INGLEWOOD, CALIF---Never thought I’d see the day that the Inglewood Forum would host boxing again.
Juan Manuel Marquez stood on the two-inch platform on Wednesday in the Forum, and expressed gratitude at being able to return to his old haunts.
“I’m very happy,” Marquez said. “I started my career in this historical place.”
Mexicans and Mexican-American prizefighters return with Mexico’s Marquez (55-7-1, 40 Kos) facing Colorado’s Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23 Kos) on May 17, at the Inglewood Forum. It’s where hundreds of former warriors like Ruben Olivares, Chucho Castillo, Carlos Zarate, Alfonso Zamora and of course Marquez fought before.
The last time Marquez fought in the Forum was in May 1999. I remember it well. Both he and his brother knocked out their opponents within two rounds. The very next fight, Marquez fought for the world title against Freddie Norwood at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Not the arena, but one of the ballrooms. Floyd Mayweather was on that card too.
That day that Marquez fought Norwood, most of the L.A. crowd gave Norwood no chance of beating the scientific boxing genius of Marquez. But Norwood’s southpaw speed and awkwardness baffled the Mexican fighter. After Marquez was knocked down, he became tentative for a few rounds. That’s all Norwood needed to win the fight and retain his world title.
Marquez fumed after the fight. It was his first real loss. In his pro debut he was disqualified.
If not mistaken, it was Ricardo Jimenez’s first gig as public relations for Top Rank. He served as the translator for Marquez. Nowadays, Marquez speaks English very well.
Lots of things have changed in boxing since 1999. Dozens of boxing writers who covered the sport are no longer part of the regular scene. In those days the great Michael Katz, George Kimball and Jerry McGee were all mainstays in the boxing retinue. It’s also the year I met Doug Fischer, who now works with Ring Magazine.tv. At the time I had been covering boxing for about six years.
Maybe I’m mistaken but I seldom remember Marquez smiling in 1999. He always wore this stoic Aztec warrior grimace as if he were about to sacrifice someone to Huitzilopochtli, the hummingbird god of war.
Today, Marquez smiles a lot until he enters the prize ring. Then, brother, watch out.
Alvarado has never fought in the Forum. Many a war took place in the building that also housed the “Showtime” L.A. Lakers with Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. It’s pretty large in there but even when there were plenty of seats open, the crowd noise could get pretty intense.
The Denver boxer-puncher may have lost his last fight, but he has plenty of tools to get his career back on track. What better way to show the world than to beat Mexico’s almighty Marquez?
“This is a huge step in my life,” Alvarado said, whose last fight was a lost by stoppage to Ruslan Provodnikov for the WBO junior welterweight title. “He’s only going to make me better…I’m fighting a legend.”
If you know Marquez, that’s exactly what he aims to become…a legend.
“I began here in the Forum,” said Marquez, to a dozen or more reporters hanging on his words. “It’s a great fight with Mike Alvarado. He wants to win and I want to win.”
HBO’s Peter Nelson says it marks a significant moment in boxing.
“It’s a signature event,” said Nelson. “It’s been 19 years and 53 fights since Marquez fought in the Forum.”
Time flies when you’re having fun.