Showing the same heart and desire he did in their first meeting while fighting a smarter fight this time around, Mike Alvarado avenged his Oct. 13 loss to Brandon Rios, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Events Center and winning the WBO interim junior welterweight title.
Judges Dave Moretti and William Lerch had Alvarado on top 115-113 while Duane Ford scored it 114-113 for Alvarado (34-1), who handed Rios (31-1-1) the first loss of his career after Rios had done the same thing to him in their first meeting.
“I’m always smarter the second time around, and I just stuck with the game plan,” the 32-year-old Alvarado said. “I knew I had to fight him smarter than the last time, and that’s what I did. But I kept being drawn into a brawl.”
As soon as the scores were announced, the 26-year-old Rios was clamoring for a rematch.
“I gave you a rematch,” he shouted at Alvarado afterward. “We need to have a third fight. He went to my backyard. I’ll go to his backyard (in Denver).”
Added Rios: “It’s not right. I won that fight. He ran all night. He maybe won four rounds, tops. He never hurt me.”
Both fighters went to University Medical Center for treatment and did not attend the postfight news conference. But Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, whose company promotes Rios and Alvarado, said at some point a third fight will be scheduled. But not immediately.
“Are these guys going to fight each other again? Absolutely,” Arum said. “Are they going to fight each other next? Probably not. We’ll find fights for both Mike and Brandon before we put them in the ring with each other again.”
The second go-round looked like it might end earlier than the first meeting when Rios scored a seventh-round technical knockout at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. He landed a straight left to Alvarado’s chin that sent him reeling backward, and he pressed the advantage, trying to finish him off.
But Alvarado, who is as courageous as anyone in boxing, took the punishment and started firing back.
With most in the crowd of 5,418 on their feet, the second round ended with both fighters landing big shots. It was reminiscent of 1985 when Thomas Hearns and Marvin Hagler waged war at Caesars Palace.
But as tough as things were for Alvarado early, he rallied and won the third and fourth rounds. If Rios didn’t realize he was in a battle before, he knew now.
The two continued to trade blows back and forth, neither willing to take a backward step. Referee Tony Weeks did a great job in allowing them to fight, and through nine rounds, there was a one-punch difference in those thrown and a two-punch difference in those landed.
Alvarado promised to fight smarter this time, and he did. He boxed more and used his jab to set up his other punches, something he didn’t do in the first fight.
“Mike had better legs, and that was the difference this time,” said Alvarado’s manager Henry Delgado. “We did high-elevation training in the mountains for this fight. He ran eight miles up a mountain every day.”
The final punchstats showed the competitiveness of Saturday’s rematch. Alvarado had the edge in total punches thrown (860-823) and a higher percentage of punches landed (30 percent to 29 percent). He also had the edge over Rios in jabs thrown (398-282) while Rios had the better numbers in power punches (541-462), though Alvarado had a higher percentage of power punches connected (38 percent to 34 percent).
“Alvarado deserves credit for having a game plan and executing that game plan,” Arum said. “There wasn’t the craziness of the first fight.”
On the undercard, Terence Crawford scored a 10-round unanimous decision over Breidis Prescott in a junior welterweight bout. Crawford (20-0), who took the fight on two weeks’ notice after Prescott’s original opponent, Khabib Allakhverdiev, dropped out with an elbow injury, had little problem once he figured out Prescott (26-5).
“Everything worked,” the 25-year-old Crawford said. “I knew he couldn’t handle my speed, my power and my boxing ability. He’s not a very smart fighter.”
Crawford constantly went to the body and was far quicker than the 29-year-old Prescott, who started well but appeared to tire over the fight’s second half. The judges had Crawford well ahead, giving him the fight by a wide margin. Burt Clements had it 100-90, Trowbridge scored it 97-93, and Don Trella saw it 99-91.
Las Vegas heavyweight Brett Rather (3-0) survived a first-round knockdown to defeat Juan Guajardo (2-1) by unanimous decision in their four-round bout. All three judges — Tim Cheatham, Ricardo Ocasio and Trowbridge — had Rather winning 38-37.
“I got caught by a right hand in the first round, but it never hurt me,” said Rather, 22, a former UNLV standout. “But I knew I had to turn it up after the knockdown. I was working the body and my hook set up my right hand. I thought it was my best performance so far.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.