Monday, January 26, 2015

Mile High Mike Alvarado-From Mat to Ring to Octagon?

First, let me start this off with this caveat; I knew Mike Alvarado up until the age of 18 and for the past 15 years have only followed his career/life via articles, interviews and other media outlets.  I haven't talked to him for fifteen years, but feel like his story is beyond what we saw in the boxing ring.

History from a Past Denver Champion
Mike Alvarado made Colorado boxing relevant again after Stevie Johnston had unfortunately faded away after his last big title shot.  A title shot that ended with the title belt being taken from his hands with a controversial split decision Draw at the Pepsi Center in his hometown September 15, 2000 to Jose Luis Castillo.  Johnston was just 28 years in 2000 and while he continued to fight for nearly eight years after that, he never got another shot at the title.  Johnston was a pure boxer.  He was never a pound for pound great or KO specialist,  but for a half a decade he went toe to toe with some of the best lightweight boxers and was a WBC champion twice for just over a year during the late 90s/early 2000s.  He became a quick afterthought in Colorado's history and in boxing with his legal issues (child support after that September 2000 bout), disappearing from boxing for two years and being considered over the hill with such an extensive amateur history and professional career.  While this story is about Mike Alvarado, the Johnston story shows most boxers don't always leave out on top and often have many demons past, present and future that they must battle.

Mike's Boxing Career (Condensed)
First, let's talk about Mike Alvarado as a boxer.  Mike Alvarado is 34 years old.  He got into the ring late in his life, starting boxing in his early 20s and stringing together over 30 fights in a little over 3 years.  Mike didn't have his first professional boxing match until he was nearly 24 years old.  He fought 12 times in his first two years and compiled KOs in 8 of his first 9 fights. Alvarado got his record to 31-0 and faced his biggest challenge and first major fight on the Main Card of Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manual Marquez III in Breidis Prescott on November 12, 2011 on his first major Pay-Per-View appearance.  Alvarado was outboxed by Prescott the first half of the fight and after a weak showing in the 9th round, it appeared Alvarado was finished without a stoppage.  Mike showed the warrior in him and strength few people have by showing a re-fueled tank for the 10th round and looking fresh.  He earned a TKO victory and got boxing circles talking about his next shot.  After doing what most didn't think was Mike's M.O. in earning a unanimous decision over Mauricio Herrera, "Mile High Mike" was set to face off against Brandon "Bam Bam" Rios.  Rios and Alvarado were known for their big punches and they didn't let the viewers down with double the average punches thrown per round for a welterweight in trading wins in their first two fights.

Alvarado returned home to have a less than par "homecoming" against Ruslan Provodnikov and questions of if he had reached the highest he could surfaced when he didn't answer the bell to start the 11th round.  Still, Alvarado was a draw for Top Rank and Bob Arum and they decided to match him against boxing legend Juan Manuel Marquez, a whily veteran that had never been knocked down and had fought some of the best in the business.  While Marquez put on a boxing clinic, Alvarado fought hard and showed well lately to earn the trilogy fight against Brandon Rios this past weekend on January 24, 2015.  It was a showing that people have criticized heavily and thrown every derogatory boxing term towards him like "over-the hill", "BUM", "finished", etc. and unfortunately they may be right.

My Memories of Mike Alvarado as a Wrestler
I first heard of Mike Alvarado as a youth wrestler.  He was part of that vaunted Alvarado family.  His cousins, his uncles, his brothers, his dad were all a group that many people were stand-offish with.  They were loud, they supported the fuck out of each other and most of all, they won and they didn't always do it nicely.  The group won many state titles in the youth ranks and even though others were more feared, Mike was most dominant.  I remember wrestling Mike's cousin Kiko (Andy Jr.) as an 11-year old.  Kiko was a year older than me and stronger than an ox for his age.  He was also the craziest son-of-a-bitch out of the group.   He technical falled me in a freestyle tournament (a style of wrestling I never got comfortable with and never enjoyed) and made me look like a rag doll.  I believe that was the only concussion I had on a wrestling mat and it made me fear the shit out of him and that family.

