Boxing

 
  === Rios-Alvarado recap: Instant thrills don't mean long-term greatness ===
 
 By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Contributing Editor
 
 Cape Coral, FL - Don't get me wrong, folks. I'm all for excitement.
 
 When  two guys meet in ring center, drop all pretense about a battle of skills
 and  simply  stand  toe  to  toe  with designs  on  bashing  each  other  into
 submission, I get as into it as the next guy.
 
 I  appreciated  Gatti and Ward. I  was in awe  of Corrales and Castillo. And I
 watched  with admiration on Saturday night when Brandon Rios and Mike Alvarado
 woke up their predecessors' brutal echoes.
 
 I  humbly  concede that the  amount of  heart, soul and  guts that it takes to
 engage  in  such a  competition --  win, lose or  draw --  goes far beyond the
 capacity of keyboard-bashing wannabes like me.
 
 In  fact, none  of  us with  a  shred of  integrity would  even  try to  imply
 otherwise.
 
 But excitement is one thing. Excellence is quite another.
 
 And  as titillating  as the 1,316 throws  and 337 lands might have been to the
 thousands  in attendance and millions tuning in, they weren't close to proving
 either  the  Coloradan or  Californian  were  at  all  capable of  handling  a
 qualified foe whose skills had evolved much past a caveman's.
 
 Lest  anyone forget,  the Rios who's being so breathlessly celebrated today is
 the  same guy whose  acumen was in doubt only six months ago, when an opponent
 with  a  strategy beyond smash and  grab did everything  but win on two of the
 year's most nose-curdling scorecards.
 
 Heck,  that was  only Richard  Abril --  a 29-year-old  Cuban with  a middling
 resume  -- and  the springtime  odor in  Las Vegas  was so  bad that  even the
 fairness-challenged  WBA allowed  him to keep hold of an interim title belt in
 spite of a decision officially split in the direction of his opponent.
 
 But  now, after  20  minutes of  lumpy  mayhem against  a  32-year-old with  a
 career's worth of mid-card victims, Rios has somehow been vaulted past the guy
 who  schooled him  and into  the high-end  element of  legit multiple-division
 entities like Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao.
 
 To  the  blood-spattered demolition derby set,  it's construed as good for the
 sport.  As if two  guys pounding each other bloody with bats would elevate the
 level  of America's  pastime, just because knuckle-draggers in Philadelphia or
 elsewhere might find it entertaining.
 
 To  me, it's a lot more like Kevin Costner's Crash Davis being picked to start
 the All-Star Game.
 
 No  matter how many homers he hit in Durham -- like the myriad scalps Rios has
 collected  so  far in  California -- it  never meant a  thing when the pitcher
 brought something beyond a straight, flat fastball.
 
 A  nondescript Abril  did that, and a  befuddled Rios couldn't do a thing with
 him.
 
 But  because  Alvarado brought fewer pitches  to the mound, Rios is christened
 the next Babe Ruth.
 
 It's  the  condensed version  of last  week's Canastota  debate, in which fans
 bedazzled  by micro  honors like  "fight  of the  year" too  often equate  the
 frenetic  combatants' career achievements with the macro stratosphere reserved
 for "fighter of the decade" types.
 
 And ultimately, just like "Thunder's" flameouts against the elites of his era,
 I'd  expect nothing  short  of  similar dominance  when  "Bam Bam's"  enablers
 suggest he's earned a similar PPV promotion.
 
 I like the big leagues as much as anyone, but if it were my kid...
 
 I'd tell him to stick to tee ball.
 
 This week's title-fight schedule:
 
 SATURDAY
 
 IBF welterweight title -- Brooklyn, NY
 
 Randall Bailey (champion) vs. Devon Alexander (No. 4 contender)
 
 Bailey  (43-7, 37  KO): First title defense; Held WBO title at 140 (1999-2000,
 two defenses)
 
 Alexander  (23-1, 13  KO): Fifth title fight (3-1); Held IBF/WBC titles at 140
 (2009-11, two defenses)
 
 Fitzbitz  says:  "Veteran KO artist  got back to title-holding fraternity with
 sudden  stoppage, but  more-seasoned Alexander  will avoid  big shots  and add
 second weight-class jewelry." Alexander by decision
 
 WBA/WBC super lightweight title -- Brooklyn, NY
 
 Danny Garcia (WBA/WBC champion) vs. Erik Morales (No. 2 WBA/WBC contender)
 
 Garcia  (24-0, 15  KO): Second WBC defense/first WBA defense; Beat Morales (UD
 12) on March 24
 
 Morales  (52-8, 36  KO): Twenty-third  title  fight (18-4);  All eight  career
 losses in United States (23-8)
 
 Fitzbitz  says:  "Youngster established  himself in  division with the shocker
 over  Khan, but  he handled Morales with little life-and-death difficulty last
 time -- and should do so again here." Garcia in 9
 
 WBA welterweight title -- Brooklyn, NY
 
 Paul Malignaggi (champion) vs. Pablo Cesar Cano (No. 10 contender)
 
 Malignaggi  (31-4,  7 KO): First  title defense;  Fourteenth fight in New York
 (11-2)
 
 Cano  (25-1-1,  19 KO):  Second title  fight (0-1); Lost  only fight in United
 States
 
 Fitzbitz says: "Young Mexican gets title shot as consolation prize for rousing
 battle  with Morales a year ago, but he's probably in over his head skill-wise
 in new champ's initial defense." Malignaggi by decision
 
 Vacant WBO bantamweight title -- Pasay City, Philippines
 
 AJ Banal (No. 1 contender) vs. Pungluang Sor Singyu (No. 2 contender)
 
 Banal  (28-1-1, 20  KO): First title fight; Unbeaten since lone career loss in
 2008 (11-0)
 
 Singyu  (42-1,  27 KO): First title  fight; Unbeaten since lone career loss in
 2009 (19-0)
 
 Fitzbitz  says:  "Thai challenger  has been on  impressive run, but Filipino's
 better  grade  of competition will prove  decisive when this bout gets to deep
 water." Banal by decision
 
 WBO middleweight title -- Brooklyn, NY
 
 Hassan N'Dam N'Jikam (champion) vs. Peter Quillin (No. 1 contender)
 
 N'Jikam (27-0, 17 KO): First title defense; First fight in United States
 
 Quillin (27-0, 20 KO): First title fight; Nineteenth fight in New York (18-0)
 
 Fitzbitz  says: "American-born slugger looked title ready while working over a
 veteran in his last bout, and should be plenty ready for challenge provided by
 dubious incumbent here." Quillin by decision
 
 Last week's picks: 1-0
 
 Overall picks record: 432-147 (74.6 percent)
 
 Lyle Fitzsimmons is a veteran sports columnist who has written professionally
 since 1988 and covered boxing since 1995. His work is published in print and
 posted online for clients in North America and Europe. Reach him at
 fitzbitz@msn.com or follow him on Twitter: @fitzbitz.
 
 10/18 13:52:51 ET

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