By Sean Crose
“We all want the fifth title,” Juan Manuel Marquez told the media during a Tuesday conference call to promote his Saturday fight with Mike Alvarado. I had prepared to ask Marquez if, at forty, he had anything left to prove. By voicing his desire to be the first fighter from Mexico to win a title in five weight divisions, however, he answered my question before I even had a chance to ask it.
Photo: Chris Farina/Top Rank
Yet Marquez was also aware that Saturday’s matchup is exciting for more reasons than just his dream of a fifth championship. Both he and Alvarado, after all, have been through some tough times as of late. Marquez was bested by Timothy Bradley last year while Alverado was destroyed by Ruslan Provodnikov.
“This fight is important for the two fighters,” said Marquez, “because Mike Alvarado lost his last fight (and) I lost my last fight and he wants to win (and) I want to win.” True enough, but what about the rumors that Marquez picked Alvarado as his next opponent because he was ducking the frightening Provodnikov?
“Mike Alvarado is a great fighter,” Marquez told me after I broached the subject of Provodnikov and the accusations of ducking. “Right now Mike Alvarado, I like to fight with him, because he’s a strong fighter.”
Okay, but will Alvarado be up for the challenge?
“There’s a lot involved in this fight,” Alvarado admitted, “you know, mentally and for our careers.” Alvarado, whose stilted speech patterns are reminiscent of a Beat writer, claimed he’s “feeling good, ready, anxious – ready to get in there, put on a good performance, a good show.”
Odd manner of speaking aside, the guy really can fight. He lost to Brandon Rios in a war their first fight, then changed tactics and successfully outboxed Rios the second time around. He may be exciting, but Alvarado is more than a one trick pony.
Marquez, he said openly, is “a very hard man to figure out.” Still, the Denver native thinks he has what it takes to hand the Mexican icon his second straight loss in a row. “ Be bigger, stronger, quicker…stay focused on my game plan.”
While Alvarado credited Marquez with being “a legend in the sport,” he also claimed the advantage will be his stepping into the ring at the Forum in southern California on Saturday. “Style wise, I feel like he’s going to be tailor made,” he told reporters.
As for Marquez, he came across like a relaxed, easygoing, confident success story. He’s got every reason to feel that way, too. He’s forty years old, after all, yet he’s still at the top of boxing’s heap. “Maybe in the future,” he told me when I asked if it would soon be common for fighters to remain active when they reach his age. Indeed, maybe. Not everyone, after all, lives like Marquez.
“I keep training all the time,” he claimed, giving a clue to his career longevity. “I don’t like parties.” Clean living has clearly taken the man a long way. How much farther down the road will it take him, though?
“You can’t tell,” Marquez said in answer to a question regarding retirement. That’s right, the man’s been talking about the issue of what might or might not happen if he loses this weekend. I asked Alvarado if he thought this meant Marquez is lacking in confidence.
“You know,” Alvarado told me, “he’s had a long career.” He then went on to speak of the subject briefly before wrapping the topic up by saying: “We’ll see what Marquez comes (on) Saturday night.” Indeed we will. Until then, however, fans will have to wonder if Mexico’s legendary pugilist will be able to keep his dreams of a fifth title alive or not. The certainly know where the man’s hopes lie.
“I want to win,” Marquez said on Tuesday, “and make history.”
A brief side note: I asked Bob Arum if he was willing to match up some of Top Rank’s welterweights and junior welterweights against Golden Boy fighters in the near future. After all, word is out that boxing’s cold war may at least partially be thawing.
“As I’ve said to everybody who will listen,” Arum told me, “I have absolutely no problems whatsoever dealing with Oscar De La Hoya.” But that wasn’t all. “We’ve renewed our friendship,” Arum said, “and we hope to work very closely with him in the future.”
If that’s not good news for fight fans, I don’t know what is.
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ & MIKE ALVARADO
With Márquez Trainer “Nacho” Berestáin,
Alvarado Manager Henry Delgado
And Hall of Fame Promoter Bob Arum
March 13, 2014 Conference Call Transcript
We are just a few days away from boxing’s return to the “Fabulous” Forum. The Inaugural Brawl will be headlined by an exciting fight between two top contenders – Four division world champion and Méxican icon Juan Manuel Márquez, who is undefeated in this storied building, and former junior welterweight champion Mike Alvarado. The winner will be declared mandatory challenger to WBO Welterweight Champion Manny Pacquiao, who recently regained the belt with his rematch victory over Timothy Bradley.
