Walking through the hallways of the newly remodeled Forum Arena felt different than walking through any other arena I’ve ever been in. I’ve always heard great stories about its heyday in the 1990’s and how it represented so much for so many fighters who began their careers there. It’s a legendary venue not only because of boxing but mainly because it was home to the beloved “Showtime” Los Angeles Lakers during that same period. Finally being there myself to cover a fight, I've got to say felt special, very special.
It was my first time in the legendary arena but for Marquez, the main event fighter, it would be his 10th fight there. The Forum saw him rise to stardom when his career began and to have him back at age 40, still competing at the highest level, says a lot not only about Marquez as a fighter, but it hopefully represents a permanent return of The Forum as a prominent boxing venue in the Los Angeles area.
It was early and the headline fighters hadn’t even arrived at the arena yet. Meanwhile in the ring, two unknown fighters, one making his pro debut at that, fought as if they were both earning million dollar paychecks. They were both bloody, their eyes bruised and their trunks a different color from all the blood they had obsorbed. They each took home probably no more than $1500 each, if lucky.
Oscar Valdez is a young up and coming fighter, he has skills, speed, power and great footwork. This night he would be facing a tough Puerto Rican kid with the worse nickname in boxing, “Shut Up”. The kid was tough but from the opening belt Valdez was having an easy outing against him.
After the seventh round, after being outclassed and battered by the hands of Valdez, referee Jerry Cantu called an end to the bout and didn’t allow Noel Echevarria, A.K.A “Shut Up” to get up from his stool to continue the bout.
With the win, Valdez improved his record to 11-0 with all wins coming by way of knockout. Top Rank, the promoter of Valdez couldn’t have chosen a better time, a better card, a better venue nor a better crowd to introduce him to the masses. Like Valdez, early in their stardom pursuit, The Forum played important roles in the career of other great Mexican legends like Marco Antonio Barrera, Cesar Chavez Sr, and of course Marquez himself. Hopefully the introduction of Valdez there also marks the beginning a bright future in the sport along with a strong Mexican fan base behind him.
While the arena was now starting to really fill out, the fight at hand before the main event was between Viktor Postol and Selcuk Aydin. After several rounds of not much action, the crowd now in attendance started to constantly boo. For the promoters of the event, the bad decision of putting together a co-main event between a Ukrainian boxer and Turkish slugger, in front of a largely Mexican crowd was starting to unfortunately sink in.
In the 11th round though, the bout would end in dramatic fashion and the crowd would get what they had hoped for all along. Postol, a fighter with only 10 knockouts in his 25 professional fights, landed an uppercut so prefect that it floored the tough Aydin, forcing the referee to immediately stop the bout.
Aydin, known for his toughness and never having been knocked out before, was a very unlikely candidate to finish the fight on the canvas in the hands of Postol, but part of what makes boxing such an exciting sports is its unpredictability and this was just another prime example of that.
From the first round of the opening bell, Marquez's combinations were on point; his punches were just right and his distance perfectly calculated to exact distance for maximum damage. His counter punching abilities mixed with a perfect amount of effective aggression would be the blueprint Marquez would use for the reminder of the fight to dominate in an impressive fashion in front of his adoring fans who by now filled almost every seat in the arena.
Alvarado didn't stand a chance against the version of Marquez that showed up that night.
In the 8th round, Marquez presented Alvarado with a quick subtle feint which made him bring his guard down just enough for Marquez to the sneak in a vicious right hand which floored Alvarado, leaving him badly hurt but luckily with no time left in the round. He made it up from the knock down with left eye badly battered and stumbled slowly to his corner as Marquez keep his eyes focused on him from the other end of the ring.
Alvarado, a warrior in every possible way, would score a flash knockdown on Marquez just the following round, but that would be the only true success he would have all night. Even in that same round Marquez came back to dominate for the remainder of it, leaving Alvarado with little hope at that point. When the 12th and final round ended, Marquez had easily earned a unanimous decision victory over Alvarado.
Marquez's most impressive outing in years consisted in beautiful put together combination that confused Alvarado all night. Marquez was always first and he was more active, landing a very high percentage of punches that pumped up the amazing crowd that was in attendance for what felt like a king's return to his kingdom. It was special night to be a part of.
In the end, Alvarado, the younger fighter by seven years, seemed like the old guy in the fight, unable to move away from punches even if he knew they were coming. His body took great punishment in his two grueling fights against Brandon Rios, but the worse came later in the hands of Ruslan Provodnikok, who stopped him in a 10 round brutal bout last October. This defeat could well be the end for Alvarado, at least the truly elite level.
In the post fight interview, when asked he wanted to face Manny Pacquiao for a fifth time, Marquez said, "“I don't know at the moment but whatever I decide to do, it will be what's best for me, my family and my Mexican people."
That makes a few things clear, what's best for Marquez and his family is in fact what might well be the inevitable; a fifth Pacquiao fight. No other fight in boxing could earn Marquez more money than a Pacquiao fight, and while you may say what you want about how bluntly the fourth fight closed the books on this legendary rivalry, when there is that kind of money to be made, memories can be short.
For the fans though, a more exciting fight would of course be against the man nobody wants to step in the ring, Ruslan Provodnikov himself, who was ringside at fight night scouting the winner... Marquez. Apart from an introduction of a new character to the average fans, this matchup would be a tremendous fight, one with brutally and greatness written all over it. Also very well suited for The Forum Arena if I may add.
As I was leaving the arena after such a great night of boxing, the place was mostly empty but yet a row of Marquez fans still crowded the barriers of their nose bleed seats, screaming his name as the champ was still in the ring with a few reporters doing interviews. Those fans had no chance at a picture with Marquez, they had no chance of being anywhere in reach of getting his autograph, yet they stayed there screaming for his attention hoping that for just a brief moment he would at acknowledge them and make their day.
It was that moment I realize that Marquez's fan base is second to none. While Floyd Mayweather may have a lot of people wearing his TMT shirts and Manny Pacquiao has large number of followers than both of them, no fan base is more passionate nor more dedicated than Marquez's. Even hough he may never make the kind of paychecks they do, he has something way more valuable, something that will last a lifetime, well beyond the squared circle.
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