By TIM DAHLBERG
LAS VEGAS — The action was much the same, only this time the result was different. Mike Alvarado boxed and punched his way to a narrow but unanimous 12-round decision Saturday night over Brandon Rios in the rematch of their slugfest from five months ago.
Alvarado won 115-113 on two scorecards and 114-113 on the other to avenge his seventh-round loss to Rios in October.
It wasn’t as dramatic as the first fight, when Rios stopped Alvarado after being rocked himself a round earlier. But the fight was still thrilling at times, fought at a high level between two game warriors.
When the two finally got done hitting each other and the bell rang to end the last round, the crowd of 5,418 was on its feet cheering. And the decision had barely been announced when both fighters said they were ready to do it again.
“Brandon gave me a shot to redeem myself,” Alvarado said. “I’ll give him a shot for the trilogy.”
Alvarado was more than willing to again trade punches with Rios, but began boxing more in the middle rounds, a change in strategy that may have won him the fight. Rios expended a lot of energy chasing him, and wasn’t able to land as many big punches as in the first fight.
“I won the first won, now they want to make the third one,” Rios said. “Let’s make the third one.”
That will likely happen, but not right away. Promoter Bob Arum said he wants to see a third fight, but would look elsewhere for both fighters for their next fights.
“Are these guys going to fight again?” Arum asked. “Of course they will. But it doesn’t necessarily have to be next.”
Alvarado’s corner credited his road work in the mountains near his Denver home with giving him the legs to stay away from Rios instead of brawling the entire 12 rounds. But both fighters were more than willing to trade when they needed to.
It was the first loss for Rios, while Alvarado avenged his only defeat in the 140-pound bout.
“He didn’t rock me at all,” Rios said. “I’m a warrior.”
Their first fight was so good it made them headliners for the first time, and both fighters were determined to deliver for a second time. They alternated between taking punishment and giving it out, both smiling at the other when they got hit with a good shot.
If they didn’t fight at quite the pace of their first fight, it wasn’t for the lack of effort. Rios kept coming forward, attacking Alvarado relentlessly, while Alvarado scored well with his jab and traded freely any time either fighter landed a punch
Though both fighters weighed the class limit of 140 pounds at Friday’s weigh-in, Rios was unofficially 161 to 158 for Alvarado before the fight. That made it more of a middleweight bout, though no titles were at stake and none were needed before an appreciative crowd at the Mandalay Bay arena.
There were no knockdowns and neither fighter ever appeared seriously hurt. But that didn’t stop it from being an action fight filled with big punches, one that was in doubt even as it went into the final round.
Rios rocked Alvarado with a left hand with a minute left in the second round, sending him staggering backward. Any pretenses Alvarado had of boxing Rios went by the wayside as the two fighters began brawling in the center of the ring with little regard for defense of any type.
Alvarado was marked on his face eyes swelling in late rounds. Rios appeared fresher, but still took plenty of punishment.
Rios earned the biggest purse of his career, $1.25 million, while Alvarado was paid $625,000 for the rematch.