One hundred and sixty-two days. To most it means little, a few weeks short of six months, the number of days until a vacation, anniversary, or other special occasion, but to someone in addiction recovery it means the world.
Today, “Mile High” Mike Alvarado is particularly proud of what that number means to him and for good reason. One hundred and sixty-two represents the number of days that have elapsed since Alvarado made his first step towards sobriety.
It’s not an easy thing to come forward and share your past, especially one that deals with addiction, but for Alvarado it is about putting closure on a regretful period while looking forward to the journey that lies ahead.
Standing-8 had the opportunity to sit down with the former junior welterweight champion at Delgado’s Gym in Denver, Colorado to talk about his past, his future, and why he earned the nickname the “Should-er”.
Standing-8 Mike, thank you for the opportunity to interview you and for your willingness to discuss those hard issues outside of the ring, it’s a good thing to tell your own story.
Alvarado- You’re welcome, thank you, yes it is.
Standing-8 I commend your decision to get well, it must have been difficult to take that first step and admit that you have a problem that you need to deal with.
Alvardo- Thank you.
Standing-8 So first, I want to ask how your family is, I know you got married, you were engaged prior to the Rios fight in January?
Alvarado- Yes, I got married; I got a ring on it!
Alvarado– Right on, thank you.
Standing-8 How are the kids?
Alvarado- Kids are good, they are happy; I get them all the time. I cleaned that up…neglecting my children, living in that lifestyle. I get my kids every day, I have a bond with my kids, I’m the father that I need to be. It’s awesome, my kids are happy; I can’t get enough of it.
Standing-8 You’ve been in recovery since the Rios fight in January, correct? Did you enter rehab shortly thereafter?
Alvarado- Since February, February 18 is my sobriety day. Since then, I’ve been clean. Five and a half months, I’m on day one fifty-something..or one sixty-three, I believe? One sixty-two, I wrote it down on my calendar that on my birthday my sobriety day would be one-sixty one, so today is the day after my birthday so..one sixty-two! One hundred sixty two great days sober, I count it day by day cause that’s all it takes is one day. One day can change the whole effect of what I’m doing, why I’m staying sober, why I’m staying clean. Being here in this gym to make another run at what my dream really is, everything that has happened in my life, the law, the rehab, it all added up to this point now, I’m comfortable with what I need to do.
Standing-8 I commend you, that’s a tough step to take.
Alvarado– It was a tough step at first you know, that I’m going to have to live with this humility, but maybe I had to go through it because I wasn’t being humble. I’m humble now; I’m comfortable with talking about it because it was true, you know, I wasn’t living the lifestyle that I should have been living. I should have been. They called me the “should-er” when I was with my counselors; I “should” on myself all the time, because if I just would have stayed in shape throughout that whole process, after the first….ten fights ago, if I would have just stayed in shape, kept focused till now, I’d still be undefeated. So, I would be like if I would have just did it back then.. That’s why they call me the “should-er”, I “should” on myself all the time because I know what I should have done. It is what it is, I’m past all that now, it’s behind me, I’m comfortable with talking about it now because I lived through it. I made a complete change.
Standing-8 Can you talk a little about how you decided to make that move and how your recovery is going this past hundred and sixty-two days?
Alvarado– I knew since the Rios fight, January 24th of this year, I knew I wasn’t ready for that fight, I was still fighting that lifestyle, I was still trying to train, I was mixing it all in. I would have never thought my eye was going to mess up, I was going to get a paralyzed muscle in my right eye. I’m kind of glad it did, you know, because that really made me see, hey I could have lost my eye, I could have really lost my vision, it’s not about boxing, I have kids I have to raise, I have a family, I have a life outside of boxing. My health is more important than just being a champion, the money and everything. When I was living that lifestyle after that fight when my eye occurred, I was fed up with that lifestyle. I couldn’t live that lifestyle no more.
I was telling my girlfriend (wife now) it was February 17, 16th or 17th. this was my last time, my last little rodeo of messing up, living that lifestyle. I told her, I’m done with this babe, I can’t live this lifestyle anymore, I don’t want it anymore. The next day, my family comes with an intervention, I had no idea, surprisingly they came, all my brothers and sisters, my interventionist, Henry, my manager, they came. I saved them all the talk, I was like I’m done, I can’t live this life, let’s go….so I entered into rehab, CeDAR rehab, over in Aurora. It was the best decision, the best investment I ever made in my life. Since that day, February 18, 2015, I’ve been clean.
I’ve developed everything in my life, I’ve stacked on a lot of problems, I got caught in the law, I was in places I shouldn’t have been, in the wrong place at the wrong time, around the wrong people living in that lifestyle as well, I couldn’t do it no more, I got caught downtown with a gun, I was with the wrong people I shouldn’t have been with. God willing…God knows that I’ve surrendered my life over to the will of God. He’s guided me through these steps now to be a better person, to be a better dad, a better athlete god willing, you know I’m living through it, it’s a blessing.
Standing-8 Who have been your strongest supporters? You mentioned Henry, your manager, your wife, your team, your family, the team that came over for the intervention, so it has been just good family and team support?
