LAS VEGAS – One of the great things about boxing is that a fighter can win even when he loses.
Though Mike Alvarado has a defeat on his record as a result of his bout last year in Carson, Calif., with Brandon Rios, his professional reputation was greatly enhanced.
Prior to their epic Oct. 13 battle under the lights at the Home Depot Center, which was one of the best fights not only of 2012 but of the 21st century, Alvarado was largely an unknown beyond the tiny hardcore fan base. He had gotten precious little television exposure despite winning his first 32 fights and had been on the outside looking in when it came to major fights.
Then, came the super lightweight bout with Rios, one awaited eagerly by those few who had closely followed the career arcs of both men. It didn't take a boxing savant to understand that a fight between Rios and Alvarado would be nonstop action.
In boxing parlance, both men were warriors, the kind of fighters who seem to take a suggestion to slip a punch or take a step back as an insult.
The bout was one of the few that exceeded the hype. Mere seconds into the bout, Rios and Alvarado stood flat-footed in the center of the ring and threw mega-shots at each other as the crowd erupted. The action was sustained at that frenetic pace for pretty much the rest of the fight.
It ended in the seventh round with Rios pounding on a seemingly defenseless Alvarado. Referee Pat Russell jumped in to stop it.
It was the first loss in 34 pro fights for Alvarado, but he heads into Saturday's rematch at the Mandalay Bay Events Center with a bigger name and a far more embellished reputation.
Despite the loss, Alvarado is being paid more, being requested for interviews more and being recognized by the casual sports fan.
"I don't usually like to do immediate rematches, but this first fight was really so great," Top Rank's Bob Arum said. "There was a demand for it to get done and the people at HBO came up with a financial package that was very appealing. Both fighters are getting considerably more [money] than they got the first time. It's the exception that proves the rule."
Rios was able to bask in the glory of the win and, had things played out differently, would probably have been fighting Manny Pacquiao. But Pacquiao got knocked out in December by Juan Manuel Marquez and promoters are now pursuing a rematch.
As the loser, Alvarado didn't have that kind of opportunity available to him. But he put himself on boxing's big stage with his effort on Oct. 13. And though it's usually incumbent upon the loser to adjust, Alvarado candidly admits not much will be different.
"It just came down to a couple of shots," he said, sounding a bit wistful.
That meant that he didn't have to scrap his plan and come up with an entirely new one. And given his history, he'd probably be lying if he said he would do so.
Had he been the one who had landed the massive right hand to the head in the seventh round and not Rios, it would be Rios answering these same questions.
As a result, Alvarado simply wants to do more of the same, with fewer mistakes.
"You can always train differently to try to change things up, but I think our styles and the way we approach the ring, it is automatically going to turn into that kind of fight," Alvarado said. "They are the styles we have. We are both warriors. We just fight and whoever comes out on top, that's just the way it's going to go."
During a conference call last week, Alvarado made an admission that was startling, though barely noticed. Asked if Rios forced him out of his game plan, Alvarado said something that you'd never hear a Peyton Manning say.
The plan was to have no plan, other than to fight. Think about how remarkable that is: In what was clearly a career-defining fight for Alvarado, with thousands, if not millions, of dollars at stake, he was so confident in his ability to brawl that his only plan was to match force with force.
"I didn't really have a game plan," he said. "I just fought like I usually do. That is the style I like to fight; it's the only way I know how. I didn't change anything up. I made a couple of adjustments in the ring, but I wasn't at the top of my game like I should have been."
If Alvarado wasn't at the top of his game, he was extremely close.
No one, certainly not those who are expected to fill Mandalay Bay on Saturday hoping for an encore, would complain if Alvarado teamed with Rios for anything similar to that kind of performance.
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