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Rios Alvarado 121013 003aRios tweaked his tactics and showed an edge in stamina on Saturday night against Alvarado. (Chris Farina-Top Rank)

Prior to his Saturday night fight against Brandon Rios, I felt that Mike Alvarado's edge in boxing ability would have been the deciding factor between the two “rough and ready” inside specialists. It almost was. After a closely contested first round at the Home Depot Center in Carson, CA, Alvarado began making things easier for himself by implementing his jab to keep Rios on the outside.Using his superior reach, Alvarado peppered the ever advancing Rios with crisp straight lefts and rights. Even at close quarters, as Rios managed to get himself in close, Alvarado seemed to be getting the better of the action there too by replicating the same defensive posture that Richard Abril had success with against Rios –chin tucked in behind a high left shoulder, with the right glove protecting the face from the left hook. Despite the oohs and aahs from the crowd as both were exchanging on the inside, it was Alvarado who was managing to tag Rios almost every time he threw, with his short hooks and uppercuts, whereas apart from the occasionally landed left hook up top and to the body, Rios was finding mostly elbows, shoulders and air. Approaching the midway point, Rios's money punch, his left hook, wasn't landing as much as he'd have liked and it was Alvarado, not Rios,that seemed to be on the verge of taking over the fight.

Then, two things happened that changed matters for good.

The first was Alvarado's early pace and high punch output took its toll. Because Alvarado lacked the foot speed to keep the fight at a distance, he had to rely on throwing punches, and lots of them, to keep Rios from getting in close.Undeterred by Alvarado's power, who himself was now throwing far less minus the earlier conviction, Rios's sustained pressure never wavered as he was now getting beyond the Alvarado jab every time he came forward. After five rounds, Rios was by far the fresher of the two fighters.

The second thing that changed the fight for Rios, and it's something I thought I'd never see from him, was a conscious tactical adjustment he made. With his left hook not landing as much as he'd have liked because of Alvarado's high right glove on the inside, Rios began throwing an overhand right from around the back of Alvarado's raised left shoulder. This is the difference between a fighter who's a natural at using a certain technique and a fighter who's adopted the technique for a certain opponent. When you look at Floyd Mayweather in the same defensive position, his hips are pushing into his opponent's abdomen, he's leaning back with his weight over on his back foot, his chin is tucked away behind his raised left shoulder, and he's constantly slipping, rolling and turning in conjunction with the punches that are being thrown. In this position, Mayweather's almost impossible to hit clean with overhand rights and left hooks. Mike Alvarado, in the same defensive position, had a deficiency to exploit. He did a decent job of protecting himself against the left hook {although Rios began landing it more too as Alvarado slowed down} but because he wasn't leaning back or rolling with the punches, Rios was able to find an opening for his overhand right, the shot that all but ended the fight. Alvarado was going through the defensive motions alright, but because of a flaw in his technique, Rios managed to penetrate his defensive shield.

Hurt by the right and with Alvarado up on the ropes taking too many unanswered blows, the fight was halted in the seventh round.

All in all, I thought it was a brilliant fight that fell just short of being a great. Many seem to think that the referee deprived us of something truly special but I disagree, wholeheartedly. Alvarado's arms weren't by his waist, but he was clearly defenseless against Rios's onslaught. The official, who's in there for safety precautions first and foremost, got it spot on in my mind.

I'm sure many out there would welcome a rematch between the two, but in all honesty, I see the same thing happening again. Alvarado is clearly the better boxer, but he lacks the power to keep Rios off of him, and the foot speed to outmaneuver him. At 140 pounds, Rios has a vibrancy and energy to him that was clearly wasn't there 135. Rios's physical strength at 140 was my biggest concern with him before the fight. Not any more.

However, while Rios will likely always get the better of Mike Alvarado, or possibly anyone else who remains right in front of him, talks of him being competitive with Manny Pacquiao are ridiculous to say the least. There's a gulf in hand and foot speed that would be too vast for Rios to overcome. Rios, who is a lineal attacker, would not be able to handle Manny's style of fighting –moving in and out at different angles. Pacquiao becomes an apex predator against those who take the fight to him. Rios would end up looking like David Diaz and Antonio Margarito in that one I'm afraid as unlike Alvarado, Pacquiao packs the punch to hurt Rios.

For now though, a win over a very tough opponent in Mike Alvarado, in a candidate for fight of the year honours will suffice.

Nonito Donaire-Toshiaki Nishioka:

This fight was about as far away from the first fight as you could possibly get. From the opening bell, which saw very little thrown as both men were jockeying for position from the outside, the crowd immediately showed their disapproval, unfairly so in my book. Rios-Alvarado was far from an-all time classic, but it was always going to be very hard to top in terms of the ebb and flow of the action that took place earlier. A chess match was the last thing the blood hungry crowd wanted after what they had just witnessed.

