DENVER (AP) — Mike Alvarado burst out laughing when his upcoming opponent dropped to a knee and playfully proposed marriage.
Indeed, he’s been seeing a lot of Brandon “Bam Bam” Rios inside the ring lately.
That’s only because the bouts between these two good buddies have always been entertaining, with 3,003 punches thrown over 19 rounds spanning two fights. Both have a win and so they will settle the score on Jan. 24 in Broomfield, Colorado, with the vacant World Boxing Organization international welterweight championship up for grabs.
There’s also this: The winner will be on track for a lucrative payday down the road.
“It means a lot for both of us,” said Rios of Oxnard, California, who is 32-2-1 with 22 knockouts. “I’m making the best of everything I can do for this fight. I’m only 28 and I have a lot of gas in my tank.”
Rios and Alvarado clowned around during a news conference at the Pepsi Center, more like buddies than bruisers about to brawl. They posed for pictures together, cracking up when someone suggested they strike a serious pose.
Later, on stage, Peter Nelson, the vice president of programming for HBO Sports, said that a third fight is “like a third marriage — it may not be conclusive, but it sure feels like it should be.”
An idea struck Rios — drop to a knee in a faux proposal. A light-hearted moment between friends.
So, how do they punish each other for 12 rounds if they’re so friendly toward one another?
“If you see these guys fight, without even knowing them, you’d think they hated each other,” said Henry Delgado, the manager for Alvarado. “It’s because the will to win is strong in both of them.
“You can have all the plans and strategy you want, but when the bell rings it all goes out the window with these guys.”
Rios won the first meeting with Alvarado on Oct. 13, 2012, when he staggered Alvarado with a right hand in the seventh round and then connected on a series of punches, leading the referee to stop the fight.
Five months later in the rematch, the action was nonstop as Alvarado danced and juked his way to a unanimous decision.
Since their last meeting, though, their paths have gotten lightly off course.
Rios lost a bout to Manny Pacquiao in Macau in November 2013, before beating Diego Chaves in August.
Meanwhile, Alvarado — who’s from Denver and goes by the nickname “Mile High” — has dropped his last two bouts, including one against Ruslan Provodnikov in October 2013 in front of a hometown crowd, losing the WBO junior welterweight world title in the process.
Then, Alvarado dropped a 12-round unanimous decision to Juan Manuel Marquez.
“I need to win this fight,” said the 34-year-old Alvarado, who is 34-3 with 23 KOs. “I definitely need to.
“I knew this trilogy was inevitable. We could’ve been 50 years and this trilogy would happen. I’m ready for it, man.”
These two fighters refuse to give an inch in the ring. They constantly remain on the offensive and don’t mind taking a few punches.
“These are two fighters of consummate guts and whenever they get in the ring it’s always promised to be action-packed fireworks,” said Nelson, whose network will air the fight. “These two are born to fight each other.”
The fighters will make between $500,000 and $1 million for their work. A bigger payout awaits the winner. Not that Rios is even looking at the situation quite like that.
“Who I want to face is Alvarado,” Rios said. “Before, I got too caught up in looking past my opponents and looking at the next guy. I got kicked in the (bottom) and brought down to earth. I remember what guy I’m fighting.”
He has the scars to show for it, pointing above his left eyebrow to where Alvarado caught him with a punch. Alvarado has similar scars.
“The first two fights were epic fights,” Alvarado said. “It was destined for this fight to happen again. The score has to be settled.”
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