The winner of the Juan Manuel Marquez-Mike Alvarado fight on Saturday has been promised a lucrative showdown with Manny Pacquiao later this year.
Although Alvarado is coming off a brutal TKO loss to Ruslan Provodnikov, the 33-year-old Denver native is confident that he will get the shot at Pacquiao and the Filipino icon’s WBO welterweight title.
Alvarado (34-2, 23 knockouts), who lost the WBO 140-pound belt when he was stopped in Round 10 by Provdnikov in his hometown last October, says he’s psyched about the chance to fight for another world title and another future hall of famer but his focus is on the legend in front of him – Marquez.
“It’s all going to soak in when I’m finally facing him,” Alvarado told a group of writers at a sweltering hot media day at Azteca Boxing Club in Bell, Calif., on Thursday. “I’m in the ring with a legend. I made it here. I’ve made it to this point and this opportunity is the biggest fight of my career. It’s going to take me to another level.”
Alvarado faces Marquez at the recently refurbished Forum in Inglewood, Calif. Marquez, who turned pro 21 years ago this month, began to forge his legend at the storied venue during the mid-to-late 1990s.
Alvarado has the utmost respect for Marquez but he says the Mexican veteran’s legend will end at The Forum.
“It’s an honor to fight him, and I think we’re going to give the fans an explosive fight, but he’s had his time,” Alvarado said. “It’s my time to get this torch and lead with it for the next generation of fighters.”
Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) is just one bout – a split-decision loss to Tim Bradley last October – removed from the greatest victory of his career, his sixth-round KO of Pacquiao, but Alvarado says the 40-year-old technician is no longer at his best.
“He’s not what he was in his prime,” Alvarado said. “I think he’s slowed down a lot, especially in his last two fights. He looks top heavy (fighting at welterweight). I think he was losing to Pacquiao up until he landed that punch that ended the fight.
“He’s still dangerous, he’s still one of the best, but I see things that I can take advantage of. Styles make fights and even if I don’t have the experience of fighting a great counter-puncher like him I’m going learn while I fight him. I’m going to make adjustments and do whatever works – whether it’s box or brawl – whatever I have to do to win.”
Alvarado brings a degree of confidence he didn’t have going into the Provodnikov bout and it isn’t because he’s facing an older, smaller fighter with less power. It’s because he’s coming off one of the best camps of his career. Alvarado says he was distracted and unfocused for Provodnikov after training in his hometown.
For Marquez, Alvarado and his team rented a small house in Glendora, Calif., and trained at gyms in nearby Azuza and Duarte.
“This camp was a lot more focused,” he said. “I was able to get deep into my training. I secluded myself in order to bring out the best me.
“With my camp for Provodnikov, I was giving my time to others when I should have been focused on my fight. I still trained hard but I wasn’t mentally dedicated.”
Alvarado’s longtime trainer Shann Vilhauer says his fighter is 100-percent focused for the biggest fight of his career, one that will be televised live on HBO Championship Boxing.
“This was one of the best – if not the best – camps ever,” Vilhauer told RingTV.com. “We got started the first week of March, got Mike a good variety of sparring partners, and I could see that everything was perfect three weeks ago.
“He’s ready and he’s going to win because he’s younger, bigger and stronger – and he’s mentally ready for this fight.”
Tim Bradley believes Alvarado has a good shot of pulling the upset as long as he fights like the younger, bigger, stronger fighter.
“I wouldn’t change who he is to fight Marquez,” said the former WBO welterweight titleholder, who will be part of the international broadcast on Saturday along with Larry Merchant.
“I know people think the way to beat counter-punchers is to move on them, but (Alvarado’s) had so much success going forward that I wouldn’t change that. I know he can box, he did it against (Brandon) Rios in their rematch, but he’s not the prettiest with it.
“I know it’s risky but if I was advising Alvarado, I’d have him take it to Marquez, but be smart about it. I’d have him come in with the jab, touching the body and be aware of the counters. But I’d make sure to have him throw two punches back every time Marquez counters with one.
“I expect Marquez to hit low (to the body) and then come over the top. I’d try to have Alvarado ready for that. Mike can move around the ring but we know that Marquez is the better boxer, the better counter puncher and technician. Mike has to use that jab and keep Marquez off balance, he has to hit that body.
“Most important is every time Marquez lands one or two punches, he has to come back with three or four punches.”
Bradley’s keys to victory are sound ones, but many fans and members of the media doubt whether Alvarado still has it in his body to put forth a physical, high-volume fight.
Alvarado has been through the proverbial gauntlet in his last five bouts, dating back to November 2011, when he had to rally to stop Breidis Prescott in the 10th and final round of their bloody battle. He followed that fight with another hard-fought 10-rounder against recent title challenger Mauricio Herrera in April 2012, which preceded his first slugfest with Brandon Rios, which he lost by seventh-round TKO. Alvarado dug deep and boxed the best fight of his career, so far, when grabbed the WBO title with a close and grueling 12-round unanimous decision over Rios in their immediate rematch last March.
Those 39 rounds along with the punishing 10 he went with Provodnikov lead many to view Alvarado as the “older” or more shopworn fighter despite being seven years younger and in the pro game half as long as Marquez.
Alvarado says his doubters will be shown otherwise on Saturday.
“I don’t give in to what people think and what they don’t know about me,” Alvarado said. “If that’s what they think – fine – but I’m ready.”
Email Fischer at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @dougiefischer