It was an early morning at the beginning of 2019, and Michael Seals had just completed his customary run. The hard-hitting light heavyweight hadn't fought since September 2018 and had no fights scheduled. Yet he was still dutifully hitting the pavement each day, hoping that a call would come with his next paid assignment inside the ring.
Seals was starting to feel a bit despondent about his career path. At 36, time was not on his side. Not attached to a major promoter and self-managed, Seals was an island unto himself. It was a lonely place.
"I couldn't get a fight, and I was still training like I still had a fight, everyday," said Seals, who decided he had to take things into his own hands.
With nowhere else to turn, Seals took to Facebook Messenger.
"God just put it on my mind to reach out to Brad [Goodman]," said Seals, referring to Top Rank's matchmaker.
He didn't know Goodman personally and had never even talked with him.
"I've been hearing Brad's name since before I turned pro. He's the man -- c'mon, let's not kid ourselves," said Seals, chuckling. "So his name popped into my head and I said, 'Let me reach out to Brad Goodman.'"
And his message was both a question and a plea for help.
"Am I blackballed? Why can't I get a fight?" he asked Goodman. "I don't have anything; what's going on?"
According to Seals, Goodman told him that because of his punching prowess, he was simply too much of a risk for known commodities to face him.
"That's flattering," Seals said. "But at the same time, that's not going to put food on the table."
"I'm ready to fight anybody," Seals told Goodman.
He asked Goodman to keep him in mind if anything should come up.
"He was looking for fights, and I gave him a shot," Goodman said. "He's just an honest, pure type of guy."
What impressed Goodman about Seals is that no matter who he offered, there was no hesitation in Seals.
"Every fight he came to me, I was saying yes," Seals said. "Whoever, whatever -- send the contract. Brad kept working for me."
Goodman recalled one scenario.
"He was willing to fight Sullivan Barrera, and then Barrera took the fight with Jesse Hart, and he was devastated," Goodman said of Seals.
Barrera lost decisively to Hart on the Tyson Fury-Tom Schwarz undercard in Las Vegas in June. That would have been a big stage for Seals to mark his arrival to a worldwide audience.
"I just felt so bad for him because he really felt that the Barrera fight was going to put him in that situation where he breaks out and people get to really see what he was about," Goodman said. "And I really think the way Barrera looked with Jesse Hart, Seals would have knocked Barrera out that night."
The struggle continued, even as Seals got to the brink of stepping back into the ring.
"We tried to [match] him with [Vyacheslav] Shabranskyy, and Shabranskyy pulled out on one week's notice."
Eventually a fight did come to fruition, as Seals was lined up to face Christopher Brooker on June 8 in Reno, Nevada. Seals scored a highlight-reel, second-round stoppage.
Then on the Artur Beterbiev-Oleksandr Gvozdyk undercard in Philadelphia on Oct. 18, Seals knocked out Elio Trosch in Round 1.
Given the opportunity to prove himself in the ring, Seals showed he had something to offer. And it wasn't just the fact that he won, it was the manner in which he did it.
The two performances landed him a bout slated for Saturday against former WBO light heavyweight titlist Eleider Alvarez in the main event of a Top Rank on ESPN card at Turning Stone Resort Casino in Verona, New York.
"He's unbelievable," Goodman said of Seals. "I've never seen a guy punch like that and do that kind of damage with one shot."
Seals started his professional career in 2008, rattling off 19 consecutive victories -- 14 of which came by stoppage. In 2015, Seals faced his biggest opponent to date in former world title contender Edwin Rodriguez in Biloxi, Mississippi. In an unforgettable first round, Seals was decked early on and seemingly was on his way to getting stopped. But Seals was able to knock Rodriguez down later in the first, then he nearly knocked Rodriguez out at the very end of the round.
But ultimately, the fight turned again. Seals hit the canvas in the second and then again in the third, before the fight was waved off. In Seals' recollection, he went into the bout damaged goods.
"I went into that fight with a torn left rotator cuff," Seals recalled. "I hurt it about a week before the fight. I was like, 'I can beat Edwin. He's aggressive; I can get him with just my right hand."
After suffering the first loss of his career, Seals underwent surgery for his injury. Rehabilitation sidelined Seals for all of 2016, and then he fought just once in 2017. In May 2018, he suffered a disqualification loss in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for striking Michael Gbenga while he was down.
Seals ended that year with two fights in the Dominican Republic, first defeating Carlos Cruz in a four-round fight, then scoring a first-round stoppage of Andy Perez. For those fights, the money wasn't just miniscule, it was nonexistent.
"Those were out of pocket; I had to do that myself," said Seals, who paid for his travel expenses and basically got paid nothing to stick a couple of wins on his ledger. "That was my attempt at keeping my career alive and trying to stay relevant."
As his career had stalled, Seals did what he had to to make ends meet.
"I drove Uber and Lyft -- 12, 13 hours a day," Seals said. "It was such an embarrassing thing, because you had people who would get in the car, and say, 'Oh, I saw you fight on TV. Why are you driving Uber or Lyft?' My response was like, 'Oh, I'm just using this to try to gain followers and meet people and stuff like that.'"
Still, there is no bitterness with Seals as he talks about his experience. When asked if he had at least a four-star rating as a driver, he says with a laugh, "Bro, they loved me. I was the man!"
Now, just a year later, Seals finds himself facing Alvarez, who is ranked among the top 10 light heavyweights by both the WBO and WBC, in a big main event.
"I credit it to just the fact that I was persistent. I never gave up," Seals said. "I stayed true to the sport. I didn't start drinking. I didn't start partying. I haven't had a drink in 10 years. I haven't been to a club or a bar in seven years. When everything had gone wrong in my career and it looked like my career was over, I still stayed true to the sport."
A victory doesn't figure to come easily against Alvarez, who is solid and durable and also has a much deeper track record at the world-class level. In addition to splitting two bouts with Sergey Kovalev, Alvarez has defeated Jean Pascal, Lucian Bute and Isaac Chilemba.
"It will definitely be a hard-fought fight, full of guts; both of us have that," Seals said. "It's going to be tough; it's going to be a good fight."
A victory will put Seals in a prime position to get a title shot in the near future.
All thanks to one Facebook message.