Funny thing is, after twelve years of growing up next to the Alvarados, I suddenly was put into their family when I moved from Federal Heights (yes I grew up in trailer park city, but turned out just fine) to south Thornton/unincorporated Adams County and was attending John Dewey Middle School as a seventh grader.  Little did I know that I was joining the same hallways the Alvarados roamed.  To add salt to the wound, my average (at best) wrestling abilities would be joining the youth program the Alvarados ran, called AVA (Alvarado-Vigil Association) with my much more talented brother whom actually could compete against the Alvarados on the wrestling mat.  It also "forced" me to join John Dewey's wrestling team as a seventh grader.  It was the first and last time, since my first year of wrestling, that I would ever wrestle Junior Varsity.  I was JV to longtime Kiko and Mike Alvarado friend, Donnie Walsh.  Donnie scared the shit out of me and he knew it and used it to make me fucking hate school.  Fortunately that year with Mike and his family was the turning point in helping me toughen the fuck up and get some cockiness that I would need to channel when I finally started to win regularly the following year and in my last two years of high school.  Mike's Uncle/Kiko's dad, Andy, was our wrestling coach and our practices were the hardest thing I had done in my life.  My body ached throughout the season and I hated the ass kicking I got but the Alvarados helped mature me and toughen me up and I love and respect them and say hello whenever I run into them.  That year, I was never close to Mike, but we talked and got along.  He was more my brother's style and my brother may have gained a lot of knowledge by watching him since his outside sweep single leg shot looked a ton like the lighter Mike's the years after spending that one season with AVA.  While I wrestled the next tier of guys, my brother wrestled an age up and gained that grittiness working with the likes of Mike, Kiko and un-related cousin Isaac.

Mike dominated every match I watched him wrestle that season with AVA and John Dewey.  He was the fastest wrestler I have EVER seen with his shot and his strength for his size and his length for his weight were something no one could compete against.  Mike was a joy to watch because he was so damn good.  My most long-lasting memory may have been as I was leaving Algebra in 7th grade though.  Mike took a kid more than 25 lbs heaver than him and lifted him up against some windows near the library and held onto him with one arm and then knocked him out with one punch with the other hand.  Like I said, I had already feared his friends and family, but that day I learned I never wanted to take a punch from Mike Alvarado.  I spent the next season with Mike being the best guy on the team and me being the next best for John Dewey that season (after Kiko and Donnie had moved up to Skyview High School).  Mike was never boisterous and didn't have that fear that his cousin did, but he was a silent assassin destroying every wrestler on the mat.  I never got on Mike's bad side but I got that swagger that was built the year before at John Dewey and that year was much quieter and less fearful.  It also ended halfway through the year when my last match was also one of my last days at John Dewey when I would be transferring to a middle school in District 12.  Still, I knew I would be sharing the same mats as Mike the following year.

Mike's High School Career
Mike was a freshman at Skyview High School in Thornton, Colorado when I was a freshman up the road seven miles at Horizon High School.  That year I wrestled my first high school tournament at  Skyview, and had a decent first showing earning a 4th place medal.  It was a rude awakening for how much stronger and abilities wise the high school wrestler had.  Mike ran through that tournament and I watched him dominate everyone he squared off against.  He was insanely strong for a 103-lb wrestler and had the length that allowed for phenomenal leverage and speed that was just unmatched.  Unfortunately Mike became ineligible due to not focusing on a key area in high school, the classroom, and was done midway through his freshman year as the top ranked wrestler at 103 lbs.  I knew Mike struggled academically.  He never was a stellar student, but he passed because he gave the effort.  I was disappointed and also not surprised.  I loved sports but I always was focused on the classroom and being a star student, before a star athlete.  The following year Mike put his head down and ran through all the way to the state title.  He went undefeated in one of the best showings a high school sophomore has ever had in Colorado.  He was the best wrestler in the state pound-for-pound that year at 112 lbs and his junior year he bumped up four weight classes.  Mike finally added some muscle to his strong, but wiry frame and he was scary as a 135 lb junior.  Mike ran through his junior year and toyed with people going 30-0.  For whatever reason, my nightmare returned in Donnie Walsh and the Alvarado family when we hosted a "spirited" scrimmage that year.  We had the most intense practice of the year that day and it probably helped catapult me from average wrestler to state placer.  What that day showed me also is that Mike may have gained some of that swagger and cockiness that season which ultimately helped him in boxing for the future, but may have killed his senior year.

Unfortunately, Mike started his senior year ineligible, got back into it and came out flat and wrestled his first tournament out of state and earned his first two losses in high school.   Mike's efforts were not the same and unfortunately, Colorado never got to see Mike get a chance at a 3rd state title when his wrestling career was ended by grades completely his senior year and ruled ineligible again.  Unfortunately after sounding like he wanted to be able to take his talents to the college mats and break the Hispanics not wrestling at the next level mystery away, Mike disappeared with his ineligibility and is a footnote in Colorado State Wrestling history rather than amongst the discussion of guys like Tom Clum, Sonny Yohn, etc.

Mike Alvarado Resurfaces
Thanks to being an avid sports fan and Denver Post subscriber (no longer since 2008 due to Mark Kiszla and Woody Paige being main featured writers) I learned Mike Alvarado had picked up boxing and was fighting in the amateur ranks and winning Golden Gloves while I was in college.  Mike got started later than most boxers but I learned a few things from that day.  The man who raised Mike, Gabe, was not his biological father.  His biological father was Ron Cisneros, a former boxer out of Denver.  I knew Mike until he was 18 and never did I know anyone but Gabe was his dad.  My family got along well with Gabe and Gabe never didn't treat Mike like his son.  I hear about Ron every time I read something on Mike and shake my head, because Gabe was Mike's dad and provided for him and his five other siblings. 

From that day forward, I scoured the web and newspaper keeping an eye out for Mike.  When Mike finally became a professional in 2004, I was hopeful that he'd have a good career.  A couple years into it I saw his dominance wasn't just on the wrestling mat but in the boxing ring.

Mike fought between 140 and 147 lbs after weighing 135 lbs as a junior in high school.  It baffled me when I first saw his pictures in 2004 and saw he was "tatted up" and "swoll".  Mike had got very strong his junior year and started filling out his body but he had only gained roughly 15 lbs of cut muscle and his warrior mentality showed strong. 

I enjoyed watching Mike's rise and once he beat Prescott, I knew he was finally due for some big paydays and a chance to fight the top guys.  Unfortunately, the punches he took starting from Prescott and up until Saturday has caused Mike to swell, cut and have damages much more quickly in fights.  From the words of his trainer to promoter Bob Arum to the words of experts, Mike fucked up and did himself no favors.  He half assed the Alvarado-Rios III training and did himself no favors by once again getting arrested early January.  Unfortunately that wake up call 3 weeks ago came much too late for Mike to get in the shape and get into the right frame of mind.  Mike's life and career is at a very difficult crossroads.  While he has the joy of marriage coming his way in March, he has the concerns of yet another legal battle and potential prison time with his latest arrest. 

What's Next for Mike?
Who knows?  I mean this as no offense but pure honesty, without boxing, Mike Alvarado and many of his fellow boxers, would be doing hard time beyond the smaller crimes they have faced.  Boxing has given Mike a career and given him a purpose and goal.  Unfortunately, seeing Mike's history and seeing past elite athletes history, that first taste of defeat sours them and after being on top of the world and feeling untouchable, they lost a little of that juice and fire.  Mike hasn't looked the same as he did after being defeated by Rios the first time.  While he beat Rios in the following bout and showed fire, something hasn't been clicking like it did when he toyed with Herrera and showed the Eye of the Tiger against Prescott to earn those big paydays and some notoriety in Colorado sports history.

Unfortunately his lack of passion and half assed effort as he pretty much admitted to has soured Colorado casual boxing observers and sports fans/critics.  I praise Mike for helping put Colorado back on the map and earning spotlight for Colorado boxing.  We blindly praise other athletes in this town that wear the orange and blue, while neglecting to realize boxing is the most difficult sport and while you can blame a bad game on coaching and direct it away from the athletes, there is no one to point the finger for in boxing, MMA or wrestling but yourself. Mike admitted it was on him and he didn't give the necessary effort and while it pissed people off, it would have really pissed off the boxing crowd and people that have followed Mike to hear him say he gave it his all.

I pray Mike Alvarado gets through this latest legal issue and does whatever time he must face and can rekindle that fire to get back to the top, but 34 in boxing is old when you are a fighter/warrior and not a pure boxer like the Juan Manuel Marquez types.  I think Mike should do something that would let him continue to fight and have a fresh start in a sport I have always been surprised he wasn't part of, Mixed Martial Arts, but knew with the six figure paychecks and even a rumored seven figure paycheck before that he was trying to maximize his boxing value.

I am sure the MMA crowd can start their message board arguments against it, but Mike has two of the biggest skills necessary for MMA, wrestling/ground and definitely the pound.  He could learn submissions and defenses quick enough.  After all, I can attest that wrestlers understand how to get out of moves and not put themselves in bad situations a hell of a lot quicker than someone who has only been punching the lights out of people and never dealt with the battle of the ground part that is the largest part of MMA background in BJJ and wrestling.

So instead of talking shit and booing him like so many have done without really knowing him or following his path, I say thank you to Mike Alvarado for putting Colorado boxing back on the map and for providing years of entertainment and good memories in boxing and in my life.  Learn, grow stronger and I look forward to the positives you bring from this after consistently getting knocked down in life (yes, sometimes by your own doing) but getting back up and fighting on. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Mile High Sports LineUp Changes Drastically...

It was just released today that FM94.1/AM1550 Mile High Sports radio is completely reshuffling it's line-up.  After a year of the status quo, a major shake-up will take place starting Monday January 26, 2015.  While the station loses former power show The Press Box (read more into this at the end), it actually strengthens its overall lineup with the changes. 

The new line-up is as follows:

6a-7a: The Rude Awakening (with Josh Dover and Jesse Trujillo)
7a-9a: Morning Mayhem (with Marcello Romano and Danny Williams)
9a-12p: The Brandon Spano Show (with Brandon Spano)
12p-1p: Whiteley on Sports (with Gil Whiteley)
1p-2p: The Irv and Joe Show (with Irv Brown and Joe Williams)
2p-4p: The Big Show (with Chris Braden, Benny Bash and Kent Erickson)
4p-6p: Afternoon Drive (with Eric Goodman, Josh Pennock and Will Petersen)
6p-7p: RenKnowItAll (with Renaud Notaro)
7p-8p: CU on Mile High Sports (with Don Brenner)
8p-10p: The Last Call (with Benjamin Allbright and Joe Morgan)

6a-7a: As I touched on earlier today (Morning Mayhem Is Back), Danny Williams and Cello Romano broke their move yesterday and it's good to see my initial thoughts of Josh Dover batting lead-off for the station would be the case.  Dover brings a smooth voice and he wears some kick ass flannels and tank tops!  He is a hard working young man that articulates his knowledge well and gives solid opinions.  It will be entertaining to have him on as the MAIN guy on a daily basis.

7a-9a: Danny and Cello have worked well together and as mentioned in my blog today have found a formula that generates a lot of interaction with listeners that has increased their popularity in the Denver Sports scene.  Mayhem Mafia looks forward to hearing Morning Mayhem back in its rightful place!!!

9a-12p: While I have struggled with Brandon Spano, the simple fact is he spends a lot of time talking to players in the sport Denver cares most about, the Broncos.  He also takes a lot of criticism I give and has remained friendly in his interactions.  His show has improved and he really works his ass off to get sponsors and get his name out there.  I will probably stay dialed in to see what he is talking about more often because of his move.

12p-2p: The Geriatric dour hours of sour has switched from 3 hours to only two.  It is a wise decision because these guys still generate a lot of sponsorship money and it allows them to go out on their own terms.  Like some of the great coaches and athletes that are allowed a few extra years, it doesn't really hurt anyone and is a guilty pleasure to see whether you will listen or start rolling your eyes during your lunch drive.  Gil Whiteley is a great guy and brings some fun topics of conversation beyond sports from his movie encyclopedia knowledge to some old good sports stories.  Irv and Joe are legends to the folk heroes Danny and Cello have become.  I started listening to sports talk late in high school (late 90s) and they were the staple of the old AM950 The Fan as I went through college.  Let the old chickens decide when they go out to pasture!

2p-4p: The Big Show is a new show I am not entirely familiar with but actually caught a bit of over the last week and enjoyed their discussion on the Broncos and coaching change.  It is in a good time slot for a new show.  We'll see how it goes.

4p-6p: Afternoon Drive gets back Eric Goodman.  He is finally with the type of partners and show he needs.  Josh Pennock and Will Petersen are great on Saturday's when they host The Mile High Sports Show with James Merilatt.  Goodman has been hampered by less than quality co-hosts that didn't work well with his 1-on-1 discussion type show.  While this format may not take a lot of calls most likely, these 3 are a solid group that can make discussions interesting and not be a guest filled show like the talented Nate Kreckman's show has become on ESPN Denver or the joke and completely brain dead show that Big Al and D-Mac has become.

6p-7p: Renaud Notaro only has one thing going against him, he is a Ram grad.  Okay he has a second, Colin Daniels is allowed to host with him once a week.  Other than those things, his show always his good discussions whether it is about music, sports, culture or whatever direction it may take.  When an hour show goes by quickly you know it's quality.

7p-8p: Don Brenner remain with his CU show.  I freaking love the Buffs, but Don could really use a way to spot his radio ads better and a co-host to help him with facts.  Don has a dearth of sports knowledge but often misses good stories by asking the same question over and over. 

8p-10p: The Last Call with Benjamin Allbright and Joe Morgan.  Joe Morgan is a new name to the Denver sports scene with a west coast background.  Benjamin Allbright is a football guru, especially the signal callers at the college and pro level.  Benjamin is a talented guy that has quickly gone from guest to weekend shows to spot filler to now a regular nightly show.  Ben is a good listen and perfect sultry voice to end the night and help get you home and tucked into bed.

In James Merillatt's press release , he stated "We are excited to announce our new lineup.  It marks the evolution of the stations, as we continue to improve our on-air product.  This group of shows is by far the best collection of talent we've ever featured, marking the high-water mark of the station's seven-year history."  It is good to see Mile High Sports radio continue to push the envelope while the bigger dogs are in limbo with ESPN Denver changing to a less quality radio signal and 104.3 The Fan still hoping to find someone to buy the station and keep them from folding.

THE PRESS BOX OBITUARY:  But with this all, it appears a casualty in the Denver Sports Radio business has occurred.  The Press Box, which truly started with Jim Armstrong and Tim Neverett when Mile High Sports was in its infancy, appears to be knocked out.  After years of change-up for hosts, Peter Burns came on board and helped The Press Box go from radio to live internet feed on Denver Post.  However, it appears the Post is no longer going to feature the show and Peter Burns move to the ESPN based SEC Network has pretty much made the CEO make what appears to be a decision that had to be made, cut the Press Box.  I am sad to see Oren Lomena go.  He is a quality sports talk guy that brings something different to Denver Sports Radio that I have always enjoyed.  Brandon Krisztal is a great 3rd wheel but taking over for Burns, the show has slowly been dying out with his endless rants.  Any intelligent sports fan knows Mark Kiszla is a waste of sports discussion since he ruins sports talk with his pay attention to me but, but, but, but intentional stammers and his poorly wrote and poorly researched opinion based sports writing that belongs in the weekend editorials or on South Stands Denver's shitty blog and not in the premier Denver newspaper.  It will be sad to not have Benjamin Hochman be a guest fill-in as well, but he is all over Denver.

Denver Sports Radio: Morning Mayhem is Back

Denver Sports Radio's ever changing landscape continues with yet another shuffle in the line-up.  Danny Williams and Cello Romano, the afternoon drive duo on 94.1 FM/1550 AM Mile High Sports will now be moving into their fourth time slot change over the last 16 months.  Danny and Cello gained popularity with their Morning Mayhem show from 9-11 a.m. from 2011 to their first move on September 30th, 2013.  While their original listeners, Mayhem Mafia, have been noted of being less cerebral their show has stayed the course and continued to gain listeners and credibility in the Denver market.  After moving to 2-4 p.m. sixteen months ago and shortly thereafter (roughly January of 2014) taking the reins of the afternoon drive at Mile High Sports from 4-6 p.m., Danny and Cello announced on their show last night that Monday, January 26, 2015 they would be moving to the 7-9 a.m. slot currently occupied by Eric Goodman and Mike Pritchard.

It is a well calculated decision by James Merilatt (President) and Josh Pennock (Station Manager) to make this change.  By moving to the mornings, Danny and Cello get people in their cars still, but into their commute to work which should increase their online streaming numbers.  What is also does is put them up against 104.3 The Fan for the only other local sports talk during that time since Denver's ESPN is national shows other than from 1 p.m. to 6:30 or 7 p.m.  While the trio of Nate Lundy, Mike Evans and Vic Lombardi have done well, the show is not the home run it could have been by partnering up Vic with someone like his sports wife Gary Miller or a guy who was taken too soon from our ears in Broncos Ring of Famer, Tom Nalen.  Their show is crowded with the three talking over each other and segments that eat up anything that can get Vic rolling.  Their dependence on the text line and Evans/Lundy's bickering too often drown out Vic and make it a sub-par show.  This is where Danny and Cello will do well.  The two have quit reading from Twitter for the most part and in turn share more of their insight while also sharing the radio waves with their callers.  What this type of radio does is allow conversations to really get rolling and for listeners and callers to feel part of the show.  Some listeners may not like it, but there are some great listeners with more knowledge than many writers or sports radio hosts in the Denver market and it's a good way to keep a show rolling.  It has led Danny and Cello to move up the ranks and cause a stir in Denver radio.

With all the questions over what happens to the radio landscape, especially 104.3 FM The Fan with Entercom acquiring and then dumping the former Lincoln Financial Group station and leaving them for sale/in limbo. Then there is 105.5 F.M.-ESPN (yes, 102.3 has been sold off and will change format Monday) which has gone to a skeleton crew of Cecil Lammey and Nate Kreckman with som Raj Sharan and Drew Spevak  mixed into the group, it is good to see the little guy in Mile High Sports 94.1 FM keep their focus local and not sell out.

With this move, there is bound to be other shake-ups that hit Mile High Sports with the obvious being Eric Goodman and Mike Pritchard moving away from their early morning time slot.  While Mike Pritchard has got better, he still misses giving concrete answers when Eric Goodman asks something in a discussion and the black-white angle has too often overtaken solid discussions and has soured my listening.    Here is hoping Danny and Cello get a stronger lead-off hitter in the 6-7 a.m. time slot (and maybe something they were trying to allude to by saying there is more big news to come with Josh Dover on-air with them last night).  All 22 with Kent Erickson has no pop to it and has fallen flat after numerous attempts  at trying to give it a chance.  Before The Press Box moved from 7-9 a.m. to 9-11 a.m., they had a strong opening in the Morning Edge with Andrew Fogoros and Matt McChesney from 6-7 a.m..  This duo was truly a trio with the strong producing/insight Josh Dover brought as a producer, which he also did for Morning Mayhem making Danny and Cello's show take that next step.  I have constantly touted Dover to get a more regular gig and was supremely disappointed when his daily show Denver Sports Nation went away due to the loss of a big sponsor.  It is good to see Dover helping out on 104.3 The Fan and seeing his importance increase for The Press Box but he also belongs as a host in the Denver market.  Here is hoping Dover, the old morning producer at Mile High Sports, gets a shot at that lead-off spot to help Danny and Cello's transition and to make the 6 a.m.-11 a.m. line-up the best Denver Sports Radio has to offer. 

I have mentioned ad nauseam of my desire to hear more young guns get on the air over the likes of the dour hours that Gil Whiteley (11 a.m.-noon) and Irv Brown and Joe Williams (Noon-2 p.m.) bring to Mile High Sports.  I am not sure how that will transpire.  Irv and Joe have always had good financial backing from their sponsors and it gives Mile High Sports recognition just because everyone in sports knows who those guys are, but with the changes, it would be good to hear the likes of Dover, Benjamin Allbright, Mario Vetanze, Adam Kinney, the previously mentioned Andrew Fogoros and Matt McChesney and the likes of other young Denver Sports radio guys get some regular show time.  They are energetic, entertaining and knowledgeable young sports guys that bring something to the table Denver needs on a daily basis over the likes of giving any more time to blowhards like Les Shapiro, Woody Paige and Mark Kiszla whose egos outweigh their abilities and what they bring to Denver sports.

While it is quiet on what exactly the line-up will be at Mile High Sports, it is good to see that James Merilatt and Josh Pennock aren't standing pat while the market shakes-up.  Either way, Monday is going to be a different day in Denver Sports radio and it will be interesting to see what happens next with 94.1 FM-Mile High Sports and the rest of the Denver Sports Radio market.