It's what they got.

Nevertheless, I felt the fight was enjoyable from a technical perspective. Prior to the bout, the left hook of Nonito Donaire was well documented. From the opening bell, it was apparent that Nishioka had done his homework and believed its hype. The problem here though, was that he seemed to be thinking of nothing else BUT Donaire's left hook. By stepping to his left and away from Donaire's left hand, using a very unconventional guard which saw his lead hand higher than his rear {right glove up by his ear and his left under his chin} Nishioka actually did a good job of negating his opponent's best weapon. It was a very cerebral move from Nishioka, almost Bernard Hopkins-like in it's execution. However, unlike many of Hopkins's past opponents who only had a single weapon and were pretty much ineffective once it was taken away from them, Nishioka found himself in with an opponent in Donaire who's very versatile on offense. Because Donaire seemed to be too dependent on his left hook during his previous three outings, I feel Nishioka felt that if he could take it away, then everything else would fall into place for him –possibly by forcing Donaire into overloading with right hands as a substitute, which would allow for the Japanese southpaw to take a subtle step to his right and fire a straight left as just as Donaire's missing the target with his right. Unfortunately for him, this never happened. Instead, Donaire kept his composure, remained patient and stuck to boxing his man.

It must have been difficult for Donaire, who, with the crowd on his back demanding more action, and an opponent in front of him who was refusing to give him any, stayed focused and began to systematically break Nishioka down. Had Donaire began loading up with the left hook or any other punch for that matter, then he would have been playing directly into Nishioka's hands. Instead, Donaire attacked sporadically, throwing uppercuts, jabs and straight right hands, from different angles at different targets. With his thought process well and truly cemented on Donaire's left hook, Nishioka found himself losing every round because he wasn't doing anything BUT negate the left hook. I don't think, however, that Nishioka was set up to survive like Omar Narvaez was, as I believe there was always tactical intent behind Nishioka's negativity. As he fell further behind on the scorecards, Nishioka began to attack more, which, as has turned out to be the case with most of Donaire's opponents who opened up against him in the past, proved to be his undoing. Not long after being sent down by a lead hand uppercut,Nishioka uncharacteristically followed his man blind to the ropes where he lead off with a jab, only for Donaire to counter simultaneously and drop Nishioka again with a straight right hand. Not only is Donaire a superb athlete, he's also an astute tactician and knows how to set a trap in there. Moments later, Nishioka was saved from any further punishment when his corner intervened. With the ninth round TKO victory, Nonito Donaire became the new universally recognized super bantamweight champion of the world.

It's the same old scenario with Donaire. Against opponents who take chances on offense, he has the quick trigger punching ability to end a fight with a single punch. There aren't many true one punch knockout artists left in boxing. Nonito Donaire is among the last of a dying breed.

In terms of future opponents, Donaire has plenty of options. For the hardcore among us, two fighters come to mind. Guillermo Rigondeaux is an obvious choice, who, with his counterpunching ability and exquisite technique, wouldn't leave many openings for Donaire to expose, which could possibly lead to a fight with plenty of feinting and not enough punching. I'm not sure Donaire will want to go down that avenue again anytime soon. Likewise with Anselmo Moreno, a defensive specialist who I consider to be the best pure technician in boxing at the moment. That fight would surely please the aficionados, but I'm not sure it would quench the thirsts of those who prefer their action of the Mike Alvarado-Brandon Rios kind.

The most crowd pleasing fight for Donaire right now would be the high volume and exciting Abner Mares. But as we know, there are ongoing promotional issues that exist which could prevent it from taking place, as well as Mares's tough November date with Anselmo Moreno himself.

Whomever Nonito Donaire decides to fight next, I'll be watching.

Out of all the upper echelon fighters in boxing, you could say that Donaire is the most complete, who at the same time, doesn't jeopardize his offense to aid his defense or vice versa. Mayweather and Ward are tough to hit and are expert tacticians, but you're not going to see many knockouts from them. Pacquiao and Martinez are sensational on offense, but if they were to be marked on defense alone, they'd be nowhere near the top of the mythical pound for pound rankings.

That's why I like Donaire. He's got good defense, great offense, speed, power, ring intelligence and he can press the attack or can lay back and counter –he's the complete fighter. If Donaire managed to not only secure fights with the likes of Mares, Moreno and Rigondeaux, but actually beat them too, then Mayweather, Ward, Pacquiao and co. would have some serious competition on their hands.

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