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.