Alvarez keeping his eyes on the prize despite preparing for new opponent

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The obstacle before him has changed, but the objective remains the same for Eleider Alvarez.

Eleider Alvarez and Isidro Prieto

Eleider Alvarez landed his punches with precision during his victory over Isidro Prieto in August. (Suzanne Teresa/Premier Boxing Champions)

The Canada-based Colombian was scheduled to face Chad Dawson on Friday, with the winner to become the mandatory challenger for a 175-pound title shot, but Dawson withdrew from the fight last week after being injured during training.

Instead, Eleider Alvarez (19-0, 10 KOs) now faces New Zealand native Robert Berridge (27-4-1, 21 KOs), a hard-hitting 31-year-old southpaw, in a 10-round bout at Centre Videotron in Quebec City (Spike, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).

“Dawson is one of the best in our division, a former world champion and the kind of challenge I'm looking for,” Alvarez said. “But even if I have some frustration because I’m not getting to fight Dawson, I still have to focus on Robert Berridge and have a great performance.”

Alvarez can’t afford a letdown with a potential title shot still looming against the winner of Friday’s showdown between 175-pound world champion Adonis Stevenson and challenger Thomas Williams Jr., who will square off in the main event after Alvarez-Berridge.

The 32-year-old Alvarez, who relocated to Montreal to begin his professional career after representing Colombia at the 2008 Olympics, has been in a similar position before.

He was set to face unbeaten Thomas Oosthuizen in January 2014 before the South African southpaw was injured shortly before the fight and replaced by Canadian slugger Andrew Gardiner. Alvarez won a 10-round unanimous decision, but not before Gardiner gave him all he could handle.

“That was not my better performance, but it’s nothing dramatic,” Alvarez said. “For that fight, I was in Big Bear, [California] for eight weeks with a 6-foot-4 southpaw sparing partner.

“Oosthuizen pulled out of the fight three days before, and they changed my opponent from a 6-foot-4 southpaw technician to a [6-foot] orthodox, tough, come-forward fighter. That was completely the opposite style.”

With Berridge and Dawson both being southpaws, the adjustment isn’t as extreme this time for Alvarez, although at 5-foot-8 Berridge is five inches shorter than Dawson.

Berridge had been scheduled to fight in Auckland, New Zealand, on August 13, so he was already in camp when he got the call to replace Dawson. In his last action on November 3, the New Zealander fought in two four-round bouts as part of a four-man tournament, winning a unanimous decision over Sefo Falekaono before dropping a split decision to Reece Papuni.

Berridge has also lost to notable opponents in Oosthuizen, Blake Caparello and Vasily Lepikhin, with the latter gaining the only stoppage of the New Zealander with a fifth-round TKO in August 2014.

Alvarez has gone 12 rounds in each of his last two bouts, earning a unanimous decision over then-unbeaten Isidro Prieto in August before gaining a majority decision in November over Isaac Chilemba, who subsequently lost a unanimous decision to world champion Sergey Kovalev on July 11.

Now Alvarez is seeking his own opportunity to challenge for a world title.

“I'm not surprised Chilemba did good against Kovalev. He is a good technician and a very smart, complex fighter,” Alvarez said. “But I'm focusing on my own career, and that means that I’ve really got to show up and display my abilities. As long as I continue to do that, then my time is going to come.”

For a complete look at Friday’s card, visit our fight night page.

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