A feverish month of marquee prizefights that began with Manny Pacquiao will finally end this Saturday with Juan Manuel Marquez. What a fitting end.
Master boxer Marquez (55-7-1, 40 Kos) faces Denver’s Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23 Kos) at the Inglewood Forum, site of many boxing wars during the 80s and 90s. HBO is televising the welterweight clash and the winner probably meets Pacman.
Just last week the heavyweights took the stage as Bermane Stiverne stopped Chris Arreola by knockout. The fight was held at the USC’s Galen Center, located south of downtown L.A. It’s also about a mile south of the famous Olympic Auditorium that is now serving as a church.
On Saturday, boxing returns to the Inglewood Forum, which had also served as a place of worship for a spell. It’s now opening its refurbished doors to prizefights and who better to headline than the great Mexican fighter “Dinamita” Marquez.
One of the last fights I saw at the Forum involved Marquez, who was a young phenom along with his brother Rafael Marquez. They were a scintillating one-two punch who were dropping opponents impressively with their boxing science.
They weren’t the only great young fighters making their mark at the Forum. Others, like Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson, Marco Antonio Barrera, Kennedy McKinney, Genaro “Chicanito” Hernandez, Freddie Pendleton, Jorge Paez, and Oscar De La Hoya all made ring entrances at the now famous arena that at the time was also home to the L.A. Lakers.
Marquez, 40, last fought at the Forum in May 1999 and knocked out Wilfredo Vargas in the second round. That win led to a world title fight four months later against WBA champion Freddie Norwood in Las Vegas. I missed the Vargas fight but attended the Norwood fight at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Marquez was defeated by Norwood in a back and forth counter-punching style of fight. Floyd Mayweather was also on the card that took place in one of the ballrooms below.
Here we are, 15 years later, and Marquez remains one of the top prizefighters in the world. It’s a remarkable feat. It proves that learned and perfected scientific boxing can add years to a boxing career, while power punchers and brawlers come and go. Others like Mayweather and Bernard Hopkins are further proof of the success of the sweet science.
“I’m always training,” says Marquez. “That’s my secret.”
Facing the Mexican champion will be Alvarado. Though he lost by stoppage to Ruslan Provodnikov last year, that’s not an embarrassment. It’s a badge of honor. You can’t compare Marquez to Provodnikov. One is a surgeon and the other is a blunt instrument.
“Alvarado is a very strong fighter,” Marquez says. “He can box and he has power.”
Alvarado has stepped up in competition the past two years with wins over Mauricio Herrera and Brandon Rios. At the time he defeated Herrera in a thrilling fight few recognized the boxing talent of the Riverside junior welterweight. Now that win looks big.
“Style-wise he’s going to be tailor made with that kind of style. He’s a legend in the sport. He’s made his mark,” said Alvarado. “I’m going to exploit every weakness.”
The Colorado prizefighter believes that he’s proven in the past he’s very good at rebounding from a loss and getting the win.
“I lost to Rios and I had to redeem myself in the second fight," Alvarado said.
In the past two years the boxer-puncher has shown adeptness at using his height and maneuverability effectively when called upon. Can he out-box Marquez?
“Fight the way I know how to fight. Make the right adjustments and fight smart. Be bigger stronger quicker and fight smart. Stay focus on my game plan,” said Alvarado when asked how to beat Marquez. “Not letting my pride get the best of me. Fight my fight. And we dominate in the ring.”
Mexico’s Marquez does not think Alvarado is an easy task. But he must defeat the Denver fighter if he wants to attain his primary goal.
“I want to win a fifth world title in a fifth division,” said Marquez about being the only Mexican to win world crowns in five weight divisions. “Nobody has ever done that. It will be history.”
Top Rank’s Bob Arum said that the winner could possibly fight Pacquiao, who has already consented to fight the victor.
Marquez refuses to comment on Pacquiao but did remark that the Filipino superstar’s last performance was the best he had ever seen from his old nemesis.
Alvarado held his tongue, but you could almost feel the giddiness from him knowing he could face Pacquiao.
Arum said he expects 12,000 fans to attend the Marquez-Alvarado prize fight on Saturday.
A Few Forum highlights from the past:
April 1969 – Jose “Mantequilla” Napoles knocks out Curtis Cokes in 13th round to win welterweight world title.
August 1969 – Ruben Olivares defeats Australia’s Lionel Rose for world bantamweight title.
October 1970 – Chucho Castillo defeats Ruben Olivares by technical knockout in round 14.
September 1973 – Muhammad Ali avenges loss to Ken Norton by decision.
November 1974 – Alexis Arguello knocks out Ruben Olivares in round 13 to win featherweight title.
April 1977 – Carlos Zarate knocked out Alfonso Zamora in round four to unify bantamweight world titles.
May 1989 – Julio Cesar Chavez stops Roger Mayweather in 11th round to win junior welterweight world title.
March 1993 – Michael “Little Hands of Stone” Carbajal won by knockout over Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez.
Other fights this week:
San Diego’s undefeated Antonio Orozco (19-0, 15 Kos) faces former world champion Martin Honorio (32-8-1, 16 Kos) of Mexico on Thursday, May 15, at Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego. Orozco was supposed to fight Honorio a few weeks ago but visa problems for the Mexican boxer prevented the junior welterweight match up.
IFBA junior flyweight champion Sindy Amador (11-1) makes her first world title defense against undefeated Maggie Suarez (8-0-1) at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario on Friday, May 16. The co-main event also features Garden Grove’s Jose “Gato” Roman facing Mexico’s Luis Solis in a lightweight clash.