Sometimes the poison is the cure. Ask Mike Alvarado.
Before his last fight against Ruslan Provodnikov, Alvarado felt on top of the world. He was headlining a big fight on HBO. He was fighting in front of his home crowd in Denver. He was fighting for a chance to throw his name in the ring as a viable option for Manny Pacquiao.
But all of it came crashing down around him. Alvarado lacked humility, so Provodnikov humbled him by beating him into submission. Alvarado was down twice in Round 8 and retired at the end of Round 10 on his stool.
“It brought humbleness back to me,” Alvarado told Bleacher Report. “I’m a lot more focused. I’m more humble. I wasn’t looking at the fight like I should’ve been.”
Alvarado says all that’s changed now. He said the humbling loss was just what he needed, and that the poison of being overconfident for that fight will be the cure for his career going forward.
“I was looking past Provodnikov. I wasn’t looking into him. I wasn’t as hungry as I am right now. That fight was just destined to happen that way for my career.”
Despite the loss, Alvarado, 33, gets a crack at Juan Manuel Marquez, 40, on Saturday night at the Forum in Inglewood, California. The bout will air on HBO.
It’s the biggest fight of his career, and Alvarado is hyped about it.
“I’m just lucky to be blessed with another huge opportunity in fighting Marquez. It’s great. Everybody is going to see a different hunger in me, a different lion this time around.”
A person with knowledge of the situation who is not affiliated with Alvarado said the 33-year-old has looked like a beast in camp. Alvarado confirmed he feels the best he ever has, and he expects to be the very best version of himself come fight night.
For Alvarado, it seems the motivation of fighting a future Hall of Famer like Marquez has been the driving force.
“It’s the biggest opportunity of my whole career, knowing that I’m fighting a Mexican legend…and possibly retiring a Mexican legend, so there’s just way more motivation.”
Alvarado said he feels like his personal life, the things every fighter must deal with outside of what happens between the ropes, is the best it’s been in a long time. He said his relationships with his friends, family and biggest supporters is right where it needs to be now, something that wasn’t the case for previous recent fights.
“Everything that’s going on in my life is more at peace. I’m more clear, and I have more clarity. I’m at peace with everything in my life. ... At the end of the day, I’m just happier.”
The peace Alvarado feels outside the ring will need to translate to ferocity inside of it, especially against Marquez, who will be most fight experts’ pick to win come fight night.
Still, Alvarado believes he has two things going for him against Marquez that will lead him to the victory. First, he says he’s hungrier now than he’s ever been.
“In my last two fights, I didn’t really have as much fire. I didn’t really have as much hunger as I do now. It means a lot more to me right now. ... This is just a huge opportunity for my life. It’s a big step for me. I want it. I want it bad. I’m just more hungry for it. I don’t have any distractions. I’m completely clear on what I need to do and what I want to do.”
Alvarado has been on a roller coaster his last three fights. Before being shellacked by Provodnikov last October, he outboxed Brandon Rios in March 2013 to avenge his 2012 knockout loss to the same fighter.
Second, and perhaps more important to what might unfold on Saturday in the ring, Alvarado says he’ll be bigger and stronger on fight night than his opponent.
“I know that is going to come into play as well. I’m a lot bigger. I’m a lot stronger...it just adds to my confidence level for this fight.”
Because of it, Alvarado believes he’ll be able to make Marquez, a natural counterpuncher, come forward and fight.
“It will slow the fight down a lot,” said Alvarado, implying he’ll be able to keep Marquez at a distance.
Don’t think he has one approach, though. Alvarado also said he’d mix things up over the 12 rounds to keep the intelligent Marquez as off balance.
“I’m implementing a lot of different things for Marquez. I’m working on a lot of things, both pressure tactics and boxing. I have the best of both worlds.”
Alvarado wouldn’t offer any predictions for the fight. He said he’s as prepared as he can be, and he’s looking forward to testing himself against Marquez.
“I don’t really have any predictions. I know it’s going to be a great fight. We’re going to go at it. We’re going to fight. We’re going to box. It’s going to be a very interesting fight.”
And what would it mean to Alvarado if he was able to pull out the victory?
“It’d mean everything.”
Kelsey McCarson regularly contributes to Bleacher Report, The Sweet Science and Boxing Channel. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.