Tuesday, March 28, 2023  |



Nonito Donaire Sr. likes Joebert Alvarez’s chances against Juan Estrada

Fighters Network

MANILA, Philippines – The first impression one gets from a conversation with Joebert Alvarez is that, like many boxers from the Philippines, he is shy, reserved and understated. He isn’t given to bombast or grandiose exhibitions that have long been the formula for boxing promotion in the Western hemisphere.

Alvarez, who is 25 years old and hails from Manny Pacquiao’s hometown of General Santos City, will be taking a significant step-up in competition this Saturday when he faces WBO/WBA flyweight titleholder Juan Francisco Estrada in a 10-round non-title match at Centro de Usos Multiples in Estrada’s hometown of Hermosillo, Mexico.

Alvarez acknowledges the enormous task ahead of him, knowing full well he will find out much about himself as a fighter the next time he enters the ring.

“We will know when we fight. I can’t be too confident because Estrada also has talent,” said Alvarez (14-0-1, 6 knockouts).

The fight is being viewed by many as a stay-busy fight for Estrada (30-2, 22 KOs), who has faced a veritable murderer’s row of opposition that began with a competitive loss to the division’s current RING champion Roman Gonzalez, which led to his upset of Brian Viloria to win a pair of 112-pound titles, before defenses against Milan Melindo, Richie Mepranum and former junior flyweight champ Giovani Segura.

Alvarez, by contrast, has fought most of his fights off the grid in the Philippines, before leaving to train with Nonito Donaire Sr. in Oakland, California in March. Alvarez had one fight since then, winning a decision over Julian Rivera in Mexico City before getting the call for this fight.

Donaire Sr., who is most noted for the success of his four-division champion son, has trained Alvarez for the past six years, ever since his cousin in “GenSan” brought the 19 year old to his gym in Cebu, Philippines.

Alvarez began boxing at age 13 after his dad, once an aspiring boxer, introduced him to the sport. Alvarez had a limited amateur career of 60 fights, winning minor titles in his hometown and nearby Davao City.

He turned pro in 2010 and got his first big break a year later by winning Filipino reality show Buhay Boksingero. Alvarez fought a few more times, beating fighters with impressive records before running into Albert Alcoy in August of 2012.

Alcoy, who had a sub .500 record entering the bout, dropped Alvarez in round two on a clean blow, only to have the bout stopped on a technical draw after the knockdown due to a cut that was caused by a headbutt moments earlier.

Alvarez’s last four fights have resulted in four straight wins, and Donaire Sr. feels the change of surroundings has benefited Alvarez.

“There have been a lot of improvements with power, speed and being smart inside the ring,” said Donaire Sr. “I can see it in the way he trains, the way he spars. I didn’t see any negativity in him.”

Many of Alvarez’s sparring partners have been amateur boxers, some as big as 145 pounders, whom Donaire Sr. says Alvarez has been knocking down and hurting. He too knows the difficulty of the task ahead, but thinks his boxer has a better chance than most give him credit for.

“He has a big, big chance,” said Donaire Sr., who thinks Estrada has vulnerabilities his southpaw boxer can exploit. “Even [Estrada], he knows. Estrada doesn’t really move his head much. He’s just gonna counter you every time you throw punches on him.”

Some will say Alvarez doesn’t have a prayer of a shot. Alvarez is banking on prayer to give him a shot.

“I hope The Lord gives me the strength to win because I want to help my mom and dad,” said Alvarez.



Ryan Songalia is the sports editor of Rappler, a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA) and a contributor to The Ring magazine. He can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @RyanSongalia.