By Jake Donovan
Barely 24 hours after a gaping hole was left in the HBO boxing schedule, the void was filled in a major way.
Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado agreed to terms for a May 17 showdown, which will take place at The Forum in Los Angeles. The bout not only promises non-stop action, but serves as the perfect centerpiece to HBO’s—and promoter Top Rank’s—spring schedule.
“On April 12, you have Manny Pacquiao and Timothy Bradley in their rematch, a fight that will sell out the MGM Grand in (Las) Vegas,” notes Carl Moretti, Vice President of Top Rank. “On May 17, this fight (Marquez-Alvarado) is going to sell out The Forum. After that, you have (Sergio) Martinez and (Miguel) Cotto, which will sell out (Madison Square Garden).
“It’s a great stretch of fights and great for the sport. It’s tremendous to have all of that going on at once.”
The first two entries among the trio of superfights gain even more meaning given what’s at stake in this particular bout. While a catchweight of 143 lb. is in place for the May 17 headliner, the fight will also serve as an eliminator for the winner of the April 12 rematch between Pacquiao and Bradley.
“Whoever wins in May already knows who he’ll be fighting next,” commented Moretti. “We get to keep matching these guys together. As long as they keep making great fights, we’ll keep it going with this group.”
By the time the Pacquiao-Bradley rematch was signed and formally announced, negotiations were already underway for this contest.
There wasn’t much to work out, with both sides eager to face each other despite coming off of high-profile losses. Marquez dropped a heartbreaking decision to Bradley in their welterweight title fight last October, one week before Alvarado was stopped in ten rounds by Ruslan Provodnikov in Broomfield (CO), mere miles from his Thornton hometown.
Rumors swirled regarding the direction both fighters—as well as Provodnikov—would next head, but at the forefront for the most part was a head-on collision between fighters in dire need of a victory.
Still, given the time the fight was first floated until Thursday’s confirmation, there existed the perception that negotiations were being drawn out.
“When you mention a fight in today’s world, everything thinks it’s the start of negotiations,” Moretti points out. “The first time we mentioned this fight was at lunch one day, just talking about possible matchups we can make. Five minutes later, we’re reading about it.
“To be honest, there wasn’t anything difficult regarding negotiations for this fight. That is, when both sides actually began negotiating.”
Alvarado (34-2, 23KO) fights outside of the 140 lb. division for the first time in more than three years, but size doesn’t figure to be much of a factor. A former champ at featherweight, super featherweight and lightweight, Marquez (55-7-1, 40KO) only has four career fights above the 140 lb. limit.
All have come at the sport’s highest level, however; the loss to Bradley came following the final two fights of his four-fight set with Pacquiao – dropping a disputed decision in their Nov. ’11 welterweight title fight before gaining revenge with a one-punch 6th round knockout in their epic Dec. ’12 encounter.
Prior to renewing his rivalry with Pacquiao, Marquez tested the welterweight waters in Sept. ’09. It was an ill-advised move–even if a lucrative one, ballooning up two weight classes from his stay as lightweight king to drop a near-shutout loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr., who at the time was returning from a 21-month hiatus.
Marquez fought twice more at lightweight before moving up for good in 2011. The future Hall of Famer has since properly bulked up thanks to the assistance of Angel ‘Memo’ Heredia, a strength and conditioning coach who once testified in exchange for immunity to avoid jail time during the height of performance enhancing drug scandals in the mid Aughties. Heredia now claims the role of drug reformist as a staunch supporter of USADA-based random drug testing.
A fight with Provodnikov was floated for Marquez, but the fight never went any further than mild discussion. The plan for the 40-year old appears to be to either claim a welterweight crown—which would mean a rematch with Bradley or a 5th fight with Pacquaio, pending the outcome of April 12—or eventually ride off into the sunset.
As for Alvarado, Job One at the moment is simply to win a fight. The lure of a lucrative payday versus Bradley or Pacquiao would undoubtedly prompt the former 140 lb. titlist to stick around at welterweight, but with two losses in his last three fights, all future plans are on hold until he gets Marquez out of the way.
“Once we get through May 17, we can worry about what to discuss on May 18,” Moretti quips. “This fight is an event in and of itself. It’s a tremendous fight, and must-win for both guys.”
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBoxTags: Juan Manuel Marquez , Mike Alvarado , Marquez-Alvarado , Marquez vs. Alvarado