Mike Alvarado still wonders how Brandon Rios won the lottery without buying a ticket.
While Rios, coming off his first career defeat, landed a blockbuster fight against Manny Pacquiao, Alvarado -- the man who beat Rios -- continues to see his path littered with obstacles. And on Saturday, the junior welterweight titleholder will have a pretty big one in front of him.
"Mile High Mike" will try to erase any doubts about his boxing skills when he clashes with a fighter considered by many to be the strongest in the 140-pound division: Ruslan Provodnikov.
Over 8,000 fans are expected to fill the 1STBANK Center outside Denver, where they will cheer on hometown hero Alvarado as he defends his title (HBO, 9:45 p.m. ET).
Provodnikov (22-2, 15 KOs) is coming off a highly competitive defeat to Timothy Bradley Jr. last April, when he dropped the American twice (although only one knockdown was validated by the referee) and lost a close decision.
Provodnikov and Alvarado were polite to each other during Thursday's final press conference, but things should change dramatically once the bell rings. The matchup is expected to be one of the most explosive fights of 2013.
Alvarado (34-1, 23 KOs) pointed out the significance of beating Provodnikov convincingly in order to set up what he has called "the biggest payday I've ever dreamed."
In an interview with ESPNDeportes.com, Alvarado -- who defeated Rios in their rematch last March but lost out to him for the chance to square off against Pacquiao -- explained the importance of his fight against Provodnikov.
How was training leading up to this fight?
We had a great training camp. We've worked really hard to stay focused because we know that we are bound for a war. Provodnikov is one of the best fighters in this weight class, so our preparation will be a key to do whatever we have to do in order to win the fight.
Do you think you need a clear win over Provodnikov, who some believe actually bested Timothy Bradley Jr. in a March loss?
We are aware of the fact that Provodnikov is a warrior, and Bradley did what he had to do in order to get that win. He's a fighter who can put up a fight against you all night long, but the difference here is that he lacks my talent to control any possible situations, and being able to switch the actions to a whole different direction. I've proved it before. Control will make a huge difference here.
In your first fight against Brandon Rios, slugging wasn't the best strategy. In the rematch, you chose to box more. What will you do this time around?
I'm prepared to do a little bit of everything, use the same strategy like the one we used for the rematch against Rios. Slug when necessary and move around when I need. But the key will be to remain focused. We are fully aware that we are facing a true warrior.
You beat Rios but didn't get the fight against Manny Pacquiao. What will you do this time to get that shot?
This is a fight that means a lot to me, and I will go out and make a statement. I will look for the perfect fight. I can't deny that when Rios got the fight against Pacquiao, I was really disappointed. I deserved that fight. But now, I'm the world champion and choose to remain focused. If I beat Provodnikov, who knows, maybe the next fight will be the dream fight, the long-awaited huge payday.
How important is it to you to fight in your hometown?
It means a lot; it's a huge challenge and an extra [bonus] to both my family and me. A great experience, and it helps on the emotional side. I'm well-prepared for this fight. I'm going to win.
What's your game plan?
My game plan is, simply, knowing that we are headed for a war. My goal is to fight my way, not his. That's my game. Remaining mentally strong, because I've got the technique to win. I know how to stay away from those tricky fight styles.
Do you think Provodnikov is the right fighter to take on to make a statement about yourself and erase any remaining doubts out there?
Yes. He is the perfect fighter to do such thing. He is one tough fighter, and we don't know his complete game plan, but also, because of his style, he could help me look good.
If you defeat Provodnikov, what do you visualize in your future?
Right now, Manny Pacquiao is a huge option. Like I said, the dream fight, the long-awaited huge payday. I've still got many fights left, and I'm a real champion.
What outcome do you expect for Saturday?
I'm ready to go the distance, but if we can get the KO, fine. We are ready for a great fight and getting that win.