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Mike Alvarado and the Elusive Will to Win

by Chris ‘Polish Hitman’ Morris

This past Saturday night Mike Alvarado and Brandon Rios met for the rubber match in their trilogy. There was great build up and anticipation. The first two fights were all out wars and Fight of the Year candidates. There was no reason to believe this fight wouldn’t live up to the hype behind it. It was a dead ringer.

Until Alvarado lost his will to win.

How Alvarado lost his will to win is anyone’s guess. Too many tough fights in a row? Too much pressure to perform in his hometown? His legal troubles looming in the back of his mind? Feeling of ‘I made it’ taking away his motivation?

Regardless, it’s gone and without that, Alvarado is nothing as a fighter.

Alvarado really isn’t a great boxer, but he’s one helluva fighter. If you watch him throw shadows, there’s nothing special there, it even looks a bit amateurish. Sparring and hitting bags, nothing really stands out. Alvarado is an elite athlete, who happens to box. He could probably make his living on athletic talents in other arenas, most notably mixed martial arts, as he was an undefeated 5A wrestler in Colorado.

Alvarado has always had that ‘it’ factor. We seldom can put our finger on what ‘it’ actually is, but with Alvarado, it’s very apparent. His will to win is what makes him special. His ability to dig deep inside himself and pull off the impossible. How many fighters pick up the sport at 18 and make it to the HBO level? I have to believe they are few and far between. Alvarado is special.

His arrival on the big scene took place when he willed his way to a comeback victory over Breidis Prescott. Prescott beat his ass for the better part of ten rounds. There was no question, if Prescott made it to the final bell, he wins the fight. Alvarado’s back was against the wall. He dug deep and knocked Prescott out in the tenth and final round. It was exhilarating. Alvarado had arrived.

Alvarado would next face Mauricio Herrera and they went to war for ten rounds with Alvarado earning the decision victory, clearly. Herrera could have easily gone 3-0 and been the Fighter of the Year in 2014, just for a frame of reference as to how big Alvarado’s win really was.

Next up were the two wars with Brandon Rios. Alvarado suffered the first defeat of his career, but the nature of the end allowed Alvarado to keep his confidence. He was stopped on his feet in the seventh round. He of course claimed it was an early stoppage and vowed to gain his revenge.

They met for a rematch in Vegas at the Mandalay Bay and Alvarado earned a twelve round decision. The wild card for this fight was bringing in the expertise of Rudy Hernandez to run camp and the corner. Hernandez devised a great plan to surprise and throw Rios off. He had Alvarado leave exchanges and occasionally switch stances. He used some lateral movement and actually moved his head. It was a beautiful performance and probably Alvarado’s best to date.

Can Mike Alvarado ever regain his will to win? (Photo: Michael. V. Ornelas)

Then HBO and Bob Nelson decided they HAD to see Alvarado vs Ruslan Provodnikov.

In speaking with Brad Goodman in Omaha recently, it wasn’t a fight that Top Rank wanted for Alvarado. They knew he needed a career-building type of fight, not a destroyer like Provodnikov. HBO pushed and Alvarado is not one to back down, so they made the fight happen in Alvarado’s hometown.

Alvarado was punished for ten rounds before ‘quitting on his stool’. The man gave everything he had. There was no shame in this loss. Although he technically didn’t ‘go out on his shield’, he put up a great fight and was simply bested that night.

After that, it was HOF legend Juan Manuel Marquez. Alvarado would lose a decision, but he did put Marquez on his ass in the ninth round. He could take that from the fight as a small victory.

Which leads us to the fight on Saturday night.

Alvarado comes in on a two-fight losing streak, having lost three of the last four. Once you have lost, it becomes easier to accept more losses. He gets in trouble a few weeks before the fight in an arrest that was highly publicized. He was fighting in his hometown and more importantly training or more likely not training, in Denver. The arrest came at 4 am, downtown in ‘Lodo’, lower downtown Denver.

His reasoning for being out running the streets rather than putting in road work? “I woke up and I was thirsty so I went to get something to drink.” Are there are no 7-11’s in Thornton? Why come all the way downtown for a bottle of Gatorade? As was very apparent, Alvarado was not focused on the task at hand.

When Alvarado made his walk to the ring, he looked like his team was leading him to his execution. They knew he wasn’t properly prepared. They knew it wasn’t going to be a long grueling fight either. They would pull the plug if need be to save Alvarado’s health. I saw someone hand a small girl over the rail, I assume it was Alvarado’s daughter. She came to the ring with him.

Alvarado was absolutely flat in the fight, landing a mere twenty punches in three full rounds. His manager Henry Delgado was quoted in the corner: “I’m going to give you one more round. Throw some punches, throw some God-damned punches.”

According to Compubox, “Rios outlanded Alvarado 52-4 in round three before the fight was stopped.”

It was a complete non-effort on Alvarado’s part. And the fans who came to support him were not happy. And rightfully so. There were also a huge number of Rios fans who made the trek from nearby Garden City, Kansas. Despite the win for their fighter, they were pissed as well. We all came to see World War III, not a three-round public execution. The let down was immense.

Fans showered his team with bottles and cups on their way back to the locker room. They spit on him and his team in addition to giving them a verbal raping. I couldn’t help but to wonder, “how is his little girl going to handle all of this?”

I mean to have thousands of fans booing your father out of the ring in his hometown?

When the doctor was summoned to the corner, he held up two fingers and Alvarado counted four and referee Jay Nady stopped the fight. It has now been revealed that Alvarado suffered a fractured orbital bone and retina strain.

Alvarado took his beating like a man and didn’t have any excuses. He was very defiant after the fight, obviously feeling betrayed by his fans who were booing him. His team really should have skipped the interview and took their fighter back to the locker room to clear his head and get himself gathered.

Instead, his trainer Shann Villhauer was going after fans in the crowd while Alvarado was under fire from HBO’s Jim Lampley about his performance.

Alvarado had committed the ultimate sin in boxing: saying he didn’t give a 100% effort.

“It was all in the preparation of my training. I didn’t train like I should have and that’s what I get. I didn’t give it all I got. That’s what I get. I wasn’t as prepared as I should have been and I got what I should have got so it is what it is, whatever. I’ll get myself healthy again and I have my marriage to look forward to and my kids and I’ll get myself together and I’ll come back.”

Don’t do it Mike. Take a long break from boxing. Get yourself together, 100%. Allow your body and especially your mind to recover from these wars. You don’t owe fans anymore of your bloodshed, your worth as a fighter is proven.

In an article by Nick Groke at the Denver Post, Delgado all but washed his hands of Alvarado:

“I’m just fed up with it. I’m at a loss,” Delgado said. “I don’t know what to do this guy. After this fight, that’s it.” Fair enough.

Alvarado and Rios have become friends. As Rios stated we are one and the same.

Which leads me to this master plan for Mike. Maybe what Alvarado really needs is a mentor/partner. Why not Rios? His team can’t seem get through to him. They are not going to be fighting each other anymore, so why not help one another? Would Cameron Dunkin be interested in taking over for Delgado and take Alvarado under his wing, for the rebuild?

Someone like Rios has earned Alvarado’s respect. Could Rios be the voice of reason for Alvarado? Could he help Alvarado get off the path he’s on and onto the same road Rios is traveling? Oh, the irony.

HBO stated on Saturday’s telecast that Villhauer has been Alvarado’s trainer for his entire career. That’s not true. There was a time when Top Rank forced him to work with Ronnie Shields in Houston. Alvarado didn’t like the arrangement because it kept him away from home and eventually he came home to Villhauer.

What if Alvarado with Rios by his side, went to Robert Garcia? Who knows Alvarado better than Robert? He’s been across the ring from him on several occasions. He knows him inside and out. Just keeping him in Oxnard for camp would be a HUGE improvement. Garcia would run camp, not Alvarado. He is able to get the very most out of Rios’ limited skill-set, what magic could he work with Mike?

“Mile High Mike’s” effort was pitiful on Saturday. Alvarado owes his fans better. His team better. His hometown better. Himself better and his little daughter much better.

Mike, If you are looking for motivation to get yourself together, think of her. Think of the trauma she suffered Saturday night. Vow to never ever allow yourself to put her through that again. If that means no more boxing, so be it. But before you hang ’em up for good, I would call on my friend Brandon Rios and his trainer Robert Garcia.

One thing is for sure. It’s time for a major change. Rios came to work and clocked in on Saturday night.

Alvarado, however, looked like he was simply “passing Go” to collect his $785,000 check on his way to the corner lot on the monopoly board labeled, “Jail.”

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