By Lyle Fitzsimmons

There are Ali-Frazier and Gatti-Ward trilogies to wax sentimental about.

And then there are Leonard-Duran and Pacquiao-Morales series that start out monumental and tick down to simply interesting before fooling their followers into thinking one more time is worth it.

Judged by those criteria, Saturday night was significantly more latter than former.

Though it wasn’t on the March 1971 or May 2002 levels, the first meeting between Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado in 2012 was certainly worthy of discussion for the best fight of that calendar year – and it might have clearly deserved the nod if not for the drama of Pacquiao-Marquez IV just 56 days later.

The second fight five months later was another good one, though, had the two men not already engaged in such graphic warfare, few would have demanded that No. 2 automatically warranted No. 3.

Like Ray and Roberto a generation before and Manny and Erik eight years prior, the third match was promoted this time as vital closure, when in reality it was better packaged as both man’s only option.

Leonard had been dropped twice by a supposedly shot Thomas Hearns before getting a dubious scorecard draw six months earlier; while a declining Duran had done little more than age and bulk up in the weeks between a stirring defeat of Iran Barkley and the commencement of the “Uno Mas” promotion, which necessitated a rapid weight loss that some suggested was more than 30 pounds.

Meanwhile, Morales had lost three of four fights heading into his Pacquiao finale; and Pacquiao himself had already cleansed the taste of a decision loss with a convincing 10th-round stoppage 10 months later, which rendered another rematch – at the same weight, for the same stakes and at the same venue – meaningful only to Bob Arum and the 350,000 souls he convinced to buy the pay-per-view.

Like its more heralded predecessors, the Rios-Alvarado swansong was preceded by an unproductive stretch in which Rios was 0-2 and served a suspension for a failed urine test before escaping with a DQ over Diego Chaves in August; while Alvarado had been beaten to a pulp by Juan Manuel Marquez and Ruslan Provodnikov and hadn’t actually beaten a fighter other than Rios in 33 months.

Still, through the magic of Top Rank and premium cable, there they were in suburban Denver.

And though it was under the network’s second-tier “Boxing After Dark” banner rather than the “World Championship Boxing” marquee, HBO still saw reason to dispatch its No. 1 fight-calling team.

Mic man Jim Lampley and unofficial judge Harold Lederman were there. And bearded analyst Max Kellerman would have been, too, had it not been for the imminent arrival—ironically—of his third child.

But as things turned out, the action was more suited for public access than premium cable.

Thanks to Alvarado’s admitted lack of focus during training camp, the 19 rounds of memorable all-in warfare from fights one and two fizzled into little more than a public gym session in which Rios pitched, Alvarado caught and those nostalgic Gatti-Ward memories faded to Pacquiao-Morales nightmares.

“Some trilogies end with a bang, some end with more like whimper,” an understandably crestfallen Lampley moaned in the broadcast’s earlier-than-anticipated closing sequence. “This was anti-climactic.”

The screeching halt came in Alvarado’s chaotic corner after nine one-sided minutes, when an already bruised and wobbling fighter indicated to lead trainer Shann Vilhauer that he was unable to see Rios’ fusillade of shots coming. A brief visit from a finger-flashing ringside physician gave the local man a medically endorsed exit ramp, which became official with an arm wave from referee Jay Nady.

Subsequently, amid boos from an underwhelmed crowd, the principals did damage control.

“I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been,” Alvarado said, “and this is what I get.”

Rios, meanwhile, was caught somewhere between accepting kudos for a return toward relevance and conceding he’d defeated a fighter who’d not done much of anything to deserve a three-peat spotlight.

“I didn’t want it to end like this,” Rios said, referring to pre-fight chatter that a loss might have meant the end of a 10-year career. “You see what I can do when I’m at my best. I can still perform very well.”

Alvarado’s flameout, though, does little to prove that beyond reasonable doubt.

While he is indeed 2-1 against the Triple-A foe he now considers a “best friend,” Rios, like Alvarado, has fallen similarly short when matched against opponents who, by comparison, are on a major-league level.

He trailed on two scorecards before snatching the DQ against Chaves, a cosmetic triumph that came eight months after Pacquiao – who’d himself not won a fight in two years – dominated nearly every moment of 12 rounds in a monotonous pay-per-view main event from China.

In fact, because his last pre-Alvarado bout was a split nod over Richar Abril widely considered one of 2012 worst decisions, Saturday’s post-Alvarado callout of someone like Victor Ortiz (who’s conveniently not beaten anyone with fewer than 10 losses since 2011) might be a lot closer to 2015 reality.

“I’m going to leave it to my manager, and whatever he says, I’ll be ready for,” Rios said. “I’ve got a lot of gas left in the tank.”

Maybe so, but the Ortiz fight would still be far more compelling for back stories than title contention, given the pair’s shared childhood history in Kansas and obvious rivalry dating back to their training days with Robert Garcia. Ortiz returned in December to win his first fight since 2011, but Rios told a Los Angeles TV station last February – a month after Ortiz was KO’d by Luis Collazo – that Ortiz should retire.

“I'll make him quit. I'll make him quit at the press conference,” Rios said.

“Come on, he got dropped in two rounds (against Collazo). He doesn't have a chin anymore, he's just doing it for money. He just doesn't have the heart.”

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This week's title-fight schedule:

No title fights scheduled.

Last week's picks: 1-1 (WIN: Santa Cruz; LOSE: Stiverne)

2015 picks record: 1-1 (50.0 percent)

Overall picks record: 640-224 (74.0 percent)

NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body's full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA "world championships" are only included if no "super champion" exists in the weight class.

Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.