Brandon Rios calls for a third fight against Mike Alvarado after losing a close decision to Alvarado in their second bout bout at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on March 30, 2013 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

Two Gallants



– the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.

There is no question of their suitability for one another, of their dual commitment to a fighting ethos that has fallen out of fashion with large sections of modern fans: A shared rejection of tomorrow, a stand against due care that sits oddly lodged amidst the polish of an era so often lionising the safety of athletes at the expense of true drama. Neither Brandon Rios nor Mike Alvarado is elite, or really close to it, but there can be no doubting their devotion to the shield, to the ideal of remaining unbowed in the face of adversity, of being carried from the ring rather than ever choosing to leave of their own volition.

Comparisons to Micky Ward and Arturo Gatti are an invariable overreach, but the significance of what each has drawn from the other bears repeating when sport is coming off a year in which lineal champions faced off with club fighters from the division below, and unproven contenders earned close to millions against sparring partners on pay-per-view. For whatever the charges levelled at Rios and Alvarado, be they technical or tactical deficiencies, knuckle headed comments and crude manners of speaking when in the gym, or even bonafide misdemeanours that will likely see them back behind bars once the brutal trilogy has been played out, there is no question of the honesty of their actions in the ring.

They might speak of one another in laboured, somewhat cliched terms, but the drama brought forth by their confrontations needs no press conference jostling or barb-laden showdowns to convey its truth. When Rios contemplates his opponent for January 24, he does so with the sense of a man who cannot quite grasp the full force of his actions, who has merely an inclination as to what he has given out, and given up between the ropes. Likewise Alvarado, increasingly covered in tattoos and scars gained during time away from the discipline afforded by training camp, seems somehow bemused when reliving the wars he has inspired.

Next week they will face off, likely for the final time, in the rarefied climes of Denver and Alvarado’s adoring hometown crowd. Neither man, especially Rios at just 28, is prohibitively old, but there exists a sense that they fight on borrowed time, that the hours punched (quite literally) on the proverbial clock will soon render their careers untenable. To hear Rios speak is to recall the worst of boxing, all slurred syllables and crumbling syntax, while Alvarado has taken on the husky cadence of a man who has no business jogging across the street, let alone going 12 lungbusting rounds.

And so it is said that the fight means little, that it stands as nothing more than a sideshow in the division, a bloody circus hosted by a pair of clowns with little business going near the high wire after one too many falls. But to maintain such a view is to ignore that which elevates certain moments in boxing to a level unimaginable across other fields, that which decrees more is taken from participants than is either fair or truly perceptible. Only together are Rios and Alvarado able to eclipse the sum of their modest parts. They have given their best days to the pursuit of destruction in the other, by turns robbing and then being robbed of cognitive scope, all because there is something inside each that demands it, that ceaselessly urges them to surge forward.

Thus we are left with what emerges from this storm of violence: a beauty of the overpowering and oddly life affirming sort, present only in times of such overt savagery. It is that which demands the audience must draw back and savour it, a combative purity that leads to boxing nirvana, granting access to that exclusive plain reserved usually for the generation’s finest and men in possession of skills transcending their time and place. Both Rios and Alvarado’s devotion to an impossible ideal, to the notion of boxing as pride-fighting rather than a path to monetary gain, stands as an attritional monumental amidst the barren landscape of the sport. Their coming together is a gift to all those who wait endlessly for fights that never happen, that pine for match-ups destined to be torn apart and sunk by unseen political forces. It is the most honest of honest night’s work. It is something to be held aloft.

(Rios, above, calling for a third fight with Alvarado after losing in 2013; Josh Hodges, Getty Images)