Brandon Rios (right) connects with a punch to Mike Alvarado’s jaw in the sixth round of their WBO Latino Super Lightweight Title match last October. REUTERS
THE boxers who are remembered the most fondly by fight fans are not always notable for their skill or talent so much as their heart, spirit and willingness to stand toe to toe with an opponent and keep throwing punches no matter how much punishment they might take in the process.
It is these sorts of characteristics that have combined to create some of the greatest fights in boxing history, when the likes of Arturo Gatti and Mickey Ward, Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns, or Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales went to war. Two men whose first meeting produced the same sort of entertainment as these classic encounters will be renewing hostilities tomorrow night in Las Vegas, as American Mike Alvarado looks to avenge his loss last October at the hands of compatriot Brendan Rios.
The first fight between the two took place on the card of a show headlined by Nonito Donaire versus Jorge Arce, but such was the intensity and excitement of the battle between Rios and Alvarado that it completely overshadowed the main event.
The tone was set in the opening round, as the two men met in the middle of the ring and squared off, exchanging full-blooded punches. No quarter was asked or given, and whenever one fighter seemed to be in the ascendancy, the other would somehow find a way to dig deep and come on even stronger.
Towards the end of the fourth round, Alvarado seemed to have seized the initiative, landing a series of hard shots that connected cleanly. This pattern continued until the midway point in the fifth when, with the rousing encouragement of the Houston crowd ringing in his ears, Rios started firing back with non-stop combinations of his own.
Alvarado used the break between rounds to recuperate and recover, and got the better of the sixth, but the fight was finally settled in round seven.
It was Rios who had his hands raised after connecting cleanly with an overhand right and then following it up with a frantic flurry of punches that caused the referee to step in to save his still standing opponent.
That fight was so dramatic that this weekend’s meeting between the two men will be the main event at the famous Mandalay Events Centre in Las Vegas.
The WBO Interim World Lightweight Title will be on the line, but this is one fight that is not about the belt, but about two warriors testing their indomitable spirit and unbreakable will.