A different Brandon Rios showed up to the mile high city this past Saturday for his rubber match with Mike Alvarado. From the opening bell Rios showed not just pressure, but intelligent aggression, head movement, and reintegrated the jab into his arsenal--a much needed change. Combined with his patented mauling style he was dynamic—a far cry from the lethargy he showed against Manny Pacquiao a year ago.
In every way that Rios seemed transformed for the better, Alvardo was changed for the worse. In this rematch with Rios he stayed disciplined, avoided trading blow for blow, and kept his feet and jab active to fend off Rios' pressure. On Saturday, however, Alvarado seemed to be sleep walking from he opening round, coming forward without moving his hands and hanging his head low when in close, allowing Rios to land some devastating uppercuts. It was those vicious blows on the inside that sent Alvarado down in the third and ultimately made it impossible for him to come out for the fourth round.
The plan now is for Rios to seek out only "big matches," according to Bob Arum. What that means in practice is unclear, especially with several big name fighters in the division now fighting on NBC. But as I watched a reinvigorated Rios demolish Alvarado, all I could think about, was how amazing it would be to see him fight the Siberian Rocky, Ruslan Provodnikov. Officially they’re a weight class apart, but in reality, Rios is a blown up lightweight and Provodnikov is a big junior welterweight who’s spent years sparring with Pacquiao and thus can handle a small jump in weight.
They say iron sharpens iron, and in boxing, no two gritty harder come forward fighters match up better than Rios and Provodnikov. They both relish the chaos of the ring and look forward to having an opponent come straight at them.
Unfortunately, only hours after Rios' victory, I came to read that Provodnikov may be set to fight La Máquina Lucas Matthysse. You'll find no complaint about that spectacular matchup here.
Despite the sizable improvements in Rios' game, fights against slick boxers in his division (Kell Brook, Amir Khan, Tim Bradley) or superb technicians (Juan Manuel Marquez) aren't ideal. Rios is still better off, and truthfully makes for a much more marketable and exciting fight, against guys more willing to trade. Match ups against Shawn Porter, Victor Ortriz, or Danny Garcia (once he moves up in weight) are much more compelling. For now, Rios has earned a much deserved break, while his management team works to find him a big pay day.
A former college wrestler, Taekwondo black-belt, and wannabe boxer, Paul Navarro (aka Fight Like Sugar) is now a full-time lawyer, part-time fight scribe, and high school wrestling coach.