Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) came out to fight Saturday night and put on a show in California against tough American Mike Alvarado to win the inconsequential WBO International Welterweight title and put him in contention for a probable megafight with old nemesis Manny Pacquiao this fall.
The Mexican legend earned the nod of the three judges: Robert Byrd (119-108), Julie Lederman (117-109) and Max De Luca (117-109), who were unanimous with their judgment.
Prior to Juan Manuel Marquez's showdown with Mike Alvarado, The Forum, the historic arena in Inglewood and the past home of the Los Angeles Lakers during their "Showtime" era, was the site of Juan Manuel Marquez's 12 previous fights as a young fighter on the rise, but he last fought there in 1999. That's why Juan Manuel Marquez's triumphant return to what he referred to as his 'home' was nothing but sweet, as his stock went down following his split decision loss to Timothy Bradley in Las Vegas last year.
The victory against a young fighter like Mike Alvarado proved that Juan Manuel Marquez is still a formidable fighter at 40 years old. When younger fighters have fallen by the wayside, the 'old' Juan Manuel Marquez, like fine wine, continues to amaze the boxing world with his age-defying hand speed, durability and power.
With the majority of the crowd of 12,000 behind him, Juan Manuel Marquez, ever the technician, took the fight to the tentative and gun-shy Alvarado and controlled the first half of the 12-round bout. But Marquez found himself into a firefight when the sleepwalking Alvarado suddenly came to life right after being sent crashing to the canvas and into the ropes in the 8th on a powerful right to the face, reminiscent of the punch that knocked Manny Pacquiao out. Alvarado survived the round and got a tongue-lashing from his corner "to let his hands go."
Having jolted back to his senses, Mike Alvarado went for broke in the 9th and engaged Juan Manuel Marquez in a dogfight. And with 2 minutes left in the round, the Denver native beat the Mexican to the punch and landed a powerful right to the chin to send Marquez on the seat of his pants, reminiscent of the way he landed when Manny Pacquiao bombed him in their first fight.
Then in the 10th, instead of sustaining his form from the last round, the enigmatic Mike Alvarado chose to dance around, evade a brawl and fight in spurts, while Juan Manuel Marquez pressed the action more and landed hard-thudding combinations on Mike Alvarado.
After being berated again and reminded that "you know you need a knockout" by his corner, Mike Alvarado came out smoking in the 11th and stayed in front of Juan Manuel Marquez in a slugfest. A right hand from Alvarado connected and buckled Marquez's legs (like the way they buckled in the Timothy Bradley fight), but Marquez was able to hold his body up, regain his balance and come back to battle until the bell sounded.
After the hard-fought fight, Juan Manuel Marquez said, "I expected this kind of fight. I said it was going to be a tough fight and I said it was going to be a difficult fight."
As that old cliche goes, it was the fight that "separates the men from the boys" -- and Juan Manuel Marquez proved why he is still the man to beat in the welterweight division and one of the best fighters in the history of the sport.
The 12th was all vintage Juan Manuel Marquez as he pressed the action while Mike Alvarado elected to revert to his old shell and let Marquez dictate the tempo and outcome of the fight.
Alvarado, with both gloves up and close to his face, waited for the opportunity to land his big shots, but Marquez did not let him be. There's an old saying that "patience is a virtue," but it is not the case in the fight game -- as the clock ticked away, suddenly gun-shy Mike Alvarado just let the biggest fight of his career pass him by.