By Robert Morales
Flash back to September 1999 and the welterweight title unification fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad Jr. at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. Everybody in the world thought it was going to be a hard-hitting, toe-to-toe match. Both fighters said as much during the promotion.
Trinidad was down for that, but De La Hoya took that away from fans by deciding to steer clear of any prolonged exchanges. In the last three rounds, he ran as much as a fighter can run. The judges in Las Vegas must have hated that because they scored Trinidad a majority-decision winner. Most reporters had De La Hoya winning, but many of them weren't thrilled that De La Hoya had robbed fans of what was expected to be a thriller between the Mexican-American and Puerto Rican sluggers.
Despite the high praise doled out by HBO announcers on Saturday, Mike Alvarado did his own version of the De La Hoya shuffle during his rematch with Brandon Rios at Mandalay Bay. To be fair, Alvarado fought a lot more than De La Hoya did against Trinidad. And he often landed a stiff right hand while absorbing a lot of punishment himself. But he moved a lot in the second half of the fight, especially, at times looking like De La Hoya did, dancing around the ring.
Fans were hopeful of seeing what they saw in the first fight, which was seven rounds of brutality that ended with Rios stopping Alvarado in the seventh round this past October at Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. Instead, they got something less because Alvarado apparently decided he could not win that way.
"Definitely," said Rios' trainer, Robert Garcia, when asked Wednesday via telephone if he was disappointed in the strategy taken by Alvarado, who won a narrow decision Saturday. "We also have to give him credit for what he did. That was his way of doing it to win. But he did take a lot out of the fight that everybody expected."
Garcia seemed surprised that no one else has beefed about Alvarado's game plan, which, Alvarado admitted, "was to box and move."
"Everybody else is giving him so much credit and making him think that he fought a hell of a fight," Garcia told a reporter from BoxingScene.com. "If it would have been Brandon moving around and basically running around the way he (Alvarado) did the last few rounds, he would not have gotten so much credit for doing that. You're the first person to tell me he feels like that (about Alvarado's movement).
"He fought the fight he had to fight, but he did take a lot out of what was expected."
Even with Alvarado's decision to not engage as much as he did in their first fight, Garcia spoke as if he thought Rios still should have been judged the victor.
"Even though he (Alvarado) did that, it's not like he clearly won rounds," Garcia said. "He was still getting hit, maybe not as powerfully as he was in the beginning, but he did get hit. That's why he had to move. Some of the rounds were so close."
Garcia used the De La Hoya-Trinidad fight as an example of a double standard.
"How much criticism did Oscar get when he fought Trinidad for those last few rounds that he ran?" Garcia said. "I still think he won the fight, but he got so much s**t for running those last three rounds. But no one said s**t about Alvarado. ... The last few rounds was nothing but running. The word has always been for many years that the judges from Vegas always prefer the fighters who go forward.
"Just like with me and Derrick Gainer (a Garcia victory in 1994 in Las Vegas); he was running around so much. The judges in Vegas have always been known as favoring the guy looking for the fight. This time Brandon was looking for the fight. I guess all three judges were the opposite."
Garcia did say that the Alvarado victory could result in a third fight.
"If Brandon would have destroyed him in the second round, there would be no reason for another rematch," said Garcia, who said he doesn't expect a third go-round to take place immediately even though Rios wants it.
What will happen the third time?
"He (Alvarado) will run even worse," Garcia said.
Bob Arum, who promotes Rios and Alvarado, is in Macao, China for Saturday's card there and could not be reached for comment.
Golovkin's trainer gives outsider perspective
Abel Sanchez, trainer of middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin, was asked what he thought of the way Alvarado went about his business Saturday. He had a very interesting perspective.
"The problem that Alvarado had in that fight is that he wasn't prepared physically to deal with a strong guy like Rios and Rios was prepared to deal with whatever because that's how he came up," Sanchez said. "Alvarado came up with a lot of easy knockouts and had a lot of easy fights for 20-something fights. And when he started to fight tougher guys, he started to box even more. Rios knows only one way."
Sanchez suggested that Alvarado could learn how to fight better defensively without giving the appearance he's running.
"You can move and not appear to be running," Sanchez said. "Unfortunately for Alvarado, Rudy Hernandez just came into his camp. Rudy can't change it in one fight. If he had come in four or five fights ago, he could have taught him how to move without looking like he's running. A couple of times, he even kind of turned his back, kind of turned sideways.
"If Rudy continues with this young man, in a couple of fights you are going to see a different Alvarado."
Hernandez had been Alvarado's cut-man, but was given a much bigger role for Saturday's bout. He was technically an assistant trainer, but he did most of the talking between rounds, giving the appearance he was in complete charge.
For Golovkin, there is now hope
Following Golovkin's one-punch knockout of Nobuhiro Ishida on Saturday in Monte Carlo, Monaco, some positive words came from the mouth of Sampson Lewkowicz, adviser to fellow middleweight champion Sergio Martinez.
Sampson told BoxingScene.com that he likes the idea of title unification bouts, so he would now be interested in pitting Martinez against either Golovkin or another champion - Daniel Geale - "in the near future."
