When Brandon Rios is "right," he is among the most exciting fighters in the world. His pulsating aggression is proof that his "Bam Bam" nickname was well chosen and if anyone wants proof just look at his three-round slugfest against Urbano Antillon, rated as one of 2011's best fights.
But it has been a while since Rios has been "right." Rios lost his WBA lightweight belt on the scales before his battle with John Murray and weight problems prior to the Richard Abril fight cost him a chance to regain the strap his issues caused him to vacate in the first place.
Now that Rios has abandoned the 135-pound division weight shouldn't be an issue. No, the issue before him now is Mike Alvarado, an undefeated campaigner who shares Rios' warrior mindset. Eight years into his career, Alvarado is fighting the biggest fight of his life against his most notable opponent.
Will Alvarado's ambition propel him to victory or will Rios' experience and increased comfort level prevail? Their CompuBox profiles provide the following food for thought:
Rios' Struggles: At the highest levels of boxing, the draining effects of making weight can prove to be the difference between victory and defeat. Rios has been fortunate in more ways than one; he stopped John Murray in 11 and escaped with a hotly disputed split decision against Richard Abril.
If one compares these two fights with the two that took place before (KO 3 Antillon, W 12 Miguel Acosta), the weight issues show up in several forms.
First, the two fights Rios made 135 more comfortably, he landed 38 percent of his total punches, 28.9 percent of his jabs and 42.7 percent of his power punches but in his last two fights those numbers slipped to 35.6, 22.5 and 37.7 respectively.
Second, the better conditioned version of Rios was willing to mix up his punch selection more, for there was a 66-34 split in favor of power shots against Antillon (Rios actually landed 35 jabs in round two vs. Antillio, two short of the CompuBox lightweight record of 37 set by Pernall Whitaker (vs. Poli Diaz) and Acosta while in his last two fights that split surged to 76-24. Against Abril, 651 of his 726 punches -- or 89.7 percent -- were power punches. Predictability is poison at the top levels and that almost cost Rios his unbeaten record, particularly against Abril.
Third, Rios' defense suffered. Against Antillon and Acosta, he tasted a combined 29.6 percent of their total punches and 37.7 percent of their power shots. Against Murray and
Abril those numbers eroded to 32.5 and 44.4, which includes Abril landing an astounding 60.8 percent of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts,
The big question for Rios is whether adding five pounds to his frame will be enough to mitigate the issues that dogged him in his last two fights. It surely will help him feel better when he steps between the ropes, but will it also restore his previous level of performance? If anyone can create the high-stress environment needed to have those questions answered, Mike Alvarado can. Here's why:
Rios' Doppelganger -- For One Night: Supposedly, everyone on earth has a "double" who may not be a relative but can be easily confused to him nonetheless. For one explosive night, Alvarado not only duplicated Rios, he surpassed him.
Ironically, that fight, a 12-round war against Mauricio Herrera, took place just before Rios tackled Abril. Averaging an astronomical 119.9 punches and 78.4 power punches per round -- far above the 60.3 and 35.5 junior welterweight averages -- and out-landed Herrera 429-380 (total), 101-85 (jabs) and 328-295 (power).
In terms of statistics, Alvarado-Herrera was historic. Their 2,167 punches thrown is the fifth highest record among junior welterweights in CompuBox's 27-year history while their 809 combined connects rated third, their 623 power connects fourth and their 1,451 thrown power punches sixth. Alvarado's 328 power connects rated fifth all-time among 140-pounders while his 429 total connects was sixth and his 1,199 total punches thrown and 784 power punches thrown versus Herrera were both 11th all-time.
However, Alvarado used a more balanced approach in beating Breidis Prescott and Gabriel Martinez. While 65.4 percent of his punches against Herrera were power shots, that number dropped to 54.8 percent against Martinez. Surprisingly, against Prescott he actually threw more jabs (287) than power punches (279).
It might be wiser for Alvarado to box Rios as he did against Prescott and Martinez but if he chooses to fight "Bam Bam" chest-to-chest he proved against Herrera he is capable of pulling it off.
Prediction: If Rios is feeling good, he'll fight good. He'll also force Alvarado into a war, which he is well equipped to handle. In a toe-to-toe slugfest, cuts may become a huge factor against Alvarado. It won't be easy, but Rios will emerge with a decision victory.