Eddie Alvarez Said Knock You Out

A North Philly wild card rides the Mixed Martial Arts wave.

By Ryan Crawford
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 2 | Posted Apr. 7, 2009

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A rough neighborhood is often enough to produce tough individuals, but Kensington isn’t your typical bad area; it’s steeped in fighting tradition with boxing gyms peppered throughout the community: Kensington Ramblers, Front Street Gym and Harrowgate.


Fighting influences were also exerted in Alvarez’s Puerto Rican household. His grandfather was a boxer who made it to the Pan American games, and his father, Louis Alvarez, also had lessons to impart on the sweet science. He made sure his son knew how to defend himself, and how to throw a proper punch. He supplied him with boxing gloves, a punching bag and equipment to work out with.

“I always found myself having fun when we did stuff like that at my house,” says Alvarez. “My dad was a huge inspiration to me as far as fighting.”

Bill Hunter was Alvarez’s first wrestling coach and a police officer working the 25th District at the time. He kept an eye on Alvarez when he was in the neighborhood. Hunter describes Alvarez as “a perfect gentleman” who largely kept himself out of trouble, a kid who was street-smart and street-tough, but also very intelligent. Hunter says that Alvarez never shied away from confrontation, and he excelled at sports, participating in everything from track to baseball, football and wrestling.

Alvarez entered the martial arts scene in the late ’90s through a basement door. During his senior year of high school he met Stephen Haigh, an art student at community college who was competing in MMA on the side. At the time, Haigh was training at the Philadelphia Sambo (a Russian hybrid martial art) Academy. When the gym closed, Haigh bought the mats for cheap, and set up a training facility in his uncle’s basement.

He had 12 guys preparing for fights out of the small space when Alvarez showed up. Haigh admits that back then it felt more like an underground fight club than a legitimate school.

Alvarez, a pure wrestler at the time, mucked around a bit and liked it, but shortly after he graduated from high school he had to find a job. He fell into the rhythm of a normal work life, and Haigh didn’t hear from him for months.

But Alvarez’s love of fighting and his natural skill created the itch to compete, so he got back in touch with Haigh, who’d begun teaching classes at Body Arts. With only eight months of formal training, Alvarez made his pro debut in Atlantic City with the Ring of Combat promotion. He would go on to carry his self-professed undefeated record in unsanctioned fights over into sanctioned fighting.

It seems fast, but in those days MMA was only beginning to evolve as a legitimate sport, and the boxing commissions were just beginning to get involved. There was no pro/amateur divide because there was no amateur circuit.

“You just went pro,” says Alvarez. “There was no other option if you weren’t pro.”

In his first fight, Alvarez knocked his opponent out cold in the first round. That’s when it hit him: “You know what? I’m pretty good at this, and I could probably make some money doing it.”

The neighborhood brawler quickly amassed a perfect 10-0 record.

Alvarez didn’t have a hard time booking fights. He was a promoter’s dream, an electric fighter who brought a crowd by virtue of his regional ties.

Joachim Hansen vs. Eddie Alvarez - DREAM.3 LW GP 2008
by moltisanti87


“A big part of that was the fans, and my friends, the support from Philly coming to my fights. I not only did well performing for promoters, but they knew I brought a lot of people. In promoters’ eyes, that means money,” he says.

These days when he fights in the area, he brings anywhere from 700 to 1,000 rowdy Philadelphians behind him. His fans sport Eddie Alvarez T-shirts and root for their hometown kid.

After three years in the game Alvarez was offered a contract with the Bodog Fight promotion.

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1. Art Shimko said... on Apr 8, 2009 at 12:48PM

“Great article, nice to see MMA getting coverage in PW. I've known of Alvarez for a couple years when he signed with Bodog, only caught a fight or two of his but I followed his career a bit through fight results and reports on the net. I also enjoyed the brief background written on MMA and UFC's role in the sport. I hope Alvarez gets national attention, whatever small promotion he fights for he always comes out as the top fighter.”

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2. BNorthPhilly said... on Apr 15, 2009 at 01:04PM

“Well, from what I hear and see Eddie is a very good fighter, but I should know more about him than that being that he is my cousin. I have not seen Eddie in some time now, however I recently was at a family birthday party for my cousin Erik's daughter along with Eddie's parents, sister and niece. Eddie and his wife Jaime could not make it because he is a very busy person. Eddie was a street fighter and so was his father Eddie Sr. They are fun and loving people. Keep up the good work! The family is proud of you!”


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