Alvarez faces Chilemba with ‘Superman’ in mind
A quick look at the recent stretch in the career of Colombian-born, Canadian light heavyweight contender Eleider “Storm” Alvarez (18-0, 10 knockouts) suggests he’s been only one fight away from a serious title opportunity. His status as a mandatory contender has been put off by injuries and other vicissitudes but he appears ready to claim his place at the negotiation table for a big title fight in 2016. All he needs now is a victory this Saturday against fellow perennial contender Isaac “Golden Boy” Chilemba (24-2-2, 10 KOs) in a WBC eliminator at Quebec City’s Centre Videotron, with the winner scheduled to challenge Adonis “Superman” Stevenson for the WBC belt sometime next year.
“This is one of the things that they’ve mentioned but I am fully focused on my fight with Isaac,” said Alvarez during a recent telephone interview. “I have to take Stevenson out of my head for now. Right now I am focused on my fight of November 28th but the Stevenson fight is something we’ve been talking about for a while because I became the number one contender, according to the WBC, after I got my ‘silver’ title in Monaco against Ryno Liebenberg. They didn’t give me the chance there and then I had surgery in my left hand and I missed another opportunity. But, if I win this fight, I hope there is no turning back and they allow me to fight Stevenson.”
Alvarez, 31, a native of Apartado, Colombia living in Montreal, is coming off an unexpectedly tough challenge in his last fight, in which he had to overcome a few rocky moments against Paraguay’s unheralded Isidro Ranoni Prieto. He appeared to have looked past Ranoni Prieto and flirted with disaster in a fight in which he was expected to win handily. But the towering former Olympic fighter claims to have learned his lesson well.
“Thank God everything turned out fine,” said Alvarez in regard to his 12-round unanimous decision win over Ranoni Prieto, which was much closer than what the three 117-111 scorecards indicated. “It was a difficult fight with a few difficult moments but, thanks to my preparation and my experience, everything went fine.”
Alvarez also indicates the choppy weather he had to endure against Ranoni Prieto only made him stronger.
“There were a few things that I discovered about me, like I have a strong chin,” said Alvarez. “I can take hard punches like the ones Ranoni gave me. He is a fighter who can punch and I took his punches really well. I also learned something about my jab. I realized that I jabbed Ranoni and he timed my punches easily, so I have to work on my timing as well. But those were things I was able to overcome at the time and everything went fine.”
Against Chilemba, however, Alvarez will be facing an established contender with proven credentials against top light heavyweight contenders. Trained by former welterweight titlist James “Buddy” McGirt, the Malawi-born Chilemba is coming off a solid victory against Vasily Lepikhin early this year and, just like Ranoni Prieto, he has the added motivation of becoming one day his country’s first ever boxing titleholder.
“Chilemba is a great fighter and he’s up there with the best light heavyweights in the world. This will be his third elimination fight. He is one of the best out there for a reason,” said Alvarez about his foe, counting on Chilemba to feel the pressure and going all out to leave the kind of impression that earns fighters their title shots, regardless of their mandatory statuses.
“I believe so,” said Alvarez, when asked about his chances to land the dream bout against Stevenson not just by beating Chilemba but rather by doing it in grand style. “If I put on a good show, they should give me the chance to face Stevenson. I hope everything goes well. I hope the fight ends quickly, at least from my part, but I am ready to fight 15 rounds. I am always well-prepared in the ring because I don’t like surprises.”
In order to give a surprise of his own to Chilemba, Alvarez plans to impress with a more tactical fight, to match his foe’s counterpunching approach.
“I guess I won’t go after Isaac so hard because we know he is a very intelligent boxer,” revealed Alvarez. “He moves quite well but that’s one of the things we’ll see as the fight progresses because, when you put pressure on him, he starts slipping punches and goes on a defense-first mode and we’re going to try to do things differently against him. I have a lot of amateur experience, which has allowed me to fight with all kinds of different fighters, and I can adapt quickly to his style as well and that’s what training is for.”
Regardless of his tactical approach, Alvarez believes the support of his Canadian fans will provide the extra push he needs to get the victory – and the title shot against another fellow transplant in Haitian-born, Canadian Stevenson.
“I am at home and I will come out as usual to show my people what I have,” said Alvarez, who has his own fan club in Canada as well as in Colombia. “Once the fight starts, we’ll make a few adjustments but I am always going to go out and look for the victory at any cost.”
Diego Morilla, a bilingual boxing writer since 1995, is a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He served as boxing writer for ESPNdeportes.com and ESPN.com, and is now a regular contributor to RingTV.com and HBO.com, as well as the resident boxing writer for XNSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @MorillaBoxing.