Like two heavyweight fighters, Silvano Alves and J.B. Mauney are going round-by-round for the title of 2013 PBR World Champion Bull Rider. Punch and counter-punch throughout the closing months of the season and it has only continued as the first round concluded Wednesday night at the 2013 Professional Bull Riders (PBR) Built Ford Tough World Finals.
Round one clearly went to Mauney. Making a beautiful ride with thousands of fans screaming at the top of their voices, Mauney collected 88.75 points, landing second in the go round behind Cody Nance. He rode Train Robber from George Goins and Mike White.
Meanwhile, Alves' bull All Shook Up clattered down the bucking chutes, throwing his head and eventually falling on his side. The fall came after the eight second ride concluded but judges awarded a re-ride option as required under PBR bulls for any bull that does not score at least 19.5 points. As he has done throughout his four year career in the PBR, Alves declined the re-ride, choosing to keep the 73.75 points. He is ranked 13th in the event after round one.
While the move may have confounded some fans, it is in keeping with Alves strategy of never taking points off the board. One person who was not questioning the move was Mauney.
"It's hard to argue his results, he's got two gold buckles," Mauney said, noting that he may have gone a different route with such a small score. "But to each his own."
With Mauney collecting 350 bonus points along with his ride score, the margin between the two men is now just 173.50 points.
Clearly Mauney has a great start with a 15 point lead. Following the sixth and final round, the PBR World Finals average winner will earn an additional 2,500 bonus points. However, only one rider has ever been perfect at the World Finals so Alves banks on a score -- any score -- to be enough to stay high in the average by the time Sunday afternoon rolls around.
Incidentally, the only man to ride every bull here at the Finals? J.B. Mauney in 2009.
In winning the first round, Nance was 89 points aboard Roy from Julio Moreno Bucking Bulls. Roy is a half-brother to World Champion Bucking Bull Bushwacker.
"It's a big relief to even just get the first one out of the way," said Nance who entered the finals ranked seventh.
After Nance and Mauney was 2008 World Champion Guilherme Marchi with 87.50 points. Marchi is hoping to once again be in the mix for the title; he was the runner-up a year ago on the strength of a great finals.
The remaining scores were: Renato Nunes, 87.25; Markus Mariluch, 87; Eduardo Aparecido, 86.75; Ryan Dirteater, 86.25; L.J. Jenkins, 86; Ty Pozzobon, 85.5; Claudio Crisostomo, 83.25; Shane Proctor, 81.25; Matt Triplett, 80.25; Alves, 73.75.
While all eyes on focused on the race between Alves and Mauney, the rookie chase also tightened up Wednesday when the leading rookie, and third ranked rider, Joao Ricardo Vieira was disqualified for slapping his bull; his closest competition, Eduardo Aparecido meanwhile rode for eight seconds and earned 236.75 points including the bonus for finishing sixth in the round.
The two Brazilians were separated by just under 1,400 points entering the World Finals and now that number has shrunk to 1,134.08.
The task at hand is not about to get easier for the 39 riders competing on Thursday in round two. After facing the top 3- and 4-year old bulls, the ones competing for the ABBI Classic title, the riders on Thursday face the PBR's best including all seven bull of the year contenders. Round two is a draft and the riders get to pick their bulls based on their scores from the first round.
Mauney refused to comment during a post-event press conference about whether he prefered Asteroid or Bushwacker -- the two leading bulls in the PBR and a pair that he is the only man to ride in the past three years. He did comment that he was "wiser" than he used to be, hinting that he might pick around the nearly invincible duo.
A few hours later during the bull draft, Mauney chose third ranked Smackdown instead, a bull he has ridden twice before and who has been responsible for three 92-plus rides this season. With the way he has been riding for the past couple of months, this could easily be a go round win.
Meanwhile Alves chose Yo Yo, a bull he rode at the 2011 PBR World Finals for just over 82 points. However, this bull has gotten stronger with age; his career average marking is up better than a point and a half since 2011. He now averages 44.75 points, meaning on paper that a rider could score close to 90 with a good ride.
Douglas Duncan picked Bushwacker while Stormy Wing took Asteroid. Chase Outlaw will attempt Shepherd Hills Tested while Mike Lee takes on Mick E Mouse. Brant Atwood has Lightmaker's Rango.
Jory Markiss is hoping lightning will strike twice. He picked the final contender for World Champion Bull, I'm a Gangster Too. Markiss earned 92.25 points aboard the bull at Grand Rapids in the 15/15 Bucking Battle back in September.
The PBR Built Ford Tough World Finals continues Thursday night, October 24 at 6 p.m. Pacific in Las Vegas at the Thomas & Mack. The event airs lives on CBS SportsNetwork as well as ProRodeoLive.com and Rural Radio, SiriusXM Channel 80.