BOB ARUM: Well, all of you who are participating in this conference call know the obvious, this is one hell of a fight. Juan Manuel Márquez, future boxing hall-of-fame entrant faces off against the Denver Mile High man Mike Alvarado. The card is fabulous from top to bottom, with fighters from all over the world. Turkish fighters, Russian fighters, and African-American fighters, Méxican, Méxican-Americans – everybody is going to be represented on this card. And it’s so wonderful, for me personally, to have Top Rank open up one of the landmarks — the “Fabulous” Forum. Today we will hear from Juan Manuel Márquez and Mike Alvarado.
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Yes, I plan to fight a great fight with Mike Alvarado, who is a strong fighter and a good fighter and I am very prepared for this fight.
You fought many fights at the Forum, the last being 1999. How do you feel about going back?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Right now I feel very happy because I get to fight in a great place. It is a beautiful, historical place.
Is there a fight you remember more than the others?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Yes, I remember when I fought with Cedric Mingo ; when I fought with the Puerto Rican guy and the Panamanian guy. I remember all of my fights at the Forum.
Was there one bigger than all the others?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: All of the fights were most important to me. The fights that were in my past were the most important to me right now.
“Nacho” Berestáin, what memories do you have at the Forum?
NACHO BERESTÁIN: I do remember some of the early fights and I remember Julian Wheeler , which was a very difficult fight – there was a lot of movement from him and a tough fight to win. And also Catalino Becerra , because he was left-handed and I remember going face-to-face with him and step-by-step.
Both you and Alvarado are coming off losses – how important is it to get a win in this fight?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Yes, this fight is important for the two fighters because Mike Alvarado lost his last fight and I lost my last fight and he wants to win and I want to win and this fight is a great fight for the two fighters.
What do you think it is going to take to win this fight?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Mike Alvarado is a strong fighter. He is a great fighter. He wants to win and I want to win so that will make it a great fight. The people want to see these kinds of fights. He likes to fight and I like to fight so that’s what makes a great fight.
Alvarado took a lot of punishment on the Provodnikov fight. Do you think that will affect him?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Provodnikov is a great fighter. Everyone knows Prodnikov, he pushes forward the whole fight and is a strong fighter. I saw the fight and it was a tough fight for Mike Alvarado because he is such a strong fighter.
Do you expect Alvarado to box or come to you and fight?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Mike Alvarado uses a technique when he fights. Right now I think in so many rounds and get by so many of his punches that he will change his technique but I trained for the best Alvarado in the ring. I need to use all of my experience in the ring. This fight will be a war because Alvarado likes to fight. I like to fight and he likes to fight and the fans win because they like to see these kinds of fights.
Is it hard not to look past Alvarado and look to Manny Pacquiao?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: It is not too difficult for me because I do not look past Mike Alvarado. I concentrate only on this fight. Maybe in the future I think about that fight but right now the most important fight of my career is against Alvarado because he is a strong fighter and a tough fighter. Right now all I am thinking is Alvarado.
What did you think about the Pacquiao-Bradley fight?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: I saw the best Manny Pacquiao. He wants to beat everybody. I saw the best Pacquiao. Everyone knows that Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter and he is a world champion. Right now Pacquiao is back.
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Right now Pacquiao is using his feet very well. He moves in the ring. I saw the best Manny Pacquiao because he landed a lot of punches and was moving on his feet. I liked the way Manny Pacquiao fought very much.
If you win the fight, you are the mandatory for Pacquiao. Is that what you really want to do?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: My thinking is first-things-first. My thoughts right now are on Mike Alvarado. If I win the fight then I will think about Manny Pacquiao. I will fight the fight on Saturday then go from there.
Is the goal a world title?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: That’s what I want to do. I want to make history by winning another world title. [No Méxican fighter has won world titles in five different weight divisions] It’s something that’s never been done. That is what I am looking forward to towards the end of my career, to win that next world title.
There has been a lot of talk about the fact that your career should be over by now and you have done all you need to do.
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: I think even Nacho will tell you that we all want to win the fifth world title. Five world titles in five weight divisions. That’s what makes us keep going.
There is talk about the fact you took this fight over Alvarado because it is an easier fight than Provodnikov…
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: The most important thing for me right now is that Mike Alvarado is a great fighter. Provodnikov fights at 140 pounds and Mike Alvarado is a welterweight fight. Provodnikov is a great fighter but I want the champion. If I fight with Provodnikov I would not get the mandatory to fight the welterweight champion.
When you fought Barrera and Morales way back, did you ever think you’d be the last man standing of your era’s great trio of Méxican fighters at age 40?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Never would I think that in this moment. Every fight I think about that in the ring. I like to keep training all the time. Maybe this is a secret, because I like to train all the time. I don’t like parties. I have some friends, special friends, but maybe this is a secret.
After the Bradley fight, how much of a rest did you take?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: I rested for one month then I went back to the gym to train for this fight. For this fight I have trained for three months and now I am ready for a fight.
Do you think you are setting an example on how to fight into your forties?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: Maybe in the future there will be other fighters, because I may be an example for another fighter. Maybe they could fight until they were forty-five years old, or maybe forty-three. Maybe in the future.
Does a loss on Saturday mean retirement?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: You can’t tell. You go in the ring. You do the best you can – you win or you lose. Whatever happens on Saturday, you go back, take a look and analyze everything. But in my mind all I think about is winning and continuing my career.
I understand the training for this fight has been a little different?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: For this fight I haven’t done too many different things. I have done the typical things that a boxer does to prepare for a fight. My body has responded to everything very well. Everything has been good and my body is well. That is good for me. As long as I feel well in training I will feel good in the fight.
What do you think of Óscar Valdez who is also on the card?
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: I think he is a good fighter and uses a lot of technique and he is in a learning process right now as a professional and he is progressing very well. We will see as he goes up against better competition and that will happen with time. I know he is very educated and he trains very hard. I know if he continues with that drive to become champion he will become a champion.
JUAN MANUEL MÁRQUEZ: I want to invite all of the people to come because they will see a great fight. Mike Alvarado is a great fighter. He wants to win and I want to win and it will be a great fight.
BOB ARUM: I have promoted a number of fights at the Forum. During the John Jackson era and it was a great place to put on an event. I really missed it when they closed the Forum as an entertainment and sports venue, they used it as a church for awhile, and nothing pleases me more that it is back as a sports venue and hosting a boxing event. They did a great job – Jim Dolan and Irving Azoff, did – in refurbishing. They put about $35M in doing it. Its really great and the thing I love about it is that every seat is a great seat. It has no balconies or unobstructed views. There are no suites in the middle that would put the cheaper seats far away. There is just one bowl and that type of format is the same as it always was under the old Forum, but now very spruced up and I can’t wait for the event on Saturday night.
BOB ARUM: Dr. Jerry Buss was a great fight fan and he would come to fights in Las Vegas and he instituted a great boxing program at the Forum and even before him, Jack Kent Cooke was a big fight fan. I did the second Ali-Norton fight at the Forum with Jack and that was a great experience. It’s sort of funny, I see that a lot of the fighters are staying at the Marriott at the airport and when we did the Ali-Norton II fight that was the fight headquarters as well. Ali and myself and Marty Spade stayed at that hotel as well. That was what, 41 years ago, oh my, I was a thin, young handsome guy. Now I’m an old fat guy. It was a great night, a good fight – Norton gave Ali trouble. The fight at the Forum was very close and Ali pulled it out. And the third Ali-Norton fight at Yankee Stadium, which I also did, was very close and Ali won by a whisker. Norton could really give Ali trouble. Norton couldn’t face a guy like Joe Frazier who just bombed him out but against Ali he always gave him trouble.
Like Marquez against Pacquiao?
BOB ARUM: Styles make fights as they say. Frazier couldn’t stay in there against George Foreman – he got bombed out twice, but Frazier against Ali was always close and a tremendous fight and Ali beat George in the one fight that they had.
MIKE ALVARADO: I am doing good. Ready to get in there and put on a good performance for the people and put on a good show.
How long does it take to get over a loss, your last against Provodnikov, where you endured a little more punishment than normal?
