Boxing’s return to fabled Los Angeles venue the Inglewood Forum proved a massive success on Saturday night, with Juan Manuel Marquez turning in a completely typical performance in an action-packed decision win over Mike Alvarado on HBO. When I say “completely typical,” that’s no rub on Marquez. This welterweight fight had everything that makes Marquez a fan favourite: action, technique, blood, beautiful combination punching and traded knockdowns.
For all the blood and guts, it was a bit of a slow burner, with Alvarado coming out cautiously. Marquez won the 1st round easily with nothing more than a few right hands. Calls of “keep it long, Mike,” from Alvarado’s trainer Shann Vilhauer in round 2 made the Denver native’s strategy obvious, but there was an obvious problem: He just didn’t have the skill to counterpunch the best counterpuncher of the last 20 years.
When he finally gave up and began to pressure in the middle rounds, Alvarado wasn’t doing enough to bother the Marquez. I’ll admit I’m a fanboy, but Marquez’s combinations are pure boxing porn. It was awe inspiring to see him slip the few punches Alvarado threw and reply with a steady flow of jabs, hooks, uppercuts and signature concussive right hands.
He was doing all that stuff in cruise control until the 6th, when Alvarado picked things up at the end of the round. Unfortunately for “Mile High Mike,” so too did Marquez, who looked like he’d slowed down time Matrix-style in order to throw a dozen punches. To Alvarado’s credit, he kept ratcheting up the pressure but his crude offence was making the normally hittable Marquez look like a defensive genius.
Then, in round 8, the fight simply exploded. Marquez hit Alvarado with a one-two that would have floored a donkey. Alvarado, not a donkey, tumbled through the ring ropes. After rising on shaky legs, Alvarado looked like he wanted nothing more to do with Marquez. The bell saved him, though, and he returned to his corner on wobbly legs. Frankly, he look cooked, and Marquez had punched a gaping hole in his face.
But he came out the very next round and nailed a hard-charging Marquez on the chin with a right hand. Before he knew it, a surprised looking “Dinamita” was on the canvas. Surprised looking Marquez is the best Marquez, though. He got up quickly and rumbled for the rest of the fight. Alvarado was landing more than before, and stumbled the old master in the 11th, but he couldn’t change the fundamental dynamic of the fight.
It ended appropriately, with Marquez unleashing a full broadside on Alvarado, who was back on his heels as the final bell rang. The scores of 117-109 twice and 