Alvarado- Having that support has been the best you know, the backbone to my recovery, to my life, to the lifestyle I’m living now. I got married, the support that I have from my family, Henry, my loyal fans, I’m cleaned up now.
Standing-8 That’s awesome, I’m going to switch it up a bit and go back to the beginning and ask if the addiction was always a part of your career or do you remember a certain fight when you really started noticing that the lifestyle… I mean was it really truly the Rios fight in January or was it several fights prior?
Alvarado- It goes back, I say at least fifteen, twenty fights back. I’m a talented athlete/fighter, give me a ball I’d dunk it, throw me a baseball, I’d hit a home run, boxing I’d be a world champion, wrestling, I’d be undefeated. Hard work beats talent when talent aint working hard. It got to the point as I got older, I can’t rely on my talent no more, I have to work hard now, I have to back up my talent. I wasn’t working hard almost my whole career; I was winning fights just on my talent. I’ve never fought a fight at a hundred percent. Now that I have that clarity, crystal clear with my training, the way I’m living, it’s like now, let’s see what I can do with it. I’m excited, to see what I can do, I’ve not fought at a hundred percent. Make a comeback maybe November/December, get a tune up, stay in shape, win again, make a comeback, I’m only going to get better.
I remember in one fight specifically, about fifteen fights ago, I was in Las Vegas I was in front of my manager Shelly Finkel, he’s like the godfather of boxing, he was there to see me and I was trying to prove myself, show that I’m worth the investment. I remember while I was living that lifestyle, I was fighting this dude that had no business standing in the ring with me, he made that fight a close fight, I looked like garbage, I didn’t feel good. I wasn’t up to my standards where I could have been. I still won but it still wasn’t the best I could have been with my ability.
I knew my talent would back me up, but then, after the fights, I would want to quit putting myself back in that lifestyle, stop the drugs and alcohol, and everything that came with that lifestyle. I would want to stop it but I honestly didn’t surrender myself to that lifestyle till after the Rios fight in 2015. So now that I’ve surrendered my lifestyle over to the will of God, he’s put everything back in place like a puzzle. It was a puzzle that was all messed up and then I surrendered myself; it’s a clean puzzle now. Now I’m working hard, it’s the fight back, the road back to Mike Alvarado.
Standing-8 That’s good, I’m excited to see that. So those nights leading up to January 24th, was that where you saw the issues outside of the ring really hit their peak right before that fight?
Alvarado– I knew it hit its peak, it only showed in the fights, not the first Rios fight, I trained hard for that fight, that fight shouldn’t have been stopped, but that’s the way it went. The Provodnikov fight, I should have been ready for that one, I should have been training my butt off for that, I won the world title, I’m defending it in my backyard, I should have been on my toes, I should have been a hundred percent, no, I was forty percent, fifty percent for that fight, thinking I could just win it with my talent, it don’t work that way no more. Marquez came after that, thanking the Lord above that my promotion still had my back, they are still lining me up with fights. I was a very entertaining fighter that people wanted to see.
Standing-8 You’re out on the streets at 3 AM a few weeks before the Rios fight, when you look back on the choice that you made now to move forward to get that help and turn your life around, do you look back to that night……..
Alvarado- I look back to all of those nights, to all the fights that I should have won, I look back to certain fights that I won but could have won easier.
Standing-8 (Breidis) Prescott? I remember watching you make those slight adjustments late in the fight and thinking you are starting to get to him and that you may stop him, then in the tenth, boom. So when you tell me now that the training wasn’t there and you were winning on talent, I just think about the Alvarado that we will see, one with a dedicated work ethic.
Alvarado- Yes, with that heart, because that was my heart that was instilled in me to come out in that fight and still not a hundred percent. I was hurt with my weight during the whole camp, I was overweight, barely made weight, I was dying for weigh-ins, I just fought out of pure heart and talent.
Standing-8 Fighting at home in Denver, a curse or a blessing?
Alvarado- In the lifestyle that I was living, it was a curse because of the lifestyle I was living. I was letting those distractions let me down and distract me from what I really need to be doing. That’s why my production, my manager, wanted to get me out of here. That’s why I went out to LA, got away, and got my mind-set back to where it needed to be. I trained in my hometown, I was hard-headed, but I love training in my hometown. When I am training here, it’s over, I’m in better shape, the elevation, my supporters, my family, you know, this is my domain, I should be able to train here and be focused and represent my city. But living that lifestyle, I wasn’t able to do that. It was a curse to me because it hurt me; I gave in to that lifestyle. Now? I don’t have an urge, I set my boundaries with other people, the alcohol, if you bring alcohol around, I’m like I hate it, it played a huge part of my life that I don’t want it no more, keep that away from me, it’s like the devil to me. When I did go to rehab, it’s not that I had to detox, I just needed some psychological, someone to talk to me, like hey, you got this, to counsel me in ways that I wasn’t getting through to what I needed to do. I was meshing all that in and thought I could do it. I was taking my talent for granted because I wasn’t backing it up with the hard work. I was taking my talent for granted because I was winning fights, just off my talent, thinking ok, it’s ok if you keep winning fights on pure talent. No, hard work beats talent when talent aint working hard. It came to that point, I’m only getting older, I can’t fight forever
Standing-8 I’m going to read a couple of quotes from you and then I want to ask you a question-
Back in 2010, in an interview you stated “I wasn’t living right, like I should have been. I was partying, I was drinking…I wasn’t grounding myself. I had to open my eyes,”
Then after Provodnikov (2013), it was said that you were not adequately prepared, you stated “I have to go back to my training. I have to go back to being healthy and focus on getting it back.”
