By Francisco Salazar

It was all going well for Brandon Rios through his first fight with Mike Alvarado.

He was unbeaten, earning six and seven-figure paydays, and was the talk of boxing. Bigger stages and fights against the elite in the sport were right around the corner.

Then it came crashing down on March 30, 2013. On that night in Las Vegas, Rios suffered his first defeat as a pro at the hands of Alvarado.

Almost eight months later, Rios lost a one-sided 12 round unanimous decision to Manny Pacquiao in Macau, China.

While he got back in the win column on August 2, defeating Diego Chaves by disqualification in the ninth round, Rios is in a need of a convincing win. He could get it against a familiar foe on Saturday night, where a victory could open bigger doors in 2015.

Rios will fight Alvarado in the rubber match of their epic trilogy at the FirstBank Center in the Denver suburb of Broomfield. The bout will headline a Top Rank card and will be televised live on HBO, beginning at 9:45 p.m. ET/ 6:45 p.m. PT.

To say the losses struck a nerve in Rios is an understatement. Rather than take a lengthy layoff after a fight, Rios was back in the gym almost immediately after the Chaves fight.

Rios may feel his back is against the wall as another loss could relegate him to gatekeeper status in the division or question how much longer he could remain relevant in the sport.

But he is willing to go into Alvarado’s backyard not only to redeem himself from the loss to Alvarado, but to revitalize his career.

“I’m ready to get back to where I belong,” Rios told in a recent phone interview. “I feel very motivated. That desire and hunger that disappeared in recent fights is back. I feel rejuvenated.”

Feeling rejuvenated after three grueling fights may be a testament more to his psychological drive, more so than his physical drive.

Then again, Rios is a competitor, a grinder who believes it is in his hands to right the wrong, especially in the second fight against Alvarado. While losing to Alvarado was tough to overcome, losing to Pacquiao was much harder to accept.

“The loss to Pacquiao was harder to take. I knew I was fighting a legend and there’s no shame in losing to one of the best. But I was down on myself because I was confident I had the tools to beat him. After the fight, I sat around and did nothing.”

“The thing with me was that I got cocky-confident. I believed too much in myself. In the first Alvarado fight, I was hungry and throwing combinations. In the second fight, I was looking for the knockout. Alvarado stuck to his game-plan and moved around the ring. I didn’t stick to my game-plan.”

If Alvarado got redemption in the rematch by defeating Rios, what would the third fight mean to both fighters? For Rios, a win on Saturday would mean a great deal. He would have obviously taken two of the three wins in the trilogy, but he would be vindicated that his career is over.

Rios has a lot of fight in him left. He may not be the best or polished fighter, but he has proven he can mostly never be in a bad fight.

The losses he suffered in 2013 may have been a wake-up call and the best thing that could happen to him if he is to be taken seriously as a contender.

“I forgot that drive and I got caught up with being young and in trouble (almost 10 years ago). I made a mistake, but I’ve learned from those mistakes.”

“There’s still a lot for me to do. I’m out to prove a point (on Saturday night).”

Francisco A. Salazar has written for since October of 2013 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at

or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing