This Saturday night on UniMás (11 p.m. ET), "Mile High" Mike Alvarado takes his second fight in his comeback bid, headlining in Dallas against Josh Torres, and Matt Korobov faces fading veteran Bryan Vera in the super middleweight co-feature.
Here’s a look at the matchups.
Mike Alvarado vs Josh Torres
Record: 35-4 (24 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 2-3 ... Last 10: 6-4 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'9" / 69½" ... Age: 35
Thoughts: Alvarado is getting up there in years, but the bigger concern has always been the problems he’s had outside of the ring. A couple of jail stints, issues with substance abuse, time spent in rehab -- these things were bound to catch up with Alvarado professionally, and they did, culminating in a sad loss to Brandon Rios in January 2015.
Alvarado, who returned in March with a shaky win in Houston, says that he feels his life has been saved, and that he’s committed to boxing now:
"I am a different person now. I am not the person you knew before," Alvarado said. "I surrendered myself to God to turn my life around. My life has been saved. And we had a son, Michael Jr., born on Father's Day. I have a new passion for boxing. I want to win, as does all of my team around me.
"People know I can fight. I've always been a warrior. On Saturday night against Josh Torres, I want to stay on my game, be disciplined, use what I have that works for me and show my skill set."
Promoter Bob Arum could have understandably let Alvarado go after the third fight with Rios, which was Alvarado’s third straight defeat, but says he wanted to give him another chance. Still, Arum is realistic, if hopeful:
"We didn’t drop him. We believed he was a real talent who was his own worst enemy and he wanted another chance," Arum said. "I thought it was worthwhile giving him another chance. Do I know if [his sobriety] is going to last? Who knows? I hope that it is going to take, but he may never get back to that [world title level]."
... "A lot of it is hope. Do I hope there’s a future for Mike Alvarado? Absolutely, yes."
Though Alvarado knocked out Saul Corral in the third round in March, he was also a little slow, certainly a bit rusty, and that is understandable. How he looks here against Josh Torres should tell us a bit more. He’s had a fight recently, he should be in better shape mentally and physically, should have the cobwebs shaken out a bit. If he can get a win and look good doing so (or just get a win), he could find himself in a notable fight again by the end of 2016.
Record: 15-4-2 (7 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 3-1-1 ... Last 10: 7-2-1 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'7" / 68" ... Age: 26
Thoughts: Albuquerque’s Torres is a solid club fighter, not so good that he’s a major threat to better opponents, but also durable and decent, not a total pushover. In his first six fights in 2008-10, Torres went 4-1-1, so he’s never been a big prospect or anything, just a working class fighter who shows up and does his best.
His two most notable fights came in 2013 against Dusty Hernandez Harrison and last year against Ranee Ganoy. He lost to Harrison by wide decision over 10 rounds in Harrison’s 18th pro fight, but did beat Filipino veteran Ganoy over 10 rounds in 2015, ending an 11-fight win streak for Ganoy, which dated back to 2009. Torres followed that with a decision loss to Cameron Kreal, another low-level gatekeeper.
Torres is here because of what was mentioned: he’s tough and he’s not a cakewalk. If Alvarado is in shape and sharp, sure, he’ll win this, and he should do so fairly handily. He may even become the first fighter to stop Torres in the process. But if Alvarado just doesn’t have it -- which is a possibility at this point -- Torres is just good enough to expose that.
Matchup Grade: C. Torres is the right opponent for Alvarado at the moment. "Mile High" is trying to prove he can get himself back to the higher levels, but there remain a lot of doubts. Even if he is mentally strong and doing well outside the ring, he’s also 35 and has been in a lot of tough fights over the years.
Matt Korobov vs Bryan Vera
Record: 25-1 (14 KO) ... Streak: W1 ... Last 5: 4-1 ... Last 10: 9-1 ... Stance: Southpaw ... Height/Reach: 5'11" / 70½" ... Age: 33
Thoughts: Korobov was at one point a top middleweight prospect, a two-time World Amateur champion (2005, 2007), a European Championships gold medalist (2006), and a standout on the Russian team that won the 2005 Boxing World Cup, where he notably beat Yordanis Despaigne and Daniel Jacobs.
His pro career started promisingly. He turned pro in 2008, and by 2010 was defeating veterans like Derrick Findley and Michael Walker. But it all stalled there. In 2013, he was barely above that same level, beating the likes of Ossie Duran and Grady Brewer, plus a TKO-9 win over Derek Edwards, a gatekeeper type. He got his HBO debut in 2014, beating Jose Uzcategui and failing to really impress in doing so. Six months later, he returned to the network to face Andy Lee for the vacant WBO middleweight title. Though he boxed well early, he was knocked out by Lee in the sixth round.
Korobov sat out 13 months following the loss, returning in January to beat club fighter Josvue Ovando. This is, perhaps, a step up from that, but it’s really just a return to where he was already at years ago.
There are really only a couple of possible reasons that Korobov is where he’s at in his career, with as little accomplished as he’s had. The first is that Top Rank matchmakers saw flaws that they tried to protect for a long time, that he was never as good a prospect as was believed early on. Lots of top amateurs never quite make the transition to pro success. The other is that Korobov has never really wanted it all that much, that he never had the drive to be the top fighter it was thought he could be. This would, in a different way, also mean he was never as good a prospect as was believed early on.
Korobov has talent, that’s never been the question. But he’s 33 now with very little to show for an eight-year pro career. He wasn’t supposed to be fighting eight-rounders against veterans with four straight losses at this point.
Record: 23-10 (14 KO) ... Streak: L4 ... Last 5: 1-4 ... Last 10: 5-5 ... Stance: Orthodox ... Height/Reach: 5'11" / 73" ... Age: 34
Thoughts: A tough veteran scrapper, easy to like, but also seemingly nearing the end of his usefulness as a gatekeeper. Vera first gained some attention when he was part of "The Contender" in 2007, knocked out in two rounds by Jaidon Codrington, who would go on to lose in the tournament final to Sakio Bika in a real war.
Vera has been known to pull an upset or two. He was the first man to defeat Andy Lee, bursting the Irishman’s bubble with a seventh round TKO win in March 2008, after being dropped in the opening round. He proved his resilience that night, and taught Lee a valuable lesson, while at the same time frankly exposing a lot of chinks in Lee’s armor. He used that win as a springboard to an HBO fight with James Kirkland, who stopped him in eight, and then lost to Craig McEwan and Isaac Rodrigues in 2009-10.
But he beat Sebastien Demers in Canada before a loss to Max Bursak in Ukraine, and has pretty much been up and down since then, with the focus lately on the down. He upset Sergio Mora twice on disputed decisions, lost a rematch to Lee, hammered Serhiy Dzinziruk in 2013, and was arguably victim of a robbery in fight that same year with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, who would rematch Vera six months later and win more convincingly. Last year, he lost a wide decision to Willie Monroe Jr and was stopped in two by Rocky Fielding. He also fought Gabriel Rosado at the first BKB event in August 2014, where he was stopped in the sixth round. It doesn’t count on his official boxing record, but it does matter as far as where he’s at physically and mentally. A fight is a fight, and that was a fight. It took the same toll on him that one on his record would take.
At 34, Vera is what he is, and the TKO-2 loss to Fielding, where he was down in both rounds, is an indicator that he could be at the end of his line. True, it wasn’t really forever ago that he gave JCC Jr hell, but it was almost three years ago, and three years is a long time in boxing. His style, which has included a lot of getting hit, was never one expected to age well, either. Vera is, at best, trending downward, and rapidly so. At worst, he’s shot.
Matchup Grade: C-. I’ll go C- with respect to Vera’s career long toughness and grit, but we’re not going to learn anything new here, most likely, and the only new thing we could learn is that Korobov, if he were to lose to Vera, just isn’t going to matter, and that has career has really just been one long, drawn-out tease of supposed potential. If he wins, well, frankly, big deal, he’s supposed to win. He’s beaten guys as good as the recent version of Vera repeatedly already. For Korobov, it’s a stay-busy fight on paper. For Vera, it could be a last stand of sorts.