After the loss in January-
“I was looking at my physical condition, I could have shown heart, but who knows what would have happened after that?” “I wasn’t training like I should have. That’s what I get! I got to get back to the drawing board. I’m not at peace with myself. I’m not going to say I did everything I could to win. I didn’t do everything I could. That’s what I get.”
Seems we’ve been here before, why is this time different Mike?
Alvarado- This time is different now because I’ve surrendered my life over and I don’t have that feeling, like I said in the past I wanted to quit. When I was in the gym and I was showing up to what I had to show up to and talk to whoever I needed to talk to, I was putting on a show, I was putting on a front, I was saying what they wanted to hear. It wasn’t real though but now I don’t care, I dealt with it. All that I went through I live with it. I’m talking about it because I’m comfortable with it now, I’ve put it behind me, I know it’s different, I don’t have those craves no more. I don’t want that life no more. I’ve surrendered my life over and I am comfortable where I’m at. I’m happy where I’m at. I’ve never been this happy in my life. I’m good with never fighting again and still being happy with my kids.
Standing-8 Successful at life?
Alvarado- Definitely, boxing isn’t everything. It’s just what I do to support my family. I love the attention of performing for people, putting a smile on a kids face when they are watching me, being a leader to those who look up to me. Now it’s teaching these kids, the sky’s the limit living the right path.
Standing-8 Tell me a little about your work with the kids.
Alvarado- We have these kids come here (Delgado’s Gym), there are a lot of talented kids out there, they don’t have the guidance to be taught what they would never learn, what they would never know because they don’t have that guidance. I’m here, I’m giving back because I want to give back, I had that guidance when I was growing up. I’ve been through it all and I had that guidance and still put myself in places and did things that I shouldn’t have done. So, I can talk about the right decision to make, by them looking at me and listening to me that if I didn’t make the choices that I did, I should be on that poster next to Pacquiao.
Standing-8 So, wise guidance again, you are paying it forward.
Alvarado- I’m giving it back, paying it forward, doing what I want to do cause I know these kids don’t have it. I have nephews that their dads are in prison. I’m the only male figure in their life that can help these kids to give the guidance to be better and not make the mistakes I’ve made. My goal is to open a gym for wrestling and boxing; it’s implanted in my brain, my blood.
Standing-8 So Mike, what’s next? You talked about a tune up at the end of the year, you have a great team with Shann Vilhauer and Henry Delgado, what do you see for the next year?
Alvarado- I have a great team, finish this year with a tune-up fight, going into the next year ready to make another statement with one of the top ten pros/boxers out there, making my name and a statement that I’m back. What I’ve been through, why I’m back, where I’m going from here. Only time will tell, the fights will tell, my actions will prove and show what it is. One step at a time, I’m taking baby steps to get back in the gym. I’m the heaviest that I’ve been but now I’ve got my nutrition, eating the right meals that are not going to hurt me and keep stacking on that weight, training every day. I’m making them steps man, I’m doing what I need to be doing. I’m hungry for it now. I’m excited, when I got back in the gym I could feel those testosterone levels firing again and I’m like let’s go, I’m back. Before, I kind of lost it, I wasn’t feeling as strong and my blood wasn’t flowing through my system like it is now. God willing, it goes the way that I want it to go. All I can do is pray for it and hope for the best.
Standing-8 I’m excited to see the new Mike; we’ll be praying for you. You said once, “The only person who can beat me is me” and I want to close this interview by saying that is true and the road back will be difficult at times but you can be great again. I’m honored to be one of your first two interviews to talk about your past and addiction. I commend you on your candidness.
Alvarado– It’s time, I’m ready to let the world know and talk about everything that I went through.
If Alvarado fought as well as he did with an undisciplined training regimen, a partying lifestyle that led to addiction issues, and a mindset that his talent would always be enough, it will be exciting to see what a dedicated Alvarado will bring to the ring. Most will be skeptical about a thirty-five year old pugilist with several wars on his résumé being a top contender again but in interviewing Mike, something was different about his mindset, his peace. It would be unwise to bet against him.
Alvarado’s last fight was a disaster. By his own admission he should never have been in the ring, his performance, a product of a lifestyle not conducive to his craft. He has come a long way since that January 24th night.
Alvarado will be fighting a different type of opponent for the rest of his life. This fight with no titles on the line and no money earned but with every day that is added to his sobriety he will place a championship belt around his waist.
A resurgence of his career will be a bonus; it’s about Alvarado winning at life that is most important, not only for himself but for those around him; his family, his team, and the many kids who look up to him as a role model.
Special thanks to Henry Delgado and Shann Vilhauer.