Neither Brandon Rios nor Mike Alvarado strike one as the type to have any kind of use for frills; not the kind used to trim clothing, nor the kind that you might find on the neck of a lizard, nor in any oriental pigeons. Certainly, it's not anything they want soiling one of their bouts. Although they are more offensively sophisticated than they are given credit for, their approaches are straightforward: They just want to fight, dammit. And they don't let little things get in their way. Against Breidis Prescott, Alvarado suffered a ripped upper lip and scored a knockout anyway. Rios is the rare boxer who smiles when he gets punched and isn't doing it just to pretend it didn't hurt; he really, really likes getting punched, and it motivates him to do even more punching on his end, rather than flee.
Expectations were high, then, when Rios finally moved up to junior welterweight and Top Rank matched him with Alvarado on HBO in October. Expectations were surpassed, and easily. They began quickly enough, but each round got almost better than the next until the 5th. That round roughly resembles what would happen if you had a pair of Cookie Monsters and tossed them into a Scrooge McDuck-style vault filled with chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin. That is hardly an exaggeration. In the 5th round, they averaged -- averaged -- 2.6 punches for every second. And while each of them was thrown with a certain kind of affection, because Rios and Alvarado love nothing more than throwing gobs of punches, they each were thrown with knockout intent. At 135 pounds, maybe Rios knocks Alvarado out earlier. But Alvarado was a big, strong, sturdy 140-pounder, and Rios looked strong at the weight, too, which meant they could each take more knockout punches that other foes might've been able to withstand.
Fans could hardly be blamed for getting upset when the fight was called off in the 7th, after Rios hurt Alvarado and trapped him along the ropes. It's not, in my view, that referee Pat Russell made a clear-cut bad decision -- fighters getting hurt along the ropes poses the danger of permanent damage in normal situations, but it's even riskier with men so capable of dealing out destruction the way Rios and Alvarado are. It's just that, from the perspective of someone who loves the sport, why would you want that fight to end? There are a few different kinds of fights that can make fans go "ooo" -- the ones with the huge knockouts; the ones with one boxer putting on a beautiful display of boxing; and the ones where the two men are landing outrageously powerful punches. Rios and Alvarado fell into the third category, and produced an even rarer effect: When one man would land an outrageously powerful punch, the other often would do so a split second later, so as to create a double-ooo before the fans in attendance could catch their breath from the first ooo, like, "ooo-OOO!"
Putting these two against each other was, as noted before, the easiest matchmaking of 2012. Rios is often in Fight of the Year candidates, and so is Alvarado. This year, they were in THE Fight of the Year. The rematch is likely in 2013. It will be hard to top Rios-Alvarado I.
Two words: Hell, yes. We had a handful of worth contenders for Fight of the Year this year, but this was just a bit more consistent, sustained brutal action. But again, I wouldn't have argued much against JMM-Pacquiao IV, Salido-JuanMa II, even Ioka-Yaegashi.
Thank you for resisting the narrative that Pacquiao-Marquez IV was Fight of the Year.
It's funny: I didn't see Pac-Marquez IV live because of a prior commitment. So I knew the result when I sat down to watch the fight later in the week. Yet I still had huge expectations due to all of the praise slathered on this fight.
And as soon as Pacman's face hit the canvas at the end of the sixth, I thought: "Damn good fight. But not as good as Rios-Alvarado or Berto-Guerrero."
Rios-Alvarado was all-action, all guts, all balls. Sure, Pacquiao-Marquez was a superb advertisement for the craft of boxing and also featured one of the most detonating knockouts in recent years. But there were moments when Pacquiao and Marquez were almost too skilled, cancelling each other with their brilliance and creating quiet moments in the ring.
Alvarado and Rios aren't that crafty. But they both have balls the size of grapefruit. So they constantly placed themselves in fists' way and were more than happy to be hit two or three times to land one.
Rios-Alvarado wasn't a puncher-counterpuncher chess match with spasms of violence and a concussive conclusion. It was a flat-out brawl between two guys daring each other to be the last man standing.
Pier effing 6, indeed.
@PaulKelly It was a damn good fight, Pacquiao-Marquez 4, and a finalist on our list. But it just wasn't as good for all the reasons you mention and more.