Thursday, May 15, 2014

Marquez-Alvarado: Keys to the Fight

A quintessential crossroads fight takes place on Saturday night in Southern California between Juan Manuel Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) and Mike Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs). Both fighters are coming off of a loss and need a victory to keep themselves in the upper echelon of the sport. Top Rank boss Bob Arum has floated a Manny Pacquiao fight for the winner of Saturday's match, so there are certainly big stakes for both combatants. 

This fight (contested at a catchweight of 144 lbs., Alvarado is moving up from junior welterweight) features an appealing style matchup between a cerebral, hard-hitting counterpuncher and a more youthful boxer-puncher. Although both boxers have looked vulnerable in recent fights, they each possess a variety of tools that can propel them to victory on Saturday. Read below for the keys to the fight.  

1. Alvarado's camp.

Veteran fight people will tell you that a boxer can certainly lose a fight in training camp. And while Ruslan Provodnikov certainly deserves credit for his emphatic victory over Alvarado last year, Alvarado and his team contributed to the defeat. Alvarado admitted that he had significant lapses in camp, spending time away from the gym and enjoying the hometown spoils as a newly crowned world champion. He missed weight initially at the weigh in and ballooned all the way up to 156 lbs. by fight night. 

Strategically, the camp was a mess too, with lead trainer Shann Vilhauer and assistant trainer Rudy Hernandez disagreeing on the fight plan. Hernandez wanted Alvarado to box as a southpaw. Vilhauer favored a more traditional Alvarado mode of box-and-slug. This indecision played out in the ring with Alvarado having success early in the fight as a southpaw but later abandoning the strategy for more power shots in the center of the ring. 

Hernandez is no longer with Alvarado and the team wisely returned to Southern California for training camp (after a one-fight hiatus), leaving the distractions of the Mile High City behind. Alvarado claims that he has a renewed hunger and focus – of course, a lot of fighters say this; however, the proof will be on the scales on Friday and in the ring on the following day. Is Alvarado in fighting shape? Was his camp harmonious? Did they focus enough on the fight plan or just burning pounds? Alvarado needs to be prepared for Marquez's cerebral style. If he's not fully confident in how he needs to win on Saturday, that indecision will play into Marquez's hands. 

2. Was it an age problem or a Bradley problem?

Let's be honest. Marquez really didn't look good in his last fight against Tim Bradley. He was consistently beaten to the punch and he had problems pulling the trigger. Now, Bradley can be really crafty and he stayed very disciplined against Marquez, but Marquez certainly didn't appear fresh in that bout. Going back to his previous fight, Marquez was losing to Manny Pacquiao before he pulled out that wonderful counter right hand to ice it. In fact, Marquez didn't seem far away from being knocked out himself. 

Marquez's last two fights beg the question of how much he has left. Were his last two outings a function of facing top, pound-for-pound fighters or can he no longer win without a knockout? At 40, Marquez doesn't have too many big fights left. He's been in a number of vicious ring wars and it would be understandable if his reflexes have eroded. However, before jumping to that conclusion, not too many fighters look good against Pacquiao or Bradley. Saturday will tell us how much Marquez still has left in his career. Right now it is up for debate. 

3. Can Alvarado stay disciplined for 12 rounds?

Alvarado has talked about his need to box Marquez and avoid a war. On the surface, that's clearly the right approach for this fight but Alvarado sometimes is too macho for his own good. He ignored his height and reach advantages to fight a phone booth war against Brandon Rios in their first matchup. He also thought that it was a good idea to stand and trade with Provodnikov. Both instances illustrated a lack of respect for his opponents and his issues with falling in love with his power. 

To win this fight, Alvarado will have to use the ring. He needs to work the jab and significantly out-throw Marquez. He has marked advantages in the fight with his legs, reach, height and age; but he must use them. If Alvarado tires of a tactical battle and decides to fight mano-a-mano, it will be to his own peril. In addition, if he hurts Marquez, Alvarado can't rush in for the kill. Marquez is very dangerous when wounded. Alvarado must be content to win rounds and not feel the need to look spectacular or make a statement. Winning is the ultimate goal, not putting up a scalp on the mantelpiece. 

4. Chin and legs. 

Both fighters have significant vulnerabilities to power shots. Marquez has hit the canvas frequently in his career but he has always made it back on his feet. However, there are only so many times a fighter – especially an older one – can go to that well. In recent years, Marquez has even been hurt by moderate punchers such as Juan Diaz and Tim Bradley. Alvarado features a variety of power shots than can cause damage, such as his right hand (both straight and looping), left hook to the body and left uppercut. Alvarado definitely has the tools to hurt Marquez and potentially knock him out. Furthermore, if Marquez is at a point in his career where he has problems matching his opponents' volume, a 10-8 round would be catastrophic for his hopes of winning the fight on the cards. He has to avoid the big shot as much as possible. 

Marquez doesn't like to move much anymore. He's happiest planting himself in the center of the ring and landing power counters. Against an opponent who uses the ring, Marquez can seem slow. If Alvarado stays on the run in the fight, Marquez will have a lot of problems. 

Rios and Provodnikov have certainly shown that Alvarado's chin is dentable as well. Alvarado often struggles to tie up appropriately and he needs a considerable amount of time to recover after being hurt. He isn't a fighter who is very dangerous when he is wounded prey. If he's hurt on Saturday, Marquez should pounce on him. 

When Alvarado stops moving, he becomes much more vulnerable to big shots. In these situations, Marquez can capitalize with counter right hands, his patented vicious left uppercuts and left hooks. Alvarado's conditioning and ring IQ will determine how many lengthy exchanges we will see in the fight. 

5. Marquez and Nacho Beristain in the late rounds.

Marquez's performances in the late rounds are a mixed bag. He had wonderful showings against Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis and Joel Casamayor in the second halves of those fights, but he has also let a few get away, most notably in his third fight against Pacquiao. Although his trainer, Nacho Beristain, is one of the best in the sport in terms of teaching technique, he has made some baffling decisions in the corner, notably telling Marquez that he was well ahead against Pacquiao (in the third fight) and Bradley. This overconfidence, shared between fighter and trainer, has produced some unfortunate results over the years. 

More than likely, Marquez may find himself down in the fight on Saturday. Will Beristain be cognizant of this reality? Will he formulate the right strategy to help Marquez win? If the fight features an active Alvarado, will Marquez have enough in the tank to mount a charge in the late rounds? Can Marquez win the championship rounds without a knockout? These answers will help determine who wins on Saturday. 


For the first time in over a year (Alvarez-Trout), I will not be making a prediction for a preview article. Frankly, the possibilities for this fight are almost limitless. I could see either fighter winning by decision or stoppage. I think that cuts could be a factor. I don't know how much Marquez has left in his career or if Alvarado is in a good psychological place coming into the fight, especially after such a devastating loss. There are too many significant unknowns for me to make an educated guess. So, I'm just going to sit back and enjoy this one on Saturday. I hope you do as well. 

Adam Abramowitz is the head writer and founder of
He is also a member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board.
Contact Adam at 
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