Muay Thai at its best, Kristina Alvarez vs Claudia Vidaurri

September 10, 2011 No Comments

 

One of the most anticipated bouts on the Dennis Warner, In Sync Productions World Championship Muay Thai event at the Pala Casino, Spa and Resort on Saturday, September 24, involves the ladies.


 

Muay Thai Champion Kristina Alvarez Photo: Jim Wyatt

Muay Thai Champion Claudia Vidaurri has traveled the world and been training on and off for the last 13 years.

Twenty-one year-old Kristina “The Phoenix” Alvarez of Escondido, CA is getting set to take on the veteran, 26 year-old Claudia Vidaurri of East Los Angeles, CA.

Alvarez, a teacher’s assistant at nearby Creekside Elementary School in Poway, CA, has been training in Muay Thai for a little over two years. The representative of the Blue Ocean Thai Boxing Team grew up in Poway, CA and now trains at the Black House Team Nogueira Gym on Miramar Road.

Her highly touted coach, Alex Palma, calls Kristina a quick learner. In 2009, after receiving just four months of Muay Thai instruction, he entered her in the USMTA Battle of Champions on November 20, 2009 at the Four Points by Sheraton Hotel in San Diego. Even though she was defeated in that first match, she learned a great deal from her opponent, Roya Fardi. Fardi, who was four inches shorter, managed to stay inside Alvarez’s reach advantage to land the short uppercuts and work over her midsection. Completely exhausted at the end of this contest, Alvarez realized how much further she needed to push herself to be competitive in this demanding discipline.

Nine months later, her coach had her in Santa Clara, CA. competing for a spot on the U.S. Muay Thai National team to represent the U.S. at the World Championships in Thailand. In that qualifying tournament she defeated the always tough Jade Hayes.

Then on February 26 of this year, Alvarez faced the veteran Amber Pope (at the time 11-0) at the Pala Casino to challenge her for the IAMTF US National Women’s Lightweight Championship. After going toe to toe, Alvarez lost to Pope by an unanimous decision. Once again, the shorter fighter was able to stay in close and negate Alvarez’s reach advantage.

Since both Alvarez and Vidaurri are considered such high profile fighters, a preview with an interview was warranted.

First we went to see Ms. Alvarez at the Black House Team Nogueira Gym. According to the US Census Bureau, 0.065% of U.S. residents have the first name Kristina and 0.0697% have the surname Alvarez. That means in the U.S. with its 312 million plus residents, there are likely 136 Americans who go by the name of Kristina Alvarez. Paradoxically, it’s highly unlikely there’s another Kristina Alvarez that can fight like the one you’re about to meet.

Dear Ms. Alvarez, what’s the most stressful part about being who you are? And by that I mean, you’re currently doing this balancing act between careers, in one you’re an athlete, and in the other you’re a school teacher that often has to face her students with a black eye or ugly bruise. The transition from hostility to kindness must be a challenge.

My job is as much a passion for me as competing in Muay Thai. Both require a lot of discipline, thinking and reacting under extreme pressure. With my career, training and college life, I’ve learned to be a competent multi-tasker and manager of time. It’s a matter of prioritizing certain days and not always keeping one segment as your #1. It requires learning to compromise with yourself.

About your style, would you say you’re more of a tactician than a knockout artist? And if so, what do you say to a critic who will say this failing will prevent you from going all the way? 

I’ve been told I hit pretty hard for a female, but my coach, Kru Alexander Palma, has stated the key to optimizing my punching power in combat is to learn to settle and not to look for the KO. I have ko’ed my sparring partners during sparring and one was actually a male that outweighed me by 10 pounds. I know the potential is there and it’s just a matter of time till I eventually get my first taste of a “Perfect Fight,” knocking out my opponent.

Which of your opponents have given you the most trouble?

It’s difficult to pick out just one opponent; all have been problematic, puzzles to solve. The three that stand out have to be three of the four World Champions I faced.

One was Katie Toliao, MTAA United States Muay Thai Champion. She was tough due to the power and size she had over me. Defeating her and winning the IKF Muay Thai Championship title was my proudest moment thus far in my fighting career.

The second was Jade Hayes, International Muay Thai Organization (IMTO) California Champion. She was tough because of her ferocity and the pace at which we fought. That fight required me to push myself stamina wise. She hit the hardest out of anyone I’ve ever fought. During that fight in 2010, she hit me with this ‘Super Man’ punch that made me see green. I remember smiling and shaking my head and thinking to myself, Wow, what was that! After that I knew she was not going to hurt me and that’s when my training took over. The victory landed me a spot on the 2010 U.S.A. Muay Thai Team and a trip to the IFMA World Championships in Thailand.

The third opponent would have to be Australia’s top female Muay Thai fighter, Caley Lewis, who’s held multiple World Amateur and Professional Muay Thai titles. At the time she had a record of 36 wins with 5 losses. She was my opponent at the IFMA World Championships. Unlike the male divisions, where they were segregated into Classes A: Pro Level, B: Amateur Level, the Women’s Division was mixed; meaning Amateurs were thrown in with Professionals. This was frightening at first because I was an Amateur and I’d be competing against European and Asian fighters that had over 40 plus professional fights. This was a true test for me since I had less than 10 amateur fights and had less than a year of training. To my surprise, I felt good about how I did against the high ranked professional of Caley’s caliber. She was a true benchmark for me and made me realize where my short comings were. She was the person that made me realize what I had to do in order to grow in this sport.

