CARSON, Calif. — The main event saw Nonito Donaire drop Toshiaki Nishioka twice en route to a ninth round stoppage to establish supremacy at 122 pounds in a mostly dreary affair, but it was the Brandon Rios-Mike Alvarado co-feature which stole HBO’s Boxing After Dark doubleheader.
Seldom does a boxing match live up to the hype, but Rios-Alvarado did just that, meeting lofty expectations by delivering a war, one which Rios won via brutal seventh-round stoppage before a sell-out crowd of 7,665 at the outdoor Home Depot Center.
It was a war of attrition between two unbeaten fighters. Each round was a fistic masterpiece, brutal and savage. Rios absorbed vicious shot after shot, but took it all in stride, outlasting Mike Alvarado with a seventh round TKO.
Rios (31-0-1, 21 KOs) hurt Alvarado badly in the seventh, sending him to the ropes. He sensed Alvarado was hurt and marched forward and dispensed with left hooks and overhand right that he wound up on. This time, Alvarado didn’t throw back and referee Pat Russell stepped in and halted the bout at 1:57, though the stoppage seemed a tad premature.
“Maybe the ref should have given him a little more time, maybe until there was a knockdown but he took a hell of a shot and he’s a warrior,” said Rios, who controversially defeated Richard Abril in his last bout. “I am a warrior. He didn’t hurt me. He got me a little stunned but I was ready to go on. I knew he had that style. I tried to throw my jab. Then I threw the big overhand right that hurt him which we worked at in the gym every day and it worked.”.
Russell stood by his call.
“The whole thing was brutal,” said Russell. “You’ve got to show me something to defend yourself. I thought he was defenseless and that’s why I stopped the fight. He had absolutely no defense for any of those punches. There is not a referee out there that wants to see a fighter get permanently injured and that’s why I stopped it.”.
Alvarado was understandably disappointed and desperately wants a chance to avenge himself.
“I kind of got into a slugging match with Brandon,” said Alvarado of Denver. “The fight turned out to be what it did. It shook me up a little bit but it should have kept going. We can do it again.”.
There was no feeling-out process in this one, as Rios landed a big left hook in the first round and followed up with body shots to which Alvarado responded with a four-punch power combination, setting the tone for the fight. They fought in a phone booth and traded over the early rounds, stepping up the tempo at the bell as both tried to steal the close rounds.
Alvarado (33-1, 23 KOs) landed an unbelievable running uppercut in the second, to which Rios responded once again with body shots and lefts.
Alvarado, 31, zeroed in with right crosses in the fourth, forcing blood to fly out of Rios’ mouth. Rios bravely walked through the shots, eating them and retuning his own, sending the crowd into a frenzy. It was the first clear round of the bout, as Alvarado seemed to be coming on.
He built on his strong fourth round and rattled Rios’ head in the fifth. “Bam Bam” Rios seemed ready to go, and then once more he came back with a barrage. Then Alvarado returned in like favor, imposing his will on his foe, only for Rios to come back again as they furious traded over the last 25 seconds of the stanza, a surefire candidate for round of the year.
Every so often, Alvarado would circle, jab and reset. Rios, on the other hand, just kept pressing forward. Rios, 25, ate some big shots in the sixth, then seemingly emboldened by the damage, took over and stunned Alvarado, sending him back to the ropes. It was the first time either fighter was badly hurt in the bout.
In the seventh, Rios of Oxnard, Calif., Landed a few rights that badly hurt Alvarado and Rios sensed the moment. He landed unanswered shots on his defenseless foe, forcing the stoppage. The fight was even on two cards, with Rios ahead 58-56 on one card headed into the seventh round.
Rios averaged 77 punches thrown per round with Alvarado at 111, illustrating the action in the contest.
Top Rank promoter Bob Arum championed Rios versus the winner of the fourth fight between Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez slated for Dec. 8.
