HBO Boxing After Dark: 5 Takeaways from Saturday Night's Fights
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It was important to let the dust settle after the high-intensity fight between "Mile High" Mike Alvarado (34-1, 23 KOs) and Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios (31-1-1, 23 KOs) this past Saturday, March 30 on HBO.
Often times, viewers get wrapped up in the moment and anoint boxing fights “instant classics” too quickly.
After watching Alvarado versus Rios II twice more since its live broadcast, I'm happy to report—in my eyes at least—that this fight was indeed an incredible showcase of blood and guts that lived up to the lofty expectations set by the first battle.
Not only did Alvarado-Rios II build on the drama of the first bout, but the entire boxing card gave us some new storylines to consider and discuss.
Among the hot topics on the night were Mike Alvarado's game plan, Nonito Donaire's comparison of Terence Crawford to Pernell Whitaker, and Brandon Rios' long-term health.
Let's take a look at five of the biggest takeaways from the Alvarado-Rios II telecast.
Mike Alvarado Can Adapt
Alvarado vs. Rios II
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Many people—including myself—did not believe that Mike Alvarado had the discipline to follow through with his box-first game plan.
Aside from doing a good job of limiting the heated exchanges on the inside, Alvarado fought at a more measured pace and threw less punches.
In their first fight, Alvarado went all-out and threw 779 punches (via BoxingScene.com) in less than seven full rounds. In the rematch, Alvarado threw 860 punches (via BoxingScene.com) in 12 rounds. Not only did Alvarado throw at a smarter rate, he also connected at a higher percentage.
One of Alvarado's best punches during the bout was the overhand right, which couldn't seem to miss all night. Alvarado also showed good movement throughout the fight, often times leaving Rios a step behind him.
One thing Alvarado can continue to work on is sitting down on this jab. When he throws a stiffer jab, it becomes easier for him to dictate distance against his opponent.
Shann Vilhauer Is a Team Player
Mike Alvarado and Shann Vilhauer
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Nick Groke of The Denver Post reported during Mike Alvarado’s training camp that veteran trainer Rudy Hernandez was added as a full-time assistant to help Shann Vilhauer.
What ended up surprising many fight fans was seeing Hernandez take the lead in the corner between rounds, leaving Shann Vilhauer—Alvarado's longtime head trainer—to offer his advice from outside the ring.
Many trainers are too proud to step aside and accept help, even if it is in the best interest of their fighter. Hernandez’ status upgrade in Alvarado’s corner turned out to be a brilliant move, one that couldn’t have happened without a team player like Shann Vilhauer.
With Hernandez and Vilhauer working well together in his corner, Alvarado seems to be in great shape, whether he takes on Rios a third time or another tough opponent.
Brandon Rios’ Longevity in the Sport Is in Question
Rios loves punishment
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Fight fans love nothing more than watching a fighter lay it all on the line. For that reason, Brandon Rios’ all-action style makes him one of the most popular fighters in the sport today.
But, the dangerous part of being a fighter like Bam Bam is that your star can fade out as quickly as it ascends. The terms "punch-drunk" and "dazed" go hand-in-hand with brawlers who make a living by taking two punches to give one.
For Rios to enjoy a lengthier career—and a healthier retirement—Robert Garcia will have to implore his fighter to use more head movement and try to parry shots instead of eating them head-on.
Terence Crawford Is a Contender to Watch
Terence Crawford made the most of his big opportunity as a late fill-in for Khabib Allakhverdiev by dominating junior welterweight contender Breidis Prescott.
Crawford showed some great movement and the ability to seamlessly switch from conventional to southpaw. Crawford was successful in neutralizing the power-punching Colombian for all 10 rounds.
Crawford even got some big props from world champion Nonito Donaire mid-way through the fight:
Crawford reminds me of Whitaker.Not as slick but doing a good job— Nonito Donaire Jr. (@filipinoflash) March 31, 2013
During the HBO telecast, Max Kellerman threw out the possibility of Crawford facing Adrien Broner. While this bout would be exciting, it is obviously not going to happen for a number of reasons.
Kellerman and Donaire’s compliments do speak volumes for Crawford’s potential, and he’s definitely an up-and-comer at 135 or 140 pounds.
Rios vs. Alvarado II Is Early Candidate for Fight of the Year
Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado’s first epic battle was a 2012 Fight of the Year candidate. Their second bout is up for the award once again and may just be the frontrunner at this point.
Tim Bradley—who participated in his own barn-burner on March 16—tipped his hat to Rios and Alvarado, saying that he felt their most recent war surpassed his fight with Ruslan Provodnikov (per Scott Christ of Bad Left Hook).
Rios-Alvarado II narrowly beats out Bradley-Provodnikov for Fight of the Year because of the sustained action, the change-of-pace mix of boxing and brawling, as well as both combatants getting rocked.
It’s not often that you expect great things from a fight, and when it’s all over, you feel like you’ve gotten everything you were hoping for.