Juan Manuel Marquez returns to his old stamping/stomping grounds when he meets dangerous Mike Alvarado at the Forum in Inglewood, California, on Saturday night in a 12-round welterweight scrap whose stakes—a possible matchup against Manny Pacquiao—are fairly high for two fighters trying to rebound from losses.
In the mid-1990s, Marquez emerged from Mexico City to sign with Forum Boxing, headed by Dr. Jerry Buss, and he honed his craft to near-perfection in a building once known as the home of Mexican/Chicano legends like Ruben Olivares, Chucho Castillo, Bobby Chacon, and Carlos Zarate. In those days, Southern California was the only bona fide boxing hotbed in the United States. Olivares and Chacon, for example, drew an overflow SRO crowd of nearly 19,000 in 1975 when premium cable networks were not around to tell the afición whom to root for. Now, nearly 20 years after his Forum debut, Marquez is hoping to notch his own signature win at a venue that last hosted a prizefight in 2004.
Both fighters are looking at each other in the same way: as steppingstones to secure another temporary future and the payday that comes with it. To Alvarado, Marquez is a fossil ready to crumble at any moment; to Marquez, Alvarado is a second-tier pug who may already qualify for one of the harshest labels in boxing: Damaged Goods. One of them is wrong.
Alvarado, 34-2 with 23 knockouts, last made headlines when he was tied to an SUV that had been mysteriously driven into a lake in Colorado. Needless to say, this is not the kind of news you want to see on an RSS Feed concerning an athlete. Alvarado is not Aaron Hernandez, of course, but discipline outside of the ring has always been a problem for him. Before that strange incident, “Mile High” took a vicious beating from Ruslan Provodnikov, who left him unable to continue after 10 rounds of abuse. Although Alvarado has proven his grit repeatedly over the years, his loss to Provodnikov brought out the usual sad hecklers of boxing: lunatics who have confused prizefighting with X-Box thrills, CGI chills, and Pixar spills. Even so, durability will be a real issue for Alvarado, 33, when he ducks through the ropes against a veteran sharpshooter who has more kayos than Alvarado has fights.
At 40, Marquez, who dropped a split decision to Timothy Bradley last year, is no longer at his best, but he is not ready for shuffleboard or bocce ball yet. At times, Bradley made Marquez look like a man who was suffering from jet lag. It takes a slick fighter, one with a grasp of tactics, to outmaneuver Marquez these days. Against a stationary target, Marquez, 55-7-1 with 40 knockouts, can still land pinpoint combinations. Alvarado, Thornton, Colorado, is no jitterbug in the ring—nor is he particularly nimble—but, as he showed in his rematch against Brandon Rios, he can stick and move if necessary. But Alvarado is also prone to brawling, and Marquez has probably been daydreaming throughout training camp about Alvarado standing flat-footed and opening up with looping shots. In that case, Marquez may believe that Alvarado is the perfect foil. Or, as Barbara Stanwyck said about a different subject in The Lady Eve, “I need him like the axe needs the turkey.”
With two men looking to avoid rock bottom-where all fighters start and nearly all wind up one way or another—the Forum may once again see something worth reminiscing about in years to come. If not, at least we still have those magnificent ghosts of the past to conjure up. Right now, however, neither Marquez nor Alvarado wants to be among them. Good for us.
Carlos Acevedo is the editor of The Cruelest Sport and a full member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His work has appeared in Boxing Digest Magazine, Maxboxing, Boxing World Magazine, and Esquina Boxeo.