Did any of your contests get personal?

Yes, the fight I had with Lewis. After returning home to California, I talked with my coach about how I had lost to Caley and he began to make the necessary adjustments to make certain those areas in my Muay Thai were improved. I’m no longer afraid to go inside, get in the clinches. I feel more confident I can prevent or escape any attempt that my opponent makes at putting me in the clinch. I proved this in my last fight against IKF World Champion, Amber Pope.

Can you talk to us about your maturation in the sport, from say the first couple of fights?

In my third official Muay Thai fight, I believe I had about 5 months of training and I was very raw at the time. I was a boxer before getting into Muay Thai and used a lot of boxing and less Muay Thai. In that fight because of my lack of experience within the kicking, my opponent at the time, Jill from Sitan Gym in Arizona, was very tough, far more experienced than I was and more used to the kicking art. I beat her by pure determination and will power. She was tough and made me all that more determined to want to learn to use my kicks more. This was a fun fight for me. This is why I participate in Muay Thai; it is a fun sport and I enjoy testing myself against people who are better than me. It isn’t about me versus them, it’s about me versus me. 

If we were to discuss the obvious contenders; who are the ladies that you’ve set your sights on? Being a world champion is everyone’s ultimate goal. How important is it for you?

I compete in the Super Lightweight division and at the moment I feel I have fought the toughest women within the division. I’m not afraid to push myself nor test myself against the best. That’s how one improves and fighting the best is what drives me. I am not into ‘calling’ certain people out.

After working with coach Alex Palma for two years, what is it that he brings to the table that makes him the best coach out there?

What makes him so unique? In my opinion, it’s that he doesn’t treat his fighters like they’re his personal property. He genuinely wants each of us to improve. If he feels a particular coach is better at teaching a particular technique, than he’ll reach out to these other coaches and ask them to train us or work with us. His motto is. “It takes a village to train a fighter.”

He’s the first to tell you that he has his strengths at showing and teaching us certain aspects within Muay Thai, but there are other coaches out there that are better at teaching some techniques and we would be fools not to reach out to these coaches and ask for help. Thus far, I have had the pleasure of being guided by amazing coaches like Kirian Fitzgibbons, Rudi Ott, Derek Yuen, Juan Pablo Pizzaro, Selwyn Reyes, Tom Difrancesco, Caine Gayle, Shiela Telliard, Eddie Roa, Bryan Schnell and Laurence Madariaga. This was all because of my coach, Alexander Palma. He either brought them into our gym to work with me or had me visit them at their respective gyms. Very few coaches will ever allow their students to work with other coaches due to the fear of losing that student. Kru Alex is not like other coaches and I am blessed to have him as a mentor and leader.

How does your preparation for a big contest differ from your daily routine? For example, your time in the gym, your diet, your sleep regimen and the obvious more intensive sparring?

My diet changes and my stamina conditioning goes through the roof and my coach drills certain aspects of my Muay Thai to help fine tune my instruments for battle. My sparring partners also increase in level, he has me spar with high level female boxers like Danyelle Wolf, who is currently an Olympic hopeful. She’s a beast and she’s really helping me with my hand speed and over-all boxing. Coach has also brought in some Muay Thai fighters from the Bay area who are very technical and it’s helping me learn to fight opponents who are more traditional. I’m very positive about my upcoming fight with Claudia Vidaurri and feeling good about the things my coach has helped me improve.

What are the latest improvements to your Muay Thai competence?

I’m settling more and learning to stay inside the pocket and my angles and footwork have improved. My reaction time is much sharper than ever and I’m being a more patient and less of a brawler. My coach has taught me to be more systematic with my attacks and use economy of motion. He also fixed my technical movements with more of a flow to my attacks. It is very “Dutch” style more than “Traditional,” but my clinch and sweeps remain very traditional. I’m excited to show everyone my progression.

Tactically, how do you approach a sparring session? Do you have any food quirks?

My coach teaches us to have a personal theme for every session unless he specifically assigns us one. If not, then I usually choose certain things that I’m not very good at or strong at and I only use those weapons during my sparring. One round I’ll work defense and counter, other rounds I’ll be closing the gap to get inside position for the clinch; other times it’ll be overall technical sparring.

You’ve had many training/sparring partners – which have helped you the most?

They’ve all been great, especially those from the Black House Team Nogueira gym and the fighters who came down from the Bay Area.

Current favorites when it comes to champions in your sport?

Julie Kitchen, Masato, Buakaw, and the list goes on…

Have you thought anymore about your alias “the Phoenix,” or has anyone tried to hang a new nickname on you? 

Not at all, my coach gave me that name and it will stick with me forever.

The travel quirks – which have been the funniest or most irritating? Which have been the most exciting places you’ve traveled to?

Thailand for the most exciting, the trip to San Mateo was by far the funniest. I had almost my entire Blue Ocean Thai Boxing family with me and my coach had asked his good friend, Kru Bryon Schnell from Team Quest Encinitas to accompany him and assist in coaching us for our fights. It was an amazing weekend filled with Fruity Pebbles and adult beverages.

What’s been the most intriguing or embarrassing question you were asked? Has anyone ever come up to you after a fight and asked you out? Are you married or currently involved with someone?

Who has time for a relationship with a schedule like mine!

Your ultimate goal in the sport? In life?

To be the Best Kristina Alvarez there ever was!

Interview with her opponent, Claudia Vidaurri, will follow.

 

 

 

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