Prior to that, Martinez's promoter - Lou DiBella - didn't even want to hear about a possible Martinez-Golovkin bout. He said nobody knew Golovkin and nobody would care. Sanchez is stoked that the tide seems to be turning.
"I see it as a great sign, actually," said Sanchez, who trains fighters out of his sprawling camp in Big Bear, Calif. "When we were in Monte Carlo, Lou DiBella was talking to Tom Loeffler about either later in the year or the first quarter of next year," Sanchez said. "As long as they're talking, there is a possibility."
Martinez will defend his title against Martin Murray on April 27 in Martinez's native Argentina (on HBO). Loeffler is general manager of K2-Promotions, which promotes Golovkin.
Schaefer gets a laugh out of Lewkowicz dig
In that same story about Martinez, Golovkin and Geale, Sampson was asked what he thought about the fourth middleweight champion, Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin. He responded in pot-shot fashion.
"Golovkin and Geale are fighters who people know and they have been promoted very well - but I can't say the same for Peter Quillin, who nobody knows," Lewkowicz said. "I had to go to YouTube to remember who Quillin was, and the only thing I found was a video where Quillin was interviewing himself and asking, 'Who is Sergio Martinez?' Maybe by now Quillin knows who Martinez is - but we still have no idea who Quillin is."
Quillin is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, for which Richard Schaefer is the CEO. He chuckled when the subject of Lewkowicz's comments was broached.
"Well, because he doesn't want to fight him, that's why (Lewkowicz said that)," Schaefer said. "Simple as that. He's not a very smart business guy, Sampson, but he certainly is a smart matchmaker; I give him that. So if i would be him, I probably wouldn't want to put Martinez in with a young, strong undefeated middleweight champion like Peter Quillin."
Schaefer said fellow promoter Don Chargin gave him the skinny on Quillin when he was about to sign him some 2 1/2 years ago.
"Don Chargin, when I discussed with him the potential signing of Peter Quillin, said, 'He's one of those guys who's going to surprise everybody,' " Schaefer said. "
I said, 'Well, what do you mean by that?' He said, 'It doesn't matter who you put him in with, Peter Quillin always finds a way to win.' And he sure was right. I really value Don's opinion, he knows his stuff. And so you don't need to be a brain surgeon to figure out why Sampson Lewkowicz said what he did."
Schaefer not concerned about Guerrero psyche
We have to wonder about the current mental state of Robert "The Ghost" Guerrero, the Golden Boy fighter who last week was arrested and charged with criminal gun possession for having an unloaded pistol and three unloaded magazines when he checked in for a flight at John F. Kenned Airport in Queens, N.Y., on the way to Las Vegas.
It doesn't matter that Guerrero may not have known that even if he has a license for that weapon in California that he can't have it in New York, which probably has the nation's strictest gun laws. Bottom line is, what he did is considered a felony and if convicted, he faces jail time.
With that in the back of his head, he must try to prepare for the toughest prize-fight of his life - against Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 4 at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (on Showtime pay-per-view).
However, Schaefer is of the mind that because of all the facts, Guerrero's mind is at ease.
"I talked to him when he was released from custody and was on his way to the airport and I had a very nice conversation with him," Schaefer said. "And he, I think, is in a very good place mentally. He lives a positive life, is surrounded by good people. He's a good guy and I think what this was, it was really an innocent mistake. And I believe that between him telling the judge what happened and the fact that he has no prior convictions and so on ... He really is truly a good guy. I mean, if you want to describe a good guy, it's Robert Guerrero.
"And so I think all of these facts are going to come in and so I don't think it's a distraction for him. And I told him, I said, 'You go and take care of your business on May 4 and then we'll go and take care of the other business in New York after the fight."
Schaefer was asked if he was disappointed in Guerrero for not knowing better.
"No," Schaefer said. "Based on what was explained to me and the fact that he likes to go to the shooting range as one of his hobbies, and the fact he disclosed he had that gun and the fact that it was not loaded and the fact that the magazines were kept separate, the fact that it was under lock and seal in a safe in his luggage, and that it was him who pointed it out and declared it and so on, this is not the action of a guy who is trying to do something sneaky, do something illegal.
"It's clearly the action of somebody who just didn't know what he was doing. And I think that the judge who released him in New York said something to the effect like, 'I hope he fights better than he thinks,' probably summed it up that he just didn't think."
Actually, that was Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown who said that.
"He wasn't aware that different states have different gun laws," Schaefer said. "Now, he obviously is. And so you can't be upset, you can't be disappointed because of something like that because he didn't do something knowingly illegal. He just didn't know. That's not like excusing ignorance because there is no excuse for that.
"But he just didn't know. If he would have known, I'm sure he wouldn't have done it because Robert is not that kind of person who does things like that or lives his life like that, or lives on the edge. He is a family man, a valued member of society. So I'm not disappointed in him, and I feel, frankly, bad for him that this happened."
Robert Morales covers boxing for the Los Angeles Daily News and BoxingScene.com.