by Cliff Rold
Juan Manuel Marquez, once decried for being too technical, has been in the Fight of the Year twice in the last five years, with a couple other classics to go with it. Mike Alvarado has been in Fight of the Year candidates in each of his last three starts.
Now they’re fighting each other.
If this fight is anything less than memorable, it will be the biggest upset of the night. The next biggest upset would be Alvarado garnering the biggest win of his career against one of the greatest Mexican battlers ever to grace the squared circle.
Can “Mile High” climb to the biggest peak of his professional life?
Let’s go the report card.
Juan Manuel Marquez
Previous Titles: IBF Featherweight (2003, 1 Defense); WBA/IBF Featherweight (2003-06, 3 Defenses); WBC Super Featherweight (2007-08, 1 Defense); WBO Light Welterweight (2012-13)
Weight: 141.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 141.5 lbs.
Hails from: Mexico City, Mexico
Record: 55-7-1, 40 KO
Rankings: #3 (BoxingScene, Ring, BoxRec), #4 (TBRB), #5 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 10-5-1, 4 KO (13-5-1, 6 KO including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 16 (Julio Gervacio KO8; Agapito Sanchez UD12; Alfred Kotey UD12; Freddie Norwood L12; Daniel Jimenez RTD7; Robbie Peden RTD10; Manuel Medina TKO7; Derrick Gainer TD7; Manny Pacquiao D12, L12, L12, KO6; Orlando Salido UD12; Chris John L12; Marco Antonio Barrera UD12; Joel Casamayor TKO11; Juan Diaz TKO9, UD12; Floyd Mayweather L12; Timothy Bradley L12)
Previous Titles: WBO Light Welterweight (2013)
Weight: 143.2 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 139.85 lbs.
Hails from: Denver, Colorado
Record: 34-1, 23 KO, 2 KOBY
Rankings: #3 (BoxingScene), #4 (Ring, TBRB), #5 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 0-1, 1 KOBY (1-1, 1 KOBY including interim title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 4 (Carlos Molina MD8; Cesar Bazan KO4; Brandon Rios TKO by 7, UD12; Ruslan Provodnikov RTD10)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Alvarado B-; Marquez B
Pre-Fight: Power – Alvarado B+; Marquez B+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Alvarado C; Marquez B+
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Alvarado B+; Marquez A
Both men enter this bout coming off losses, but the type of losses matters. Marquez lost a competitive, largely technical clash to Timothy Bradley. Alvarado was overwhelmed by the pitbull that is Ruslan Provodnikov. With stoppage losses in two of his last three, Alvarado has his back to the wall in a big way.
Marquez simply has the decision about how much longer he wants to do this. A fifth fight with Manny Pacquiao looms if he can get by here. How motivating is that for him after over a year of saying fighting Pacquiao again doesn’t interest him that much in general? We’ll find out Saturday.
One thing we do know is Marquez isn’t in many easy fights dating to his second clash with Pacquiao in 2008. His counter punching, fitness, and ring IQ have allowed him to remain one of the best in the world but men like Juan Diaz and Michael Katsidis have pushed him hard. Like Alvarado, both those fighters brought a quality pressure game to the ring. Katsidis brought a big punch too, dropping Marquez before tasting defeat.
Alvarado has something neither of those men did: sheer size. It’s been hard to ignore since the fight was announced. Alvarado is a considerably bigger man in terms of height and frame. He’s a career Jr. Welterweight who probably should have already been at Welterweight. Alvarado has a hard jab and can work the ring a little, but his best chances will come in close. If he can make his size count, and land hard on the inside, his chances are good. He’s got a good left hook in close quarters, works in the uppercut, and his long right hand can be a game changer.
Marquez has to be Marquez. He doesn’t unleash the relentless attack of a Rios or Provodnikov but he doesn’t have to. He still punches in combination and is expert and landing leveraged counters to end exchanges. Of the two, he will be harder to catch clean. Alvarado’s defense largely consists of moving and holding his gloves high. Both men get caught plenty, but Alvarado is more likely to be caught with blind shots more often. If Marquez can create prolonged exchanges on his terms, he’ll have an advantage.
But what happens if Alvarado stays strong as the rounds proceed? If those exchanges multiply? Do the legs of Marquez have a prolonged war in them? In his last fight, he was nearly dropped late by Timothy Bradley. Against Pacquiao in their fourth, he was looking the worse for wear before landing the best right hand of his life. Is this a point where relative youth and size are too much for the longtime Featherweight?
There's no question who the greater fighter is. That's Marquez. In Alvarado he faces the biggest world-class opponent of his career. Size doesn't win fights but it can make a difference in a physical affair. Marquez knows that and it’s why there is a catchweight of 143 despite Alvarado technically coming up in weight to him. Alvarado is the heaviest he's been since 2010 and may enter the ring near 160 with rehydration. Marquez has been drawn into multiple wars, more frequently since moving above 126. At 40, this is one too many and Alvarado is in a more must win position. It might happen late on a stoppage, but the pick is Alvarado scores the upset.
Report Card Picks 2014: 23-7
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com