El Maestro: Juan Manuel Marquez Defeats Mike Alvarado

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Image: Ringo H.W. Chiu/Associated Press

It was not a fight that made old-timers think of Ruben Olivares or Carlos Zarate, but Juan Manuel Marquez showed off his ringmastery in befuddling Mike Alvarado on Saturday night, en route to scoring a lopsided unanimous decision before a crowd of over 12,000 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

In the first fight on West Manchester Boulevard since Saul Montana headlined against Grigory Drozd in 2004, Marquez recovered from a late knockdown to outclass a passive Alvarado and earn a potential big money fight with Manny Pacquiao in November. The official scores were 117-109, 119-108, and 117-109. Remezcla tabbed Marquez the winner by a 117-110 margin.

For six rounds, Alvarado, fighting out of Thornton, Colorado, looked like he was a card-carrying member of Code Pink. After a half-hearted attempt to get Marquez to lead early, Alvarado, 143 ¼, settled on alternating between pressuring and posturing. By failing to commit to a discernible strategy, Alvarado allowed the savvy Marquez to do as he pleased whenever he pleased. And Marquez, 141 ¾, obliged, controlling the action with his precise, economical style, peppering Alvarado with nearly every punch in his vast arsenal. When Alvarado would meander at mid-range, Marquez, Mexico City, opened up with stinging combinations, including roundhouse rights to the ribcage.

Not only was Alvarado gun shy, but he neglected to work the body, and he failed to muscle Marquez on the inside when he had the chance. This may have been a sign of his psychological state: after years of bloody wars, Alvarado may no longer have the desire for serious combat. Hard counters and a few deft moves may have had something to do with how flat Alvarado looked over the first half of the fight, but “Mile High” never seemed ready to risk it all now for more in the future. The Los Angeles Kings seem more interested in rumbling these days than Alvarado did on Saturday night. But that seemed to change when Alvarado, now 34-3 with 23 knockouts, ran into serious trouble late.

With a few seconds to go in the eighth, Marquez crashed home an overhand right that nearly sent Alvarado out of the ring. A shaky Alvarado beat the count, and the round ended before Marquez could bring down the curtain. Between rounds, Alvarado looked disoriented and seemed unresponsive when his trainer, Shann Vilhauer, addressed him, but he answered the bell for the ninth ready to rally. He almost succeeded beyond his own apparently limited hopes when he dropped Marquez with a blistering right in the midst of a fierce exchange. Unfortunately, Alvarado, with a cut beneath his rapidly swelling left eye, did not press his advantage, and Marquez recovered.

Over the last three rounds, Alvarado stunned Marquez again at least twice—proving that he had the firepower to brawl with Marquez—but he never made the fight the war he needed it to be in order to win. Loser of three of his last four starts, Alvarado, cut, hurt, or knocked down in nearly every outing since 2011, is perilously close to going from the fast lane to the breakdown lane—the last place a headliner wants to be.

Surprisingly, Marquez, whose record improves to 56-7-1 with 40 knockouts, seemed ho-hum about the possibility of a fifth match with Manny Pacquiao. Considering the fact that his fight with Alvarado was billed as an eliminator for the right to fight “Pacman,” his humdrum attitude seemed odd.

With both fighters looking to rebound from losses, it was Marquez whose immediate future—along with a jackpot payday—was nearly guaranteed on Saturday night. So why be so humdrum about it? For one thing, Marquez has always been unpredictable outside of the ring. For another, maybe Marquez knows that his special brand of stubborn whimsy is worth waiting for as long as he can continue to resemble the legend he is between the ropes.

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.