“If Pacquiao beats Marquez, Pacquiao and Rios would be an unbelievable huge draw because people love and seek crazy wild action,” said the Hall of Fame promoter. “There is pressure [for a rematch with Alvarado], but obviously boxing is a business and if there is a possibility of Rios fighting either Pacquiao or Juan Manuel Marquez for really bonanza money, how can you take the risk of putting him in with Alvarado again, where he may lose?”.
It was Rios’ debut at 140 pounds after missing weight at 135 pounds three times in his last five fights and it was evident he carried his punch to junior welterweight.
“I have power at 140,” said Rios. “Some thought I wouldn’t have the power but I do and I showed you. See what happened to Alvarado and the same will happen to either Pacquiao or Marquez when I fight them.”.
It appeared he hadn’t carried his punch to 122 pounds, defeating opponents by decision rather than the knockouts the public was accustomed to at lower weights. It seemed he was no longer the knockout artist he was at 115 pounds and 118 pounds, where he was awarded two “Knockout of the Year” awards by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
But against his toughest test to date, Nonito Donaire rose to the occasion and stopped Toshiaki Nishioka in the ninth round, putting an end to a dull bout where his opponent fought very cautiously.
Donaire (30-1, 19 KOs)dropped the Tokyo, Japan native in the sixth round with a picture-perfect left uppercut then closed the show in the ninth with a counter straight right off the ropes.
Nishioka (39-5-3, 24 KOs)beat the count after the second knockdown, but his corner had seen enough, frantically jumping on the ring apron to wave the white towel, prompting referee Raul Caiz Sr. To stop the fight at 1:54 of round nine.
“When you do engage with Nonito, who is a surgeon, I will pick you apart, then the demolition man comes in and I knock them out,” said Donaire, recognized universally as one of the sport’s top pound-for-pound fighters. “Nishioka was a great fighter and we were weary, but if he made the mistake, we could get him and we did. My left hand was hurt in the middle of the fight and I needed a different strategy, and I got him with the right.
“I was using my jab and using my speed that’s what we wanted to do. The combinations got better as the fight went on. I was playing possum to see what he would do. I timed the straight like we practiced in the gym and [it worked.”.
Nishioka, known as the “Speed King”, knew he was outmatched. “The difference in the fight was speed,” said Nishioka, who hadn’t tasted defeat in over eight years. “I couldn’t handle his speed. I never saw the uppercut and I’ve never faced a fighter with the speed of Donaire.”.
Nishioka fought tentatively the entire bout, throwing just 199 punches over eight-plus rounds, while Donaire threw more than double that output at 485.
Donaire, 29, boxed and bounced on the balls of his feet in the early rounds, throwing jabs while measuring his opponent. “The Filipino Flash” darted in and landed, jumping out to escape harm’s way before Nishioka could counter.
Donaire of San Leandro, Calif. Threw straight rights to the body in the third round, but the southpaw Nishioka scored with a nice overhand left, rarely opening up enough to create any action, much to the dismay of the crowd which was just spoiled by Rios-Alvarado.
Once Nishioka did open up, Donaire landed the uppercut which changed the climate of the fight. After the knockdown, Nishioka began to trade, connecting with some nice straight lefts in the eighth round.
Nishioka, 36, was doing his best work of the night in the ninth round when he backed Donaire to the ropes and unloaded, only to be clipped with a devastating counter straight right that ended the fight.
Arum would like to have Donaire fight one more time before the end of the year, which would make it four fights for the Philippines native, a rarity for a fighter of his caliber in this day and age.
“He said in the ring he hurt his left hand,” said Arum. “If the hand is OK, I will try to have him fight before the end of the year in Mexico at the new arena in Mexico City against Jorge Arce.”.
While a fight with the wildly-popular Mexican would do big business, the fight the public has been asking for is a bout with two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Guillermo Rigondeaux. Donaire, though, seemed disinterested.
“I believe he needs more guys to make me excited,” said Donaire. “This fight we were so focused and that’s what I want to feel when I go into the ring. Rigondeaux needs to fight more guys to get me excited to fight him.”.