A Strange Sort of Sanctuary: Mike Alvarado Faces Juan Manuel Marquez

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When we last heard from Mike Alvarado, the troubled thrillmaker from Thornton, Colorado, he was linked to the bizarre story of an SUV driven into a lake. A few weeks ago, Alvarado made less quixotic news when it was announced that he would face veteran maestro Juan Manuel Marquez in a scheduled 12 at the Forum in Inglewood, California, on May 17. Both men are using this fight as a springboard to a big money outing against the winner of the upcoming Timothy Bradley-Manny Pacquiao bout.

Blessed with pinpoint technique and a ring I.Q. that puts him in the MENSA category for boxers, Marquez, at 40, has one or two fights left before heading off into the bloodred sunset. Marquez, 55-7-1 with 40 knockouts, remains driven by a bitter pride that will not allow him to admit that his defeat to Timothy Bradley, who outslicked him last October, was anything other than the usual oddball judging. “Dinamita” is looking to get revenge on Bradley, or, if Pacquiao wins, then Marquez gets a chance to vex his familiar rival once again.

Regardless of the potential payoff or setback, Alvarado, whose career was interrupted by a stint in prison a few years ago, looks like a man who needs the ring right now. In 2010 Alvarado spoke to the Denver Post about some of his past issues. “I wasn’t totally living right, like I should have been,” he said. “I was partying, I was drinking, I wasn’t taking care of my body like I should have been. Training and partying doesn’t mix. I wasn’t grounding myself. I had to open my eyes.” Since then, however, Alvarado was involved in an extracurricular brawl that left him unable to spar for two weeks before his rematch with Brandon Rios last year. Then came the bizarre “SUV in a Lake” story, something that sounds like the basis for one of those gruesome DiscoveryID programs. Boxing has enough unsettling stories without envisioning Alvarado one day duking it out, like Zac Efron, with enraged vagabonds on Skid Row. But if Alvarado is some sort of roughneck outside of the ring, he has repeatedly proven that he is the same inside of it, despite his crushing loss to Ruslan Provodnikov in his last start—when he was battered into a corner retirement after 10 pitiless rounds. In his last four fights, Alvarado, with a record of 34-2 with 23 knockouts, has faced Provodnikov, Brandon Rios (twice), and Mauricio Herrera.


Now he faces Marquez, a bona fide Hall of Fame lock and a dangerous proposition even after more than 20 years as a pro. There are some fighters who need the discipline of a training camp, the rigors of the gym, and the promise of a dangerous challenge ahead of them to keep their self-destructive ways at bay. Never mind that the ring is a strange place to find sanctuary. For Alvarado, facing Juan Manuel Marquez may wind up functioning as an intervention staged in front of thousands of bloodthirsty fans. Wish him luck, then, until the opening bell rings and nothing else matters.

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.