The biggest loser in Juan Manuel Marquez's knockout win over Manny Pacquiao last year?
That would be Brandon Rios.
Think about it: Last December, Rios was two months removed from the biggest win of his career, a cover-your-eyes, hide-the-children slugfest with Mike Alvarado that ended with a seventh round knockout. Throughout Pacquiao-Marquez fight week, media members (this one included) speculated that Rios would be next in line to land a fight -- and a $5 million payday -- with Pacquiao.
Then Pacquiao got dropped. And Rios got nothing.
Marquez wasn't going to fight him. Marquez is 39 and, despite recent rhetoric to the contrary, isn't going to take short money to fight Rios, Tim Bradley or anyone else for that matter, not with a monster payday against Pacquiao looming in September. Pacquiao wasn't either, for the same reasons. And because of Rios' connection to Top Rank, most of the top 140-pounders (Danny Garcia, Amir Khan, Lamont Peterson, Lucas Matthysse) weren't available to him.
Instead, Rios (31-0) was left with a rematch with Alvarado (33-1), who Rios will face for an interim junior welterweight title on Saturday at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas (HBO, 10:15 pm). It's a great fight -- the first was hailed by most as the Fight of the Year -- but a dangerous one that doesn't come with a Pacquiao-like paycheck.
You would think Rios would be disappointed. And you would be wrong.
"It's never too soon to do it again," Rios said. "We are warriors, and if you are a warrior, you want to fight again and again and again. The first fight was great. I feel great and I'm ready for another battle. I am just ready to do it again. I am ready for another battle. Why wait?"
This is what many love about Rios. He is a fighter in the purest sense. He likes to punch. He likes to get punched. A lot of fighters wouldn't want to re-watch a fight like the one against Alvarado. Rios says he watches it every day. Most of his fights are fought in a phone booth and 23 of them have ended before the final bell. There is little technical about Rios's style. It's hit, hit and keep hitting until the referee tells you to stop.
It's what makes Rios so fan friendly. And it's what makes a fight with Alvarado -- whose style isn't much different -- so appealing.
"We both go fight each other," Rios said. "We try to get the job done the only way we know how. We can try to change it up in the gym, but once the bell rings and we get hit, we go back to doing what we know how to do. That's the warrior mentality that comes out of us. Mike Alvarado is Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios is Brandon Rios. We are going to give the fans what they want and we are going to give them a good show."
Neither Rios or Alvarado say they have made many adjustments for the rematch. In fact, both expect something very similar.
"I am pretty sure it will go the same way," Rios said. "I'm sure he feels the same way too. I am gunning for a knockout. [The first fight], it was like watching an Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward fight. I couldn't believe we stood up to the big shots. We were both landing big shots going toe-to-toe in the middle of the ring."
Added Alvarado, "I just have to be on my game. I am going to fight the same way. I will make adjustments to overcome situations."
Rios didn't get Pacquiao, but a big payday isn't far off. Top Rank's Bob Arum has proposed a type of tournament, with the winner of Rios-Alvarado getting a shot at Bradley, and the winner of that facing whoever comes out of Pacquiao-Marquez V early next year.
It's a brutal schedule that promises to leave the winner battered and bruised. You know, just the way Rios likes it.