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hbo-ipad-serviceBrandon Rios needed to reach down into his gut and summon something, because Mike Alvarado was building up a little lead, in my mind anyway, at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA on Saturday night and on HBO. That he did, in the probable fight of the year. Rios, at 1:57 of the seventh, whacked away at Alvarado, basted him on the ropes, and forced the ref to step in and save Alvarado from his own brave self.

The victor, who landed an overhand right to buzz the loser badly in that last round, to start the finale, said he did get buzzed himself. He said he did feel it to be different at 140 than 135. Maybe the ref could have let Alvarado go a bit longer, he said, but he tipped his hat to the loser. “He's a warrior,” he said. Rios said he'd probably do the same to the Pacquiao-Marquez winner. And a rematch? He asked the fans if they wanted it, they roared, and he said eff it, let's do it again. Alvie said after that he was still warming up when he got hurt. He said the stoppage was premature. “I woulda got my head back and fought through it,” he said. “We could do it again if he wants,” he said. Two judges had it even and another had Rios ahead by two at the time of the haltage, by the way.

Ref Pat Russell said after that the fight was brutal, and he thought Alvarado was “defenseless.”

Alvarado (age 33; from Colorado; 33-0 entering ) was 139.8 while Rios (age 26; 30-0-1; ex lightweight champ; living in CA), in his first fight at 140, was 140 at the weigh in.

In the first round of the fight promoted by Top Rank, Rios scored with lefts. Alvie answered with rights in a busy, entertaining round.

In the second, Rios again looked to be the man moving forward, pushing the foe backwards. They exchanged uppercuts for a spell, and then rights. This was a fight, not an exercise in the sweet part of the science.

In the third, Alvie got himself more room, but Rios closed the gap. His hooks had the crowd clapping. He grinned with 35 seconds left.

In the fourth, the distance was pea-sized for most of the round. Alvie's jab wasn't Holmesian but he was persistent with it and it helped cloak his right. Rios grinned as he walked to his corner.

In the fifth, the right half-hook by Alvie had the crowd impressed. Rios looked to be gassing some. “He's starting to land the hard punches,” trainer Robert Garcia told Rios after.

In the sixth, Rios upped the volume. But a clean right from Alvie, and then another landed. But Rios landed a nasty right and maybe took the round. In the seventh, Rios ate copious shots and the ref hopped in.

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