By Jake Donovan
It’s been more than two years since Mike Alvarado has enjoyed the privilege of fighting in front of his hometown fans.
If all goes well enough this weekend, then the gap between homecomings could dramatically decrease.
“It’s a very positive vibe here, for a lot of reasons,” noted Top Rank Vice President Carl Moretti in regards to this weekend’s card at the Softball Country Arena in Denver. “It’s an outdoor arena in the middle of summer, and the response has been great. The fans recognize a good fight, plus there’s Mike’s return to his hometown for the first time in (two years).”
The headlines features Alvarado (30-0, 22KO) against Gabriel Martinez (27-2-1, 14KO) in a bout that will air live on Fox Sports (Saturday 10PM ET).
A win on Saturday is expected to lead to bigger and better things for Alvarado, who turned 30 on Thursday and is now seven years deep into his pro career. Two separate breaks from the ring slowed down his progress, though the goal is to steer him towards title contention within the next couple of fights.
However, even in a society of belts being a dime a dozen, there exists a problem at the top.
“Right now, you have two unified champions,” noted Moretti, although that statement is now only half true since Tim Bradley was recently stripped of one of his belts. “You have Amir Khan, who just unified his belts last weekend. Khan isn’t looking at Alvarado as his next fight.
“Then you have Tim Bradley, who is currently in contract issues and not able to fight as a result.”
One of the titles that Bradley previously held will potentially be at stake when Erik Morales faces Jorge Barrios in September. The point being, there exists the great likelihood that Alvarado’s next few steps are fights that lead to mandatory title contention.
Whatever the case, Top Rank has never made it a habit to allow its fighters to sit around and wait for handouts. For that reason, Alvarado can expect to be kept busy, regardless of what’s at stake in any given fight in the near future.
What his handlers hope will become the case, is that he develops as a lucrative alternative to those holding out for the jackpot that Khan represents.
The first step towards realizing that goal comes with his fight this weekend. If the current tracking is any indication, a star could be born in the very near future.
“The fact that he has hometown support gives him an edge as opposed to those who just show up in casinos,” Moretti states, not naming names but referring to the ugly trend of fighters sitting on the sidelines until TV and casino money are made available.
“We never allow that to happen to our kids, so Mike is being kept busy. The response we’re seeing so far gives us hope that we can bring bigger fights here in the future.”
Wherever his next fight lands, it figures to be against an opponent that will put the undefeated junior welterweight right in the thick of things in one of the hottest divisions in the sport today.
The venue and opponent never matter to Alvarado, just as long as he’s able to get into the ring, which has been a nice change of pace lately. After seeing a stretch where he only fought once in a span of nearly two years due to legal issues, Saturday night will mark his fourth fight in eight months.
Staying busy in the ring is still the goal, no matter whom against.
“We’ve never turned down an opponent,” states Henry Delgado, Alvarado’s manager. “Top Rank gives us names, and we just pick whomever they think will fight us.
Given his talent level, top opponents haven’t exactly been in a hurry to face Alvarado, whose athletic background also includes a championship run as a high school wrestler. He was in negotiations to face Zab Judah earlier this year, until the aged veteran instead opted for a cashout fight with Khan.
Events like this weekend should help pave the way towards providing Alvarado with more leverage at the negotiating table, and more in the pot to properly entice opponents to agree to step to him.
High-risk, low reward is an ugly label to carry for any rising fighter, especially one who has the potential to run with the best of them.
“I clearly think that 140 is a great division with a lot of great names and (Mike) can compete with any of them,” Moretti insists. “He’s right in there with the rest of them. He’s part of that talent.
“But it begins with a good showing this weekend, which is what we anticipate. A good fight and performance can only be a good thing from a network point of view.”
And even better for Mike Alvarado and the city of Denver.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com. Follow Jake on Twitter at twitter.com/JakeNDaBox or submit questions/comments to [email protected]