By Jake Donovan
It’s hardly uncommon for an athlete to claim an ability to rise to the occasion when challenged, and that subpar performances come due to a lack of motivation and playing down to the level of competition.
Sometimes, those claims are simply the truth.
Such has become the case in the career of unbeaten 140 lb. contender Mike Alvarado. An intended homecoming showcase in his last fight turned out to be merely a victory in which he went through the motions against Gabriel Martinez in front of a hometown crowd earlier this summer.
The fight came on the heels of his three-round destruction of Ray Narh, which came on the televised undercard of Manny Pacquiao’s own domination of Shane Mosley this past May.
Alvarado once again finds himself on the undercard of a blockbuster Pacquiao event, squaring off against Breidis Prescott two fights before Pacquiao prepares for his third fight with Juan Manuel Marquez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Where things went south (relatively speaking) in the Martinez fight was in Alvarado concentrating more on the promotion than he did on his opponent or even his camp. The Colorado native chalks the night up to a learning lesson, thankful that it comes at this stage of his career as he continues to rise towards title contention.
“My timing was a little off in the fight against Martinez,” Alvarado (31-0, 22KO) says of his summer homecoming, which drew well but didn’t present his best work in the ring. “I admit, I took him lightly and didn’t have the best training camp. It’s my own fault for not listening to my team and distracting myself with the promotion.
“I did what I did to get the win. I was glad for that but it could’ve been more. It was a good learning experience for me.”
It’s a lesson that comes right on time as awaiting him this weekend is arguably his toughest opponent to date. Alvarado not only embraces the challenge, but also the location serving as the backdrop for Saturday’s fight.
“I love Vegas. Everybody gets to see you out here. It’s a huge entertainment platform. To be at this level is exciting. It will make me feel that much better. It makes me want to look better, like I did against (Cesar) Bazan and Narh. It just pumps more into my blood.”
He’ll have no shortage of motivation heading into this weekend, as Prescott (24-3, 19KO) too is on a mission. The outspoken Colombian is coming off of a controversial points loss to Paul McCloskey earlier this year, in a bout where he scored an opening round knockdown but came up just short on scorecards many felt should’ve went his way.
The fight was hardly Prescott’s best work, though. As evidenced by his most recent nickname, the crowning achievement of his career came three years ago, knocking out Amir Khan in less than a minute. It remains the only loss on Khan’s record to date, one that Prescott for years has been itching to duplicate given the Brit’s subsequent success.
While this fight isn’t a true eliminator, the regional title at stake pushes the winner one step closer towards a title shot, one which for the moment remains in Khan’s possession. Alvarado knows it’s what his opponent is fighting for.
What Prescott may or may not be aware of is that it’s a place at which Alvarado has been longing to arrive.
“I’m here to show that I’m coming. Everyone needs to see who I am and what I’m capable of. I’m here to prove this is where I’m belong - here to prove it again. Nothing will change that.”
Of course, Prescott will have something to say about that, whether in the ring or on the way to it. Alvarado believes he’s ready for the best his opponent has to offer and has learned from both the best and worst moments of Prescott’s career to know what to expect on Saturday.
“I see what type of fighter he is. I’ve watched a lot of him, and there’s not a lot to figure out. If I stand right there in front of him like his other opponents foolishly did, he’ll throw and land something big at some point. I need to offer movement, and still fight my fight. I’m prepared for the best Breidis Prescott. I’m looking forward to getting him out of my way.”
Alvarado hasn’t endured much trouble in removing the competition from his path. To paraphrase Floyd Mayweather, 31 have tried and 31 have failed to date. The only person to get in his way so far – is Alvarado himself.
The noticeable gaps in activity on his ledger are due to poor choices made outside the ring, landing him on the wrong side of the law. It’s nothing he tries to hide – in fact, he reminds himself of it every time he prepares for a fight. The lessons have come in spades that anything other than staying on the straight and narrow prevents you from reaching your goal.
Rather than dwell on what’s held him back, he uses it not just as a learning experience, but motivation to put it that much further in the past.
“I had my ups and downs outside the ring,” Alvarado admits. “Nothing will ever get in between me and my goal to become world champion. That’s why I took this challenge, on this show. Every time I fight on big card, I have a great outcome. Emotionally I’m ready for it. This is where I belong.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]