By Sean Crose
Juan Manuel Marquez started Saturday night’s fight with Mike Alvarado looking sharp, real sharp. He was fast, his movement was dead on, and his punches were crisp. Not that Alvarado was any slouch. The Colorado native had said leading up to the bout that he knew how important the fight was. He fought consciously, but with serious intent. In fact, he even landed some quality shots.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Still, Marquez just seemed a level above Alvarado. It was a classic story: an aging but legendary fighter taking a younger, hungry opponent to school. The way Marquez worked the ring, with confidence and aggression, was something to behold. If there were those who wondered why a man who had lost most of his major fights was still considered an all time great, Marquez provided clear answers.
As Jim Lampley said before the fourth, it was a “tactical fight.” But that was exactly the kind of fight Marquez wanted. As Harold Lederman pointed out, one of Alvarado’s eyes was already starting to swell. It had to be said, though, that Alvarado was nothing if not courageous. Not that it mattered. The first third of the fight was a one sided, world class beatdown.
Marquez had entered the ring at the ripe old age of forty. If only more fighters in their twenties could fight like Marquez does in his fifth decade. By the fifth he was going to Alvarado’s body. Hard. It was really starting to look like the fight wouldn’t go the distance. Alvarado was going at his opponent aggressively at the end of the round, but it was of little use. Marquez simply exchanged better.
Truth be told, Marquez was reminiscent of his arch rival Manny Pacquiao on Saturday. He was hard to hit, fired machine gun combinations and was able to dictate the pace. In fact, the first half of the fight was reminiscent of Pacquiao-Rios. It just seemed like that kind of match – an entertaining blowout.
Not that anyone was condemning Alvarado. The man was pure heart. He simply didn’t seem to be the same caliber as his opponent. Despite what his corner told him, there looked to be nothing Alvarado could do against the Mexican superstar.
By the eighth round the fight was essentially over. Marquez dropped Alvarado to the canvas. Alvarado managed to get up and be saved by the bell – but it looked like a done deal. Alvarado’s trainer, Shann Vilhauer, asked Alvarado if he knew where he was. Alvarado responded in the negative. Once again, a loyal trainer was letting his man down.
Or was he?
For, less than a minute into the ninth, it was Marquez who was on the mat. He got back to his feet and responded in fury, yet Alvarado employed fury of his own. No matter how hard or cleanly he got hit, the kid kept coming. By the end of the ninth the blowout had become a Rocky movie.
It’s worth stating, though, that the HBO commentators noted Alvarado’s great weakness. For the man did not truly come alive unless he was hurt. And that’s why Marquez took the tenth. By the eleventh, however, Alvarado nearly had his man down again. Jim Lampley wondered aloud if Marquez was starting to show his age. Roy Jones, on the other hand, declared that Dinamita was simply fighting a bigger man.
By the twelfth, there was no guarantee that Marquez was going to cruise to victory. Alvarez was losing the fight, but his punching power was just too deadly to disregard. Still, one had to wonder why he wasn’t pressing the action, why he wasn’t letting it all go. Did Alvarado’s hesitation cost him the bout? Perhaps. One thing’s for certain, however – it definitely cost the man his chance of winning.
Marquez took the decision, but boy, he earned it. Mike Alvarado may never be a great fighter, but there’s no doubt he’s a supremely entertaining one.