Win or lose, Mike "Mile High" Alvarado is one of the most entertaining fighters in the game, as exemplified by the likes of his back-from-the-brink stoppage of Breidis Prescott in 2011, and his sensational wars with fellow junior welterweight contender Brandon Rios. But while his in-ring performances have won him a sizeable fan base, outside the ring he has generally slipped under the radar. So we sat down with him to dig a little deeper into who exactly is Mike Alvarado.
Do you remember when you first decided to become a boxer?
I was a wrestler my whole life. I didn't really think about boxing. When I was growing up, I watched some of it, guys like De La Hoya and Chavez. When I started boxing, I was already 21 years old. My whole life was wrestling, wrestling, wrestling. After there was no more wrestling, I was all, "There's nothing else to do. What am I going to do? I know, let's try boxing." One day, I stepped in the gym, and I was just interested in what I could do in this sport. And it's just been one day after another. And it's hard; it's something you're not in school for. You've got to push yourself to do it, and find the right people to keep you motivated and keep you going in this sport.
Where do you get that motivation?
I think it was just instilled in me as a kid by my stepdad. I developed a hard work ethic and my mom kept pushing me. They've been my number one supporters.
Can you explain to a non-fighter the depth of resolve you've shown to come through tremendously tough fights like you've had against Prescott or Rios?
You can explain how deep it was to dig to come back and win a bloody war, but even that person you're explaining it to would never know the feeling. If they've seen the fight, I'm pretty sure they'd have a good idea.
Do you ever have to ask yourself the question about whether to keep going?
I don't ever really have to question myself. There was one fight - it was like my tenth fight - I dreamed that fight beforehand, I remember I had déjà vu in the ring. I remember thinking, "I know what's going to happen," and I went deaf to everything that was going on around me, and then once that déjà vu went away, everything else came back in.
Why did the wrestling stop?
I didn't want to go to college. College wrestling, school and everything - I just wasn't into that at the time. A couple of years after high school, I had an epiphany. I needed to do something with my life. I didn't choose boxing. Boxing chose me.
Do you think at a different time, you might have tried MMA?
I probably would have, if boxing hadn't come along. It wasn't big at the time when I finished wrestling. If it had been, I would probably have gone in that cage. I probably still could make that change if I wanted to. But I don't even think about that. I'm going up and up and up still.
Is there anyone in history you would have like to have fought?
What's his name? Robinson? Sugar Ray Robinson. Oooooooh. For some reason when classic fights come on, he's always the guy I end up watching. He was good. I watch some of the techniques he used, and I think, "I should try and use that."
Do you have any role models in life you look up to?
My brother-in-law, my sister's husband, is a very good man, a hard worker, a good father. A lot of top athletes that are doing good and are good men. They're still pushing, still have that hunger.
Are there a lot of sports you like to watch?
Basketball, football. I'm a Broncos fan.
Is there anything about you that you think your fans might find surprising? Any secrets?
[Smiles] Probably. [Laughs]. You wouldn't think I was a fighter outside of the ring. I'm so friendly to everybody.
What do you think you would have been if you hadn't gone into the gym that day, and if you hadn't become a boxer?
I'd probably just be working, like everybody else. I don't know where I'd be. I'd be doing a different sport.
Finish this sentence: "I will retire when ... "
When I win ten world titles. [Laughs]. When I make enough money to be set for the rest of my life. And when my kids are set that they don't ever have to struggle.
What do you want your kids to be?
Happy. I just want them to be happy.