Like the first Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward fight, last October's meeting between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado managed to exceed the already high standards set for it. For seven pulsating rounds they went hammer and tong and only a curiously timed stoppage by referee Pat Russell was able to stop the torrent of blows.
That controversy, combined with the incredible action that preceded it, made Saturday's second act a natural. Rematches can sometimes live up to the original but they also can suffer by comparison. Which slot will Rios-Alvarado II occupy? Their recent CompuBox histories offer the following clues:
The Ultimate Slugfest: Their October 13 classic was a punch-fest of the highest order. Over six-and-two-thirds rounds Rios averaged 81.4 punches per round but Alvarado more than trumped him by unleashing 117.1 per round -- nearly double the junior welterweight average of 60.4.
Not only did they throw tons of punches, they unloaded tons of firepower. Of Rios' 541 punches, 440 -- or 81.4% -- were power shots while 423 of Alvarado's 779 punches (54.3%) were either hooks, crosses or uppercuts. Although Alvarado edged Rios 175-161 in total connects and 43-17 in landed jabs, Rios inflicted more damage with a 144-132 lead in power connects and by being the more accurate fighter (30%-22% overall, 17%-12% jabs and 33%-31% power).
Feel Good, Fight Good: During his debut at 140 against Alvarado, Rios proved that when he's comfortable at the weight, he makes his opponents very uncomfortable. When Rios made 135 more easily against Miguel Acosta and Urbano Antillon, he landed 38% of his total punches, 29% of his jabs (nearly nine percentage points higher than the 21.3% lightweight norm) and 43% of his power shots. But when he failed to make weight against John Murray and Richard Abril, those numbers slipped to 36%, 23% and 38%.
Though Rios is a prolific power puncher, he is more willing to mix in jabs when he's in proper condition. Against Acosta and Antillon there was a combined 2-to-1 split in favor of power shots while against Murray and Abril 76% of his combined punches were power punches, belying his ebbing patience. In the case of Alvarado, however, Rios slugged more because at 5-8 he is one inch shorter, possesses a one-and-a-half inch reach deficit and sought to neutralize an opponent who can box effectively at long range.
Finally, Rios' defense is better when in shape. Against Acosta and Antillon, he felt 30% of their total punches and 38% of their power shots but versus Murray and Abril they rose to a combined 33% and 45%, including a sieve-like 61% against Abril. Against Alvarado, Rios took 22% of his total punches and 31% of his power shots, good numbers given the violent nature of their first bout.
Falling Into Rios' Trap: Alvarado said before their first fight that he wanted to control the distance with his legs and left jabs but instead he was drawn into the gutter war that Rios likes. Past success brawling with opponents also encouraged Alvarado to slug with Rios, for that's what he did against Mauricio Herrera on the Rios-Abril undercard.
In that bout Alvarado averaged an unbelievable 119.9 punches and 78.4 power punches per round -- far above the 60.4 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 28-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.
As the first fight proved such a mindset can prove disastrous, not just because Alvarado brawled with a brawler but also because Alvarado could jeopardize his tender scar tissue.
Alvarado Can Change His Spots: Alvarado proved against Breidis Prescott (TKO 10) and Gabriel Martinez (W 10) that he can box in stretches. Although 65.4% of his punches against Herrera were power shots, that number dropped to 54.8% against Martinez. Surprisingly, against Prescott he threw more jabs (287) than power punches (279).
The punch selection ratio against Rios was more balanced (54.3% in favor of power shots) but if he is to fight effectively at long range he must improve his jab's accuracy. He landed just 43 of 356 jabs (12%) against Rios and one goal should be to at least match the 140-pound average of 20.6%.
Prediction: Alvarado will try to make good on his promise to box more in the rematch but Rios' pressure and pugnacious attitude will again draw him into a war. And in wars Rios usually prevails. The second act likely won't match the original but it will still be a fun watch. Rios by late-round TKO or decision.