MIKE ALVARADO: I took a couple months to put that fight behind me. Knowing that it was in my hometown, in front of all my people and my family. It was tougher mentally but physically I am fine – I got past it. I just focused on my health and I was good. Then I began to focus on which was going to be next.
I could see your parents on TV and they looked upset. What did they have to say after the fight?
MIKE ALVARADO: They just wanted to make sure that I was fine and that I was safe and that my physical condition was OK. They are my number one supporters. As long as they know I am OK they are there for me. They have my back.
Both you and Márquez are coming off losses. That makes this fight much more significant as well as the winner being in line to fight Pacquiao. Can you talk about that?
MIKE ALVARADO: Yes, this fight is very important for both of us and a win here will lead to bigger fights. There is a lot involved in this fight, both mentally and for our careers. I am focusing on getting this win. It makes me train that much more, to know that I am in the category with the best in the world and I am happy for this opportunity that I am blessed with. I take it day-by-day and train as hard as I can. I am happy about it and I am excited and I can’t wait for the show to start this weekend.
Most guys coming off a loss don’t get to fight a guy of this caliber…
MIKE ALVARADO: I was surprised a little bit but I know that I deserve it. Top Rank has had my back the whole time and my will is that much stronger, more so than I showed that night against Provodnikov. They blessed me with another opportunity and I am going to step up to the plate to put on a better show and back it up once again. I am here to put on a better show and perform at a higher level. This is where I belong and I am going to show that this weekend.
You come forward and Márquez is the consummate counter-puncher of his era, those two styles should make for a really exciting fight. Is that the way you see it?
MIKE ALVARADO: They do. He fights a lot as well as counter-punching. He doesn’t move a lot and I move a lot. We are going to come together and it is going to be a great fight and great for boxing. I can’t wait and I am excited about it.
Bob, this fight is for the WBO mandatory and you promote all three. How interested are you in making the fight with the winner against Manny?
BOB ARUM: Well, I am not the one fighting. The first thing I did was talk to Manny and he is up to fight the winner. I haven’t, and there is nothing contractual with the two fighters that are fighting Saturday, but they know I will offer the winner a fight with Manny and it’s up to the winner to accept or reject it. So that’s where we stand and if I hear that the winner will be interested in fighting Manny in the fall, and Manny has agreed to fight the winner, so I would say that once we got the terms straightened out it would be a done deal.
Would you say your best ‘boxing’ was against Rios in the second fight, and do you think that’s what you have to do against Márquez?
MIKE ALVARADO: It just goes the way of my career and how my fights went. I lost to Rios the first time and had to be myself the second time in the redemption fight. So I feel that’s how my career has gone. But style-wise he is going to be tailor-made as well. I have been watching a lot of films and everyone knows, they have been watching Márquez for a long time – he is a legend in the sport and has made his mark but he’s not a hard man to figure out. Coming off a loss for him it is going to be very interesting to see how much Márquez has left in his career, so I am going to exploit every weakness he has to see how much he has left in him.
Most have had trouble with Márquez. What do you think the key is to beating him?
MIKE ALVARADO: Fight the way I know how to fight and make the right adjustments. Fight smart and be stronger, quicker and bigger and fight my game plan. Focus on not giving in and letting my pride get the best of me. Don’t let him get the best of me. I need to stay focused in the ring and dominate this fight.
What do you mean by not letting your pride get the best of you?
MIKE ALVARADO: Not giving in when he is going to war and wanting to trade punches – not giving in to that. I need to fight my fight – my pace and my style of fighting.
What do you think of Márquez’ endorsement of Manny Pacquiao – that it was the best Manny in his last fight?
BOB ARUM: It was the best Manny Pacquiao. People look at the Cotto and Hatton fights and see Manny as this devastating knockout puncher, which he never was. Look at the fight against De La Hoya, where he threw punches, in and out and more punches – that was the Manny Pacquiao that fought Bradleyin their rematch – the Pacquiao that fought De La Hoya – that’s Manny’s big style. He punches hard, he moves and he is very hard to hit when he wants to be hard to hit. That was a magnificent performance by Manny Pacquiao.
How much of the Provodnikov fight did you watch and what have you learned from it?
