Alvarez Would've Boo’d Santa Claus, Too

By Jordan Breen Jul 13, 2007
Some months ago, your average Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) article followed a template.

There was much to rave about when it came to the 23-year-old dynamo who wore Mixed Fighting Championship and later bodogFIGHT gold at 170 pounds. A hot prospect with great wrestling, blistering speed and rifle-esque punching, Alvarez made it impossible for even the most colorless columnist not to spark interest in him.

Alvarez effortlessly filled the role of "poster boy" for the upstart MFC. After crushing his first six opponents, Alvarez ventured into deeper and considerably more dangerous waters against UFC veteran Derrick Noble (Pictures).

With MFC's 170-pound title on the line against a vastly more experienced veteran, the Philadelphia native answered question marks with exclamation points, as he knocked Noble unconscious in 61 seconds.

Alvarez thrilled Japanese fight fans with a guest appearance in MARS, absolutely obliterating a hapless Hidenobu Koike (Pictures) with flying knees and diving punches. He defended his title, now under the bodogFIGHT banner, against Aaron Riley (Pictures), whose career has been built on his reputation as one of MMA's most absorbant commodities. Riley, who withstood thousands of dollars of dental damage from Yves Edwards (Pictures) twice and dozens of kill shots from Robbie Lawler (Pictures), lasted a mere 65 seconds after a firearm belt of fists left him crumpled in the corner of the ring.

However, that article template was destroyed this past April.

After blitzing his first 10 opponents, Alvarez got his first taste of defeat against "The Goat" Nick Thompson (Pictures). In a fight which looked like it predated the addition of weight classes, Alvarez chased the vastly larger Thompson to the outside, but was unable to impose his will as he had in his previous bouts against the size and reach advantages possessed by Thompson. Late in the second round, a quick counter from Thompson put Alvarez on the mat, and "The Goat" seized the opportunity, diving on Alvarez and firing his hands until referee Troy Waugh stopped the bout.

The chapter with Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) as the undefeated, un-eff-wit-able bodogFIGHT champion is done with. On Saturday night, at the Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, New Jersey, Alvarez will look to begin a new chapter, as he gets back into the ring for the first time since his title loss, taking on Matt Lee (Pictures).

"I respect him. He's a durable guy, a veteran of the game," Alvarez said of Lee. "But, I think the biggest deal is that he beat my trainer, Stephen Haigh (Pictures). It's sort of a vendetta match for the Fight Factory more than me fighting a guy of huge caliber."

The promotional gimmick for the bout is a revenge match, and Lee, who has lost only once in his last 11 bouts, figures to offer some resistance to Alvarez. However, the press releases and PPV main event slot are built on Alvarez's star, and at the end of the day, at least in the "on paper" world, the bout is a showcase for Alvarez. The more material question which arises, is how the "new" Eddie Alvarez (Pictures) will look.

"I've got a new strength and conditioning coach, just to work on my size, work on my strength," revealed Alvarez. "As everyone knows, I'm a small 170 pounder, and I wanted to attack that area of my game."

Typically, an encounter like the one Alvarez had with Thompson is enough to drive a smaller fighter down in weight. What pushes the former champ to go against the grain?

"I like to beat on guys that are bigger than me," Alvarez laughed.

No, but really.

"I don't feel 155 is where I should be at," the former champion said. "I feel comfortable here, I can put guys away here. This is my weight."

In spite of the fact that Lee is his opponent, and the fact that the prospect of a bigger, stronger Alvarez provides an interesting slant to the Saturday bout, the pressing questions for Alvarez still surround the man who currently wears the 170-pound bodog title, Nick Thompson (Pictures). When's the rematch? What's going to be different the second time? These questions and others have become an all-too-familiar battery for the former champion as of late.

"Former?! Who you callin' former?" Alvarez laughed, but here's more gravity than laughs to be found in his statement.

"We haven't even discussed a rematch yet. I have to look at what's in front of me," Alvarez said frankly. "If I don't beat Matt Lee (Pictures), it's not even a possibility. The only thing on my mind is Matt Lee (Pictures)."

But, despite how focused Alvarez may be on the task-at-hand this Saturday night, it isn't hard to tell that the prospect of a rematch with "The Goat" glimmers in his periphery. Even if Alvarez says he has his eyes locked on his bout with Matt Lee (Pictures), he's more than willing to talk about Thompson.

"In the perfect world, I'd beat Matt Lee (Pictures), and then I'd love for the promotion to say 'You get a title shot, you get to avenge your loss,'" said Alvarez.

He indulges the questioning, and one can't help but continue the now-customary chain of queries. Alvarez's in-ring essence is quick and reflexive, and out of the ring, it's no different. With the slightest hint of provocation, the fiery Philly native is ready to counter and unload.

"Nick Thompson (Pictures) wasn't strong at all, first of all," Alvarez stated emphatically. "Whoever told you that is bullshitting. He is a big 170, not necessarily a strong 170."

And he's not quite done firing yet:

"I won't make the mistakes I made in Russia. I made a lot of bad mistakes, he capitalized, and he was the better man. I don't think I'd have any problems with him standing up. As much as he hit me, I never felt hurt. I got caught, caught me with a nice punch, and I paid for it. But, by the time [we fight], I'll be able to expose Nick on the feet, on the ground, wherever it goes."

Alvarez's words are barbed. Whether or not his intent is to vilify or undermine Nick Thompson (Pictures), it is clear that his recollections of that night in Russia sour him. Moreover, it's likely got little to do with being self-pardoning, or a poor sportsman. A product of Philadelphia's fightworld, Alvarez is acutely aware of how the City of Brotherly Love has molded him as a prizefighter.

"Philly are passionate fans," said Alvarez. "They'll boo Santa Claus, they don't give a shit. When you win, you're great; when you lose, you suck."

The venom and vitality of Philadelphians is perhaps the proudest part of their athletic tradition. Competition for Philly's faithful is black and white, win or lose. It's merciless, and perhaps even outright Draconian, as far as fans go. But those same principles are evident in Alvarez, and it's clear his Philadelphian state of mind makes it hard to wrestle with the fact he feels he could've fought better that night in St. Petersburg.

However, for as difficult it may be to swallow defeat, given Alvarez's roots in Kensington, Philadelphia, the source of the conflict is rooted in the same passion which has seen him put scores of 170-pounders to sleep.

"As a Philadelphia fighter, even though [the fans] are cutthroat and it sucks, they drive you. They drive you to become a better athlete, a better fighter. Because of how passionate they are, you can't help but be passionate," said Alvarez.

And in the end, it's the same passion that will give Alvarez an opportunity to erase the word "former" from his mind.
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