After Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado split a pair of thrilling, action-packed fights, both of which were fight of the year candidates, a rubber match was inevitable. And now it's set.
Rios and Alvarado will meet for the third time to break the tie in a 12-round welterweight fight Jan. 24 (HBO) at the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, a suburb of Alvarado's hometown of Denver. The deal was agreed to and contracts were sent out Tuesday night, Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti told ESPN.com.
"As far as trilogies go, this should rank right up there with some of the best trilogies to ever happen in the lighter weight classes," Moretti said. "It is right up there with Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales and Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward. Both guys wanted this fight, and it's the right fight for both guys at the right time.
"We flirted with dong it in December but it got pushed back for business reasons. But that's OK. It gives both guys more time to train and get into shape. Even though it's not going to be baseball season, you'll have two of the best pitchers and catchers in boxing that night. I don't think there's a downside to this fight. The winner will get a bigger opportunity later in the year, and the loser I don't think has to be disregarded because he will lose in fantastic fashion so people will want to see him again."
In October 2012, Rios (32-2-1, 23 KOs) stopped Alvarado (34-3, 23 KOs) in the seventh round in Carson, California, in a hellacious junior welterweight fight. Alvarado exacted revenge in March 2013 in Las Vegas by winning a close unanimous decision, and a vacant interim junior welterweight title, as he brawled early on and then boxed just enough in the second half of the fight to edge Rios.
"It's gonna be a war again. No other way around it," said Henry Delgado, Alvarado's manager. "You can say whatever you want, you can plan whatever you want, but throw it all out the window when the bell rings. These guys are both warriors. Both of these guys are the same breed. They know they're both going to have to dig and dig deep in this fight.
"We wanted this fight. I think Brandon did, too. What else would make a good fight? What else would make the money?"
It is a fight that was made because neither guy had another big fight on the horizon. Since beating Rios in the rematch and being elevated to a full junior welterweight titleholder, Alvarado, 34, has lost two fights in a row.
He made his first title defense in October 2013, also at the 1stBank Center, and retired on his stool after the 10th round in a brutal, punishing fight with Russian slugger Ruslan Provodnikov.
Alvarado returned in May and lost a lopsided decision to Mexican great Juan Manuel Marquez in a welterweight world title eliminator in which both men were knocked down.
After losing the rematch to Alvarado, Rios, 28, a former lightweight world titleholder from Oxnard, California, lost a second fight in a row when he was outclassed by Manny Pacquiao in a near-shutout decision in a welterweight bout in Macau, China, last November. Rios tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug after the fight and was suspended for five months, although it did not cost him a fight because he wasn't going to box during that period of time anyway. Rios returned to notch a ninth-round disqualification victory against Diego Chaves in August, but it was an uneven performance.
"The third fight will also be a great fight," said Cameron Dunkin, Rios' manager. "It's a fight a lot of people have asked about and been wanting to see. We're going to Denver to Alvarado's hometown, but Brandon doesn't care. He is ready to go and excited to fight. He feels very confident that he's going to win."
Dunkin said Rios also will be healthy. He said Rios has fought his past three bouts with a damaged right elbow, which he had surgery on following the fight with Chaves.
"He said the elbow is as good as new and that it feels great for the first time in a long time," Dunkin said. "These guys together can't help but make a great fight. Brandon's got to cut him down and shut him off and force him to fight. Provodnikov did, and that's what Brandon has to do."