LAS VEGAS -- Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios had barely got done hitting each other when the talk of a third fight between the two eager warriors began.
No reason not to do it again, the way these two like to go after it.
The action Saturday night was much the same as their first fight, only this time the result was different. Alvarado boxed and punched his way to a narrow but unanimous 12-round decision over Rios in the rematch of their slugfest from five months ago.
Alvarado came on strong in the late rounds to win 115-113 on two scorecards and 114-113 on the other to avenge his seventh-round loss to Rios in October. The ringside punch totals were almost as close as the scoring, with Alvarado credited with landing 261 punches to 241 for Rios.
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.
It also was brutal at times, as evidenced by the cut on Alvarado's forehead and his swollen face. He was taken to a hospital for a precautionary brain scan after the fight, and Rios also was taken to the hospital.
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.
"Brandon gave me a shot to redeem myself," Alvarado said. "I'll give him a shot for the trilogy."
Alvarado was again more than willing to 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 was not able to land as many big punches as in the first fight.
Alvarado won three of the last four rounds on two scorecards and all four on a third to pull out the 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 (31-1-1), while Alvarado (34-1) 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
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.
"I didn't get rocked," Rios said. "If I got rocked, I'd have been wobbling. I could go 15 more rounds. I'm a warrior. I love to fight. We got to do it again."
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, who came in as a 3-1 favourite, 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 centre of the ring with little regard for defence 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.