss) and was KO’d by Alvarado. Crawford is a classy boxer with good power who is taking a major step-up in competition. He has good management and they wouldn’t risk his undefeated record at this point for a short-money payday. That is enough for me: Crawford is the pick.
There are also two notable overseas fights on Saturday. WBA middleweight titlist Gennady “GGG” Golovkin (25-0) defends against Nobuhiro Ishida (24-8-2). Golovkin is listed as high as 50 to 1 (www.sportbet.com will give you -4000). That is not a type-o, FIFTY TO ONE. Even Buster Douglas was only 42-1 against Tyson. Bridgejumpers get ready to leap… GGG is the real deal and Ishida, despite his upset of James Kirkland, is not worldclass. Golovkin should handle him easy. GGG is the pick. In England, light heavyweights Tony Bellew (19-1) and Isaac Chilemba (20-1-1) wil face off in a title eliminator. This is a very tough fight to pick. On neutral ground, I may lean towards Chilemba but this is on Bellew’s turf. Bellew is the favorite (sportbet has him at -245; bet365 has him as a 3-1 favorite) and I would suggest picking him with possibility of a hometown decision. Bellew is the pick.
Author’s Record for the Year: 10-1-1