By Jake Donovan
"They shook, 'cause ain't no such things as halfway crooks. Scared to death, scared to look."
The moment Mobb Deep's classic hip-hop joint "Shook Ones, Part II" begins blasting from an arena PA system marks the signal that Mike Alvarado (19-0, 13KO) is on his way to the ring. It's also the beginning of the end for whoever is standing in the opposite corner that night.
Alvarado has become accustomed to winning fights even before he laced them up, having twice won Colorado State wrestling championships while attending high school in Thornton, Colorado. Once graduation time came, Alvarado knew he had a choice to make: focus on studies in order to compete on the college level, or find a new love in life.
He chose the latter, trading in his wrestling gear for a pair of gloves at age 20. A natural athlete whose birth father (Ron Cisneros) was a professional fighter, Alvarado took the sport right away. He didn't stick around in the amateur ranks for very long, but long enough to prove he'd be much better than Cisneros, a career .500 fighter.
In a span of about three years, Alvarado managed to compile a record of 36-5 and take the Ringside National Championship in 2001. Among his victims were Chad Aquino and eventual 2004 Olympian Andre Dirrell, both of whom he defeated in the aforementioned tournament.
Though a natural for the sport, Alvarado was at a point in the amateurs where he wasn't ready for the 2004 Olympic squad, but also too good to wait around another four years. He instead turned pro in early 2004, rattling off five straight first-round knockouts before forcing his dream team of promoter Bob Arum and co-managers Shelly Finkel, Henry Delgado and Frank Acosta to bring along their prize prospect quicker than expected.
The upgrade helped only in that his fights were now lasting longer than a round. But as mentioned in the lyrics to which he enters the rings, most of his opponents remained shook. Some stood their ground, like Hilario Lopez and Arthur Brambila. Lopez was the first to extend Alvarado the distance, and also the first to actually win rounds against him. Brambila employed a similar tactic and produced similar results.
To go the distance twice in a span of four fights after knocking out your first seven would frustrate some young fighters. But Alvarado took it all in as learning experiences. Though just 11 fights into his career, he learned how to win a variety of ways. A straight right would most often do the trick; on other occasions, it was body shots or left hooks. If his opponent wouldn't budge, then Alvarado just made sure to keep throwing until they felt his pain – and also make sure he piled up enough rounds to take a decision, if it came to that.
The recurring themes in all of Alvarado's fights are pressure and workrate. Years of training for wrestling meets and boxing matches, he's learned to fine-tune his body to where he never tires. Once the bell rings, it's Alvarado forcing the pace and up in your face until instructed to do otherwise, which only occurs when he scores a knockdown, or the bell rings to end either the round or the fight.
His fan-friendly style has made him a fixture on the Telefutura Solo Boxeo circuit. Alvarado makes his seventh appearance in a span of eight fights this Friday when he faces Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez in Cicero, IL (Friday, 8PM ET). As Rodriguez represents his toughest opponent (on paper, anyway), the venue to which he returns – Cicero Stadium – is the same site to host the closest call of his young career.
It was exactly 52 weeks ago when Alvarado first stepped to the Chicagoland area, where he prepared to face durable Carlos Molina in the televised co-feature. Molina, to date, is the only fighter to put a dent in the record of Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., holding the young prodigy to a draw in Mexico before dropping a razor thin decision in Las Vegas two months later. He would suffer the same fate against Alvarado, falling just short in their eight-round bout. Though ultimately coming up short, Molina was the first opponent to match Alvarado tit-for-tat throughout, forcing the young upstart to pick up his game in the latter rounds in order to eke out the decision.
That which don't kill you only makes you stronger. Alvarado escaped the stiff test with his undefeated record still intact, and has been relentless ever since. Three straight stoppages have followed, the most brutal of the bunch coming in his June 2007 bout with Francisco Campos in Gary, Indiana.
Having went the distance in five of his last six fights, Alvarado was eager for a return to early nights. Boxers don't get paid for overtime, but Alvarado entered the ring that night like a man who was double-parked. Campos never stood a chance, as he was overwhelmed from the opening bell before a left hook to the chin brought an abrupt end to the evening.
Jorge Padilla wasn't quite as willing to budge, though not much more competitive in their August 2007 bout. It was Alvarado's third straight bout in or around the Chicago area after having never previously fought in the area. He had no problem making himself at home in the Windy City, and even less problems with Padilla, teeing off on the Mexican for eight straight rounds before forcing a stoppage.
It was the deepest Alvarado went in a fight in scoring a knockout, with none of his previous stoppage victims making it out of the sixth round. In his most recent fight, former Contender contestant Michael Clark barely made it past the opening bell.
The December 2007 bout with Clark opened up a Top Rank PPV telecast headlined by Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was Alvarado's first pro fight in the area and on PPV, against his most experienced opponent to date. Clark was no world-beater by any means, in fact always falling short when forced to step up, but was a crafty lightweight with experience against bigger foes and on the world-class level.
None of that mattered once the opening bell rang.
Alvarado landed a right hand early. Clark attempted to counter, but took a right to his forearm, which all but ended the fight as he withered in pain for the next minute or so, not throwing another punch before the referee called time to bring in the ringside physician. Action would never resume, with Alvarado scoring his sixth opening-round stoppage, though not the way he envisioned.
"It's just the way boxing goes sometimes," Alvarado told BoxingScene.com after the aborted affair. "Of course, I wanted it to go longer, but I still feel good. I did what I could in the little time we had, but all that means is I'm ready to come back as soon as Top Rank allows me."
The plan all along was for Top Rank to bring back the junior welterweight prospect this weekend; it just a matter of which card to choose from. Preliminary plans had him stepping way up in competition as he was rumored to face alphabet titlist Ricardo Torres on the undercard of the Kelly Pavlik-Jermain Taylor pay-per-view card, but politics of the sport ultimately ended hopes for that.
Instead, he gets a Telefutura headliner the night before, and perhaps just as tough of a test in Jesus "Chuy" Rodriguez. The resurging Mexican-American enters the fight riding a nine-fight win streak including an impressive showing on Showtime last November against previously unbeaten Omri Lowther.
All of that is fine for Alvarado – the better the credentials, the bigger the win. The plan from the beginning of his career was for year five – 2008 – to be the breakout year.
Prospective opponents beware – take those words home and think it through, or the next rhyme he writes might be about you.
Please feel free to submit any comments or questions to Jake at [email protected]