MIKE ALVARADO: I watched it a lot and I learned from myself how I transitioned from punching and punching and getting more into boxing. Switching my game plan up from the different styles to make the fight go the way I want it to go. That’s what I need to focus on. It was definitely a good learning experience.
On the wall in your gym you have a big poster of you and Provodnikov. Does that give you inspiration?
MIKE ALVARADO: It reminds me of what I wasn’t doing right and helps me focus and reminds me of what I need to do to make me a better boxer and helps my preparation in my future fights. It is just a reminder to let me know what I need to do in my next fights.
How do you feel about being the underdog in this fight, while both of you are coming off losses?
MIKE ALVARADO: It is very motivating. It helps me in my training and gives me more focus in training knowing that a win here will only lead to bigger opportunities. It helps me train harder and helps me push through what I need to push through to be ready for the fight.
You watched Márquez as a youngster. How do you feel fighting against a legend?
MIKE ALVARADO: It’s a great feeling and I am inspired by this opportunity to be in there with a legend and to retire a legend. Knowing that gives me more motivation to dig deeper and you’ll see it in the fight. I will be that much more focused to win the fight.
MIKE ALVARADO: He’s had a long career and it’s coming to a point in his career where he starts second-guessing whether he still wants to do this. He’s made a mark in boxing and we’ll see what happens on Saturday night. That’s on me to exploit it out of him. I want to win this fight and I still have a long career ahead of me. We’ll see how bad Márquez wants to stay in this game.
What are the chances that Top Rank fighters will meet Golden Boy fighters in the future?
BOB ARUM: As I have said to everyone that will listen, I have absolutely no problems whatsoever dealing with Oscar De La Hoya. I was his promoter for many, many years and we have renewed our friendship and we hope to work every closely with him in the future.
Another fight at the “Fabulous” Forum, do you think it will live up to the great fights of the past held there?
BOB ARUM: It is wonderful and when I realize that the first fight I did at the Forum was forty-one years ago promoting the great Muhammad Ali against Ken Norton – forty-one years, no matter how old you are, is a lot of years ago. I subsequently had Rafael Ruelas fight in the Forum and Michael Carbajal and indeed when I wasn’t promoting fights in the Forum, when John Jackson was promoting fights I attended fights in the Forum. It was a great place to watch a boxing match.
How do you see the boxing future in Southern California?
BOB ARUM: We always have done fights there. We have had them at Staples Center, StubHub in Carson and now we are doing one at the “Fabulous” Forum. If you are a promoter you know that the interest in boxing in Southern California is huge so you want to do many fights in that area because the interest is so high.
Many have asked regarding what happened in the ring and your trainer was disappointed as well. What conversations have taken place between you and he since then?
HENRY DELGADO (manager): The whole thing, including the preparation for the fight was not where it needed to be. That’s what they were talking about. Shann [Vilhauer] said ‘see what happens when you don’t take things as seriously as you should.’ That was the consensus and we are not making any excuses but that wasn’t the Mike Alvarado that everyone came to see fight. This time it is completely different. We said this is how you got there and you are letting it go. You’ve got to do what got you there and now you know how to stay there when you get there, by doing all the things that got you there. Now he realizes that. It was kind of embarrassing because of the opportunity Top Rank gave us and he didn’t take advantage of it.
Is that why training camp is in California for this fight?
HENRY DELGADO: Right, but it was last time also, then Mike moved it back. But this time I put my foot down. There are too many distractions in Denver and Denver is a hotbed of sports with the Broncos and they treat him like a God and they were pulling him in too many different places. In Los Angles he is just another guy and we are getting our training done and taking care of business.
BOB ARUM: That’s something that the press should pickup on. What Henry is saying, and it’s absolutely right, that the Mike Alvarado you will see on Saturday is the best trained Mike Alvarado that you will have seen in years. He has dedicated himself to training for this fight without some of the nonsense that took place in the past with some of his training.
HENRY DELGADO: Exactly and our whole camp apologizes for the performance he put on in Denver and we are going to redeem it this time around.
BOB ARUM: This is going to be a great night and a fight that is really important for boxing. Coming back to a venue that helped make boxing as popular as it is today, in Southern California at the “Fabulous Forum” and so we are thrilled to bring such a great fight to the “Fabulous” Forum, opening it up once again to the sport of boxing.