HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Juan Manuel Marquez's unanimous decision victory over Mike Alvarado at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
At times, given the right participants, even one-sided ass-whoopings can be entertaining. They can be exciting enough to cause 12,090 spectators to explode in deafening roars, to have them wondering, if only for a moment or two, whether one man’s dominance might not ultimately translate into victory after all.
Truth be told, for almost the entirety of his contest with Mike Alvarado at the LA Forum on Saturday night, Juan Manuel Marquez was the superior fighter in just about every aspect, and when he sent Alvarado staggering backward, onto the canvas and halfway through the ropes at the end of round eight, the conclusion seemed a mere formality. But then, just a few seconds into the ninth, Alvarado dropped Marquez to his haunches and it felt as if the end wasn’t preordained after all.
Ultimately, though, Marquez regained his grip on proceedings, and at the end of twelve hard rounds, the judges’ unanimous verdict – two scores of 117-109 and one of 119-108 – reflected accurately his dominance, but if it didn’t show how, even as he was being beaten to the punch over and over, Alvarado kept coming, kept looking for the opportunity to land something that might turn the tide in his favor.
The Cliff Notes guide to the Juan Manuel Marquez boxing style is that he is a counter-puncher, but that has rarely done him full credit. Witness his first fight with Juan Diaz, his battle with Michael Katsidis, or any one of his contests with Manny Pacquiao: Marquez has an almost unique ability to draw opponents into his range but then erupt into bursts of aggression, a kind of “I will counterpunch-you-before-you-even-have-a-chance-to-throw-a-punch” offense that has few parallels.
From the opening bell, Alvarado seemed hesitant to throw punches for fear of the combinations that might rattle his head in return, but as the American stalked forward, apparently wanting to place himself in the position that would best enable him to get his offense into gear, Marquez wasn’t waiting. He was throwing ripping combinations to Alvarado’s body and head, shifting his feet to change position and reset, and then firing again.
After about four rounds of Marquez out-throwing and outlanding him, and doing so with power and precision, Alvarado began to increase his punch output, stepping forward and throwing lead left hooks, uppercuts and overhand rights. But all that did was allow his opponent to transition to textbook counterpunching Marquez, taking advantage of the openings that Alvarado was offering to throw faster punches that landed with greater authority and frequency than anything Alvarado could offer.
A feint behind a double jab followed by a straight right dropped Alvarado at the end of eight, and the man from Colorado rose on very unsteady legs, the bell ringing before Marquez could do any more damage and surely saving Alvarado from imminent defeat. Alvarado returned the favor after the minute’s rest period, landing a right as the two men threw blurring combinations at each other. Marquez was back on his feet far more rapidly than Alvarado had been, however, and although the two men engaged in furious exchanges for much of the rest of the round, by the time the bell rang again it was clear that the Mexican was once more in ascendance.
Alvarado still wasn’t done: another short punch in the eleventh so very nearly caused Marquez to touch down on the canvas for a second time, but just as he had done in the final round against Tim Bradley in his previous contest, the veteran willed himself to stay just about vertical. But at the very end, the Mexican – fighting for the 13th time in this storied venue – was, even at 40 years old, faster, stronger and just plain better.
Mike Alvarado is a very good prizefighter. Juan Manuel Marquez is an exceptional one, who will sail into the Hall of Fame the moment he becomes eligible. As much as Alvarado tried to make it otherwise, at the end of the day that difference in class was what made an entertaining contest a one-sided one.
The crowd in the Forum, it is safe to say, did not greatly appreciate the great majority of the co-main event, between junior welterweights Selcuk Aydin and undefeated Viktor Postol. But they liked the ending, which came courtesy of a vicious right uppercut from Postol that snapped back Aydin’s head and dropped him to the canvas, bringing the bout to an abrupt halt. The ending seemed sudden, a violent coda to what had been a technical display devoid of explosive moments; and yet, it had also been unfolding slowly, progressively and predictably over the course of the contest.
Apart from an early overhand right that knocked back his foe in round one, Aydin was unable to find an answer to the Ukrainian’s combination of long jabs, three-punch combinations, straight rights and uppercuts. At first, Postol was able to keep a confused Aydin at distance; by the end, he was perfectly happy to trade with him at close range, too, such was his dominance. The crowd booed and yawned as Postol threw punches and Aydin shuffled around the ring in half-hearted and ineffectual pursuit, but they cheered when Postol, having softened up Aydin by landing 36 percent of an incredible 1,105 punches, finished him off with just one concussive blow.
Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado step on the scales at The Forum in Los Angeles. Marquez vs. Alvarado happens Sat., May 17 live on HBO WCB beginning at 10:15pm ET/7:15pm PT.
Photos: Will Hart
By Kieran Mulvaney
In February 1996, the Los Angeles Forum was the site of the inaugural episode of HBO's Boxing After Dark, headlined by an epic twelve-round slugfest between Marco Antonio Barrera and Kennedy McKinney. The ferocity with which the two men swapped punches inside the ring was presaged at the final pre-fight press conference, when McKinney made a derogatory remark toward Barrera, Barrera turned to his translator to find out what McKinney had said, and promptly turned and smacked McKinney in the mouth.
The return of HBO Boxing – of boxing, period – to the Forum after a lengthy absence (the venue's regular boxing program ended in 1999 and the last sanctioned fight under its roof was held in 2001) has had an altogether different tone. Mike Alvarado and Juan Manuel Marquez – who went 12-0 with 9 KOs at the Forum as a younger and lighter man – have exchanged nothing but mutual compliments.
"Juan Manuel Marquez is a legend in this game," Alvarado told Inside HBO Boxing this week. His beating that legend, he said, would be a passing of the torch "to someone who can hold it and guide it and be the next great."
Marquez, of course, has no intention of allowing that to happen, but professes to be under no illusions as to the task that awaits him on Saturday night.
"This is a challenge for me, a tough challenge," he acknowledged. "Mike Alvarado is a good fighter, a strong fighter. He likes to fight, I like to fight, and the people will see a great fight."
There could have been a fight of sorts at the weigh-in, when Alvarado tipped the scales two ounces over the contracted 143 pound limit; Team Marquez could have insisted that he strip off, jump rope, or otherwise shed that final poundage. Plenty of fighters would have done so; but they let it slide, and part of the reason may have been revealed when Marquez stepped on the scale. To the naked eye, he looked noticeably less bulky than when he last fought Manny Pacquiao, an observation that was confirmed by his weight of just 141.6 pounds.
Marquez clearly aims to be the lighter, faster man, all the better to meet Alvarado's aggression with the speedy counters that have brought him such success in the past. If Saturday's matchup – the veteran Mexican taking on an aggressive younger challenger – brings to mind any previous contest, it is Marquez's tilts against Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis. That might give Alvarado pause, given that Marquez turned back both men's relentless attacks to score stoppage wins, but it should have fans salivating in that both were immensely entertaining battles.
For all the outside-the-ring niceties, the smart money is on a similar explosion of violence inside the ropes on Saturday night.