During his 11-year career as a professional boxer, former welterweight contender Shamone Alvarez was nicknamed “The Truth.”
“(Fellow boxer Charles Minor) gave me that nickname,” Alvarez said with a laugh. “I had a few knockouts in my first couple of fights (seven in his first eight bouts). I came into the gym at the Atlantic City PAL one day, and Charles said, ‘Man, you’re putting all those guys on the canvas. You’re the Truth.’ And the nickname stuck.”
Now that he’s retired from boxing, the 42-year-old Galloway Township resident speaks the truth in providing guidance and direction for local youth.
Alvarez has joined forces with Atlantic City civic leader Shalanda Austin to form mentoring programs for boys and girls in Atlantic City, Pleasantville and Camden with hopes of expanding to other parts of South Jersey.
“Being a professional athlete was great,” Alvarez said. “But we all have a bigger task in life. I feel like my task is to do everything I can to help our youth. I feel like that’s why God put me on this Earth.”
Alvarez, 42, has started a Brother to Brother program that is scheduled to meet once a week at the Stanley Holmes Village Community Room on Adriatic Avenue. He’s also created a BOAZ (Build, Organize, Align with Zeal) program that will be based at the Pleasantville Recreation Center on Brighton Avenue.
Austin oversees In My Care Mentoring LLC for girls in Atlantic City and Camden.
The programs already have a total of 41 boys and 38 girls ages 8 to 18.
They span a wide range of economic, social and academic backgrounds. Some are from single-parent homes, some are being raised by grandparents, some are trying to raise themselves. There are boys and girls who are struggling in school and others who are excellent students but have trouble in other areas of their lives.
“I have seen girls who were straight-A students become pregnant at 14,” Austin said. “I’ve seen some who wound up selling drugs or becoming prostitutes at that age. We’re hoping to become their GPS and provide them with the right direction in life.”
Alvarez, an Egg Harbor Township graduate, served as a youth counselor in Atlantic and Cape May Counties for more than a decade while he pursued his boxing career.
With the exception of former Atlantic City junior-lightweight/lightweight John Brown, Alvarez was arguably the best local fighter to never win a world title. He came close to landing a championship fight but came up short with decision losses to Joshua Clottey and Delvin Rodriguez in 2007 and 2009, respectively.
Alvarez looked to be on the comeback trail after a knockout victory over Alexis Camacho at Tropicana Atlantic City in 2010, but four consecutive losses, including two straight by TKO, ended that quest. His last fight was in 2012, a third-round TKO defeat to Atlantic City welterweight prospect DeCarlo Perez at Resorts Hotel Casino.
Like a lot of fighters who dedicated years to the sport, Alvarez was reluctant to hang up the gloves. He would show up at the Atlantic City PAL on occasion in hopes of maybe trying another comeback but finally came to the realization his career was over about a year ago.
He also realized a harsh, ugly truth.
“When I was at my peak, a lot of people claimed to be my friends and wanted to hang around,” he said. “But when I fell off, they all fell off. I never saw them again.”
But Alvarez mustered the courage to get up off the canvas, both in the ring and in life.
He now devotes himself to guiding others toward becoming balanced, successful men and women.
Seven years after his last fight, Shamone Alvarez is still “The Truth.”
David Weinberg’s Extra Points column appears Wednesdays and Sundays in The Press.