When experienced coach Paschal Collins looks at Jesus Alvarez he sees a kind of hunger he has never witnessed before.
The Celtic Warrior Gym boss has been in gyms and fight venues around the world, worked with keen to succeed fighters and got his grounded in the unforgiving surrounds of the Petronelli gym on Ward Street in Brockton.
Not to mention Irish fight legend, former world champion, and one of boxing’s most determined competitors Steve Collins is his brother.
Collins knows what boxing hunger looks like – well, he thought he did until Jesus Alvarez made his way down a Centra alleyway, up a flight of stairs, and walked into the Celtic Warrior Gym.
Thanks to the Venezuelan refugee, the Dublin trainer can note the difference between the kind of hunger that comes with the drive to be a success and pure survival-inspired hunger.
Alvarez, who officially becomes part of the Irish boxing family when he debuts on the Bomb Proof card in Belfast this weekend, isn’t just hungry, he’s starving.
Where others fighters have the Eye of the Tiger, the San Jan De Colon native has the glare of a starved pack of hyenas.
“‘Zeus is the first hungry fighter I’ve really been around, really hungry, y’know? You see fighters that want to be fighters and make some money, that’s fair enough, but there’s no one in Ireland that’s poor – that really has to fight to eat . But Zeus is one of them.”
That hunger and background of poverty feed into the new to the scene South American’s fighting approach.
‘He is a hungry fighter too. He is somebody who will do whatever needs to be done to get where he has to go. He’s scary,” he adds before revealing he has faith he can make an impact on the pro scene.
“He’s never had a pro fight but he’s been the main sparring partner for James Tennyson. He’s great, he lives in the gym, he literally arrives here and I do have to put him out every day. He lives for the gym he loves it, all he wants to do is fight, all he wants to do is spar. Then when he spars he wants to spar hard.”
“He is in a hurry to reach certain goals so that he has enough money to maybe get his family out of Venezuela that’s his mind set that’s a hungry fighter.”
Alvarez, who is learning English and progressing extremely quickly, adding in some very Irish tics.
The fighter described how “I’m hungry, I’m a very hungry fighter I have my many reasons to win, to be a champion I’m focused I’ve been training really hard for this.”
“We never stop for this opportunity, I’m very excited to be here and very grateful.” We are focused on training , training we never stop and now we have the chance, we are ready.”
“I’m focusing on my goal, that’s why I come here and I’m still here, and now we have the chance to show I’m very excited. I think I’m a very hungry fighter and I’m working in silence, so I have a big desire to be a champion.”
He may be called the Venezuelan Prince, but the Celtic Warrior recruit hasn’t had the benefit of a royal up brining, in fact quite the opposite.
Even getting to training was a struggle and his gym journey stories makes a joke of those who seek credit for having to get two buses to hit a bag.
“He was showing me pictures of his amateur boxing club,” Collins notes. “The kids are all in their bare feet. Because there was no club in his town he would, as young as 13 or 14, travel 60 to 70 miles to the boxing club on a bus. He would sleep on the floor for four days because you couldn’t go home and the people in the town would help him give him food.”
Alvarez fled turbulent Venezuela two years ago and chanced making it to Ireland, where his sister had moved to and made a home.
Collins explains he was effectively an asylum seeker: “Zeus came here to Ireland two years ago. He couldn’t speak any English, he left Venezuela because there’s a lot of stuff going on there politically that doesn’t help him or his family.
“He had to run to get to Ireland, no passport, no papers. he’s basically in political asylum here,” he adds before revealing the Celtic Warrior Gym family have taken him under his wing.
“Since he’s joined the gym we’ve helped him. He’s got a job, we have gotten him a PPS number we got him his papers. He now has all his papers – we are just hoping to get him his travel papers so he can go home see his family for the first time in two and a half years,” he explains, discussing some acts of actionable kindness before revealing a nickname that proves he really has been welcomed into the inner circle.
“We nicknamed him Casanova and his fight name is the Prince of Venezuela, he’s so marketable, he’s such a nice person. His English is great and he’s teaching me Spanish. I love working with him, everyone loves working with him, people in the gym love him. He’s become part of the family.”
The fighter himself seems a kind soul and it’s clear why he is so popular: “Zeus’ first two years in Ireland he worked hard to get small money together to get the family out of a shantytown. They lived in a shack! He got the money together by working, saving as much as he could and he bought them a two-bedroom apartment in Caracas in Venezuela, as a Christmas box, he did that for his mother and father.”
Alvarez starts a pro journey this weekend. Where it will go is anybody’s guess but Collins is hoping the Irish public take him under their wing – and does think he could use his contacts in America to help progress stateside where he may find it easier to find a market.
“I believe the Irish public will take him as one of their own and support him. Maybe we can look at getting him out to America. If I can get him his papers in the next five months I might try get him to the states and maybe pursue his career out there.”
Echoing his mentor, Alvarez adds that “I would like to make fights here and in Europe. Paschal and me want to look for a career in America, but fight here [is the immediate plan].”
“Get some experience around Europe and then the sky is the limit, y’know?”
‘If I just focus on my goal it’s my principal reason for being here, I want my career in boxing so that’s why I stay here my family is the biggest reason for me to be successful in my career and my life.”