By Ben Jacobs
Not for the first time in his career, Eleider Álvarez has had to adjust following the withdrawal of an opponent. The Colombian, now based in Quebec was scheduled to face South Africa’s Thomas Oosthuizen screened by HBO on the undercard of the Jean Pascal – Lucian Bute fight. Instead he will battle undefeated Canadian Andrew Gardiner who was called at short notice following reports that Oosthuizen was out of shape and subsequently fired by his own promoter.
Álvarez travelled to Big Bear, California, a site chosen by many big names over the years, including Óscar De La Hoya and Shane Mosley, as a base to train. The 29-year-old also worked with Ángel ‘Memo’ Heredia, alongside Jean Pascal.
“It was the first training camp that I have had outside of Canada and my first with a new strength and conditioning coach so the preparation was excellent,” revealed Álvarez to BoxingScene.
“It was difficult at first to adjust; you need two weeks to acclimatise to the altitude in Big Bear. After the first few days though I felt good so there was no problem. I notice a big difference now.
“Memo is a good trainer and a good person too, we get on well also as he’s Mexican and I’m Colombian, and Mexicans and Colombians have a similar culture, so we connected very well.”
In addition to working with Pascal, future hall of famer Roy Jones Jr. was also in the camp and naturally was a source of inspiration for Álvarez.
“I didn’t do any sparring with Jean Pascal even though we were in the same camp. That’s because we were both due to fight southpaws, and we’re both orthodox fighters, so there was no need to spar. But we were competitive in the training camp.
“Roy Jones gave me advice. When I was sparring he told me to move my head more and that I have an excellent jab which I should use more. I often watched him and Pascal in the gym and how they did things.”
Saturday was supposed to be the breakout night for Álvarez, however his bout against Gardiner will now not be televised by HBO following Oosthuizen’s pull out. While Álvarez admits to disappointment, he isn’t letting it affect him in his last week of preparation.
“First it emerged that he had fallen off his motorbike or something,” he said.
“Then it came to light that he has been fired by his promoter and that he was well overweight. So we think in other words he didn’t want the fight.
“I was ready for a big fight, the training we did to fight Oosthuizen was really good so when they told me that I wouldn’t fight him or be on a big channel like HBO I felt a bit down. But I will carry on working hard to have this opportunity again.
“I’m going now from fighting a tall guy of 6’4 to a shorter guy who fights on the inside. But I’m not making too many adjustments to fight this guy, just small details.”
In his last outing, Álvarez dominated fellow Colombian Edison Miranda back in September. Many expected Eleider to stop the former world title challenger; however
“The Storm” feels the fight will serve him well down the line in his career.
“I wanted to knock out Edison Miranda because I promised that! But, well, I got a lot of experience which will help me in my career. They were 10 tough rounds. He was very well prepared, if he wasn’t he wouldn’t have got up from the knockdown.
“Right now light-heavyweight is one of the best divisions in the sport, very good boxers, fast ones and hard punchers, so it’s very difficult. But I’m happy to be in this division. I’m working hard to be world champion soon, hopefully this year I’ll have that opportunity. I’m not far away from it.”