by David P. Greisman
Given the impatience that has caused this society to be ruled by instant gratification, it seems astounding that boxing fans can find the will to wait for big fights to take place.
Yet that waiting often comes with an end date attached. A bout is announced. Anticipation builds. And the tension peaks in those final seconds as the fighters stand in their corners, ready for the opening bell.
What’s much more difficult is the wait for a big fight that has not yet been signed — and might not happen at all.
That feeling isn’t necessarily applicable to matches such as Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao or Nonito Donaire vs. Abner Mares — these pairings were made impossible by contractual demands or promotional difficulties.
Rather, the pain comes with a fight that easily could happen. Fans had once clamored for Juan Manuel Lopez and Yuriorkis Gamboa to collide, only to be told by Bob Arum of promoter Top Rank that the featherweight fight needed to “marinate” — that more time was necessary to build the anticipation to the point where both boxers would get the amount of money and attention he felt they deserved.
But then Lopez was knocked out by Orlando Salido in 2011 — and then it happened again in a rematch a year later. By the time Gamboa left the Top Rank promotional stable, any plans of Gamboa vs. Lopez had been rendered moot.
Now Arum is telling boxing fans and observers that they will need to wait for a third fight between junior welterweights Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado.
“Are these guys going to fight again? Of course they will,” Arum was quoted as saying in an article on this website shortly after the March 30 rematch between Rios and Alvarado, which Alvarado won by unanimous decision to even up their rivalry at one victory apiece.
“But it doesn’t necessarily have to be next,” he said. “They can fight other guys and then come back and do a third fight.”
This time, he’s right.
Boxing fans should be reticent to think of themselves as boxing managers. They should want the best product for themselves, instead of settling for matchmaking that enriches the promoters, fighters and networks — everyone except for those paying cable bills or dishing out for tickets.
In the case of Rios and Alvarado, doing what’s best for them as a boxing manager could end up being what’s best for us as fans.
Putting Rios and Alvarado in with each other for a third straight time could be too much, too soon. We’ll come back to this specific trilogy momentarily.
The idea of “too much, too soon” hasn’t been the case with other trilogies that unfolded with back-to-back-to-back bouts.
Of recent vintage: Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward battled thrice in the span of about 13 months, and the first three of four fights between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez happened within 364 days. The action in the rubber matches did not suffer despite how little time passed for the fighters to recover between brutal bouts (though neither Vazquez nor Marquez were ever the same afterward).
And there is also the possibility of sequels losing luster due to an interim fight taking place. Roy Jones had taken a tough decision over Antonio Tarver in their first bout. Tarver had stunningly stopped Jones six months later in their immediate rematch. Yet their third fight would come about a year and a half later, after Jones had suffered a second straight knockout, this one against Glen Johnson, and clearly appeared to be damaged goods going into his finale with Tarver.
Then again, Erik Morales followed his win over Manny Pacquiao in 2005 with a poor performance against Zahir Raheem, losing what was supposed to be a tune-up bout for a rematch with Pacquiao. Nevertheless, Morales and Pacquiao put forth another entertaining war in January 2006, this one won by Pacquiao. Morales was knocked out in just three rounds by Pacquiao in their third and final bout. That decisive conclusion had likely resulted, in part, from the damage Morales had accumulated against the rapidly improving Pacquiao, and not from him being out-boxed by Raheem the year before.
Rios and Alvarado have each sent out and soaked up a lot of punishment in just five and a half months. They have been paid decently; their first fight was on the televised undercard of an HBO broadcast, while their second bout was in a main event on that network.
Each has come out as winners; Rios’ career should not suffer after losing for the first time.
A third fight could damage one of their reputations and both of their bodies.
Rios-Alvarado I was seen live by slightly more than 800,000 viewers and had an announced attendance of 7,655 in Rios’ home area of Southern California. Rios-Alvarado II had an audience of 1.2 million and sold 4,515 tickets in the more neutral environs of Las Vegas.
They can each now return home, face lesser foes and allow their bodies to heal — though, given their aggressive styles, they will still be hit often. They can be featured in main events on separate broadcasts, earning less for individual bouts than they would have had they gone immediately into Rios-Alvarado III, but more, combined, for their subsequent appearances.
And then, when the time is right, they can meet one more time.
If both continue to win and look good, then this third fight will be an even bigger attraction. Even if one or both loses in the interim, the third fight will still draw plenty of attention — so long as neither has shown himself to be too much on the decline.
We are a society ruled by instant gratification, but some of boxing’s best rivalries have had gaps between their episodes.
Erik Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera had more than two years — and five fights apiece — between their first and second bouts. Their rubber match occurred another two years later, with Morales winning six in a row to set up their third installment, while Barrera had gone 3-1 in-between, including a loss to Pacquiao. Fans still rose to their feet in the final round of the final fight.
Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez first fought in 2004, didn’t meet again until 2008 and then waited until 2011 for their third fight (a fourth bout, which saw Marquez get his first victory, came a year later, in 2012).
Pacquiao, Marquez, Morales and Barrera had been established as pay-per-view and main event attractions and could afford to wait. That line of thought should mean that Rios and Alvarado shouldn’t wait.
That’s not true, though.
They have raised their stature through their two wars. It’s time for them to cash in on this for a while before returning to a third fight — a fight that would once again guarantee brutality, and which could hasten the end of one or both of their careers.
With the way they fight, neither should be expected to stay in this sport for too many more years.
With that in mind, waiting for Rios-Alvarado III is OK — so long as that wait isn’t too long.
The 10 Count is at the beach and will return in two weeks.
“Fighting Words” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]