by Cliff Rold
It might be one of those nights.
One of those Chacon-Boza, Gatti-Ward, Saad-Lopez nights.
It was assumed as such as soon as it was announced. Now here we are, just days from the opening bell of the most anticipated undercard fight in recent memory.
Alvarado-Rios is more than just a fight for hardcore boxing fans. Alvarado-Rios is a prayer for violence.
Perhaps the prayer will be answered in full. Perhaps boxing will get a fight that goes rounds and sees the sort of one-upsmanship that marks a truly legendary encounter. The escalation is what marks a great fight after all. Think about the reports of the unfilmed Tony Zale-Rocky Graziano wars; shower in the memories of Riddick Bowe-Evander Holyfield I, round ten; recall the progression of savagery in Diego Corrales-Jose Luis Castillo I.
Truly great wars see fighters take turns beating each other to the point where the audience is sure one man will fall. When he does not, when he finds a way to recapture the initiative, he forces his opponent to match him and surpass him again. The circle goes round and round until one man runs out of gears.
If it doesn’t go that way this Saturday, we could still see a scorcher. Brandon Rios-Urbano Antillon in July 2011 was like that. It was a rip-roaring affair, but Rios ended it conclusively and early.
It’s almost insane, certainly a little sadistic, to ask for more than that.
Does it reduce the inhumanity of the prayer to end it with a ‘pretty please?’
So much attention has been paid to what the fight might turn out to be in the ring, it can be said there is something missing in all the anticipation: a discussion of the stakes.
Taking place in what is still one of the deepest, most exciting, weight classes in all of boxing, there are serious stakes at play in this fight. This one isn’t just about Saturday. It’s also about the future at Jr. Welterweight and where the combatants, both entering undefeated, fit into it. This could be the birth of a two or three fight rivalry. It could also be a big move on the broader chessboard.
The 26-year old Rios (30-0-1, 22 KO), a former WBA Lightweight titlist, is the bigger star in the fight. He’s also entering with something to prove. Rios showed against Anthony Peterson, Miguel Acosta, and Antillon, that he is one of the most talented young fighters in the sport when he’s on. Missing weight in his final two attempts to compete at Lightweight, he was certainly not his best for a bout with Richard Abril in April of this year.
Rios might still have his “0” but he shouldn’t. To most eyes, Rios was outboxed and outhustled by Abril. It might be the most controversial decision of the year if more people had actually seen it. Tucked away on a pay-per-view undercard relatively few purchased, it is the theft heard more than seen ‘round the world.
The whispers, and accounts from viewers, were enough to damage the credibility Rios had begun to build. Officially moving into a better division than the one he came from, he can’t afford a loss if he wants to force his way into a crowded title picture.
Alvarado (33-0, 23 KO) has something to prove as well, and with a greater urgency to his endeavors. Even with a loss, Rios is young enough and exciting enough to have time to rebound. At 32 years of age, Alvarado has less margin of error. He showed his greater urgency in coming from behind to stop Breidis Prescott last year on the undercard Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez III.
Rated number one by the World Boxing Organization (WBO), Alvarado is in a perfect place to add a title to his mantle. The WBO belt is owned by Juan Manuel Marquez. If Marquez does not defeat Pacquiao in their scheduled fourth fight in December, and opts to continue, Alvarado can be waiting as his mandatory. If Marquez, win or lose, does not return to 140, Alvarado would be a favorite over just about anyone rated by the WBO right now to snare their belt.
Alvarado is rated third by the International Boxing Federation (IBF). If Lamont Peterson fails to defeat Timothy Bradley in a Welterweight title shot later this year, Alvarado can also be in play to challenge Peterson.
Rios, currently unrated by any of the major sanctioning bodies, can quickly catapult himself into Alvarado’s slots with a win.
Beyond the WBO and IBF ramifications, there is another dimension to the fight worth exploring. Much is said and written about the promotional gridlock between Top Rank (Rios and Alvarado’s promotional home) and Golden Boy Promotions. With the exposure and buzz Alvarado-Rios could generate, this fight could actually be a logical thawing point.
The World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles are held by Danny Garcia (24-0, 15 KO). Garcia, slated for a rematch with future Hall of Famer Erik Morales later this month, versus the winner of Rios-Alvarado is going to be an instant topic of conversation by Sunday. With Peterson and Marquez doing battle at 147, the question of the best active man at 140 would come down to those three (and, not to be forgotten, Lucas Matthysse).
Garcia-Matthysse can happen in house at Golden Boy. So could, potentially, Garcia-Amir Khan II. At some point though, with none of the fighters sure to be breaking pay-per-view numbers soon, they’re likely to need each other.
For profit, Top Rank and Golden Boy might need each other if only for a night.
If not, there is another note of significance to ponder. Let’s say Top Rank wants to keep matters in house. The winners of Pacquiao-Marquez IV and Bradley-Peterson II, both Top Rank fights, could easily be matched with each other next year (and, yes, this is just skipping over the possibility of Pacquiao versus someone else. First Take can dwell on that). If the Alvarado-Rios winner can’t force a Top Rank-Golden Boy thaw at 140, they can find themselves a fan friendly match one division higher on the scale.
While fight fans pray for violence this weekend, the fighters will likely be praying for the best in what comes afterwards. The winner leaves the ring as one of the proven top names in the Jr. Welterweight class and with the opportunity to go up an income level against some of those already established at 140 and 147 lbs.
Alvarado-Rios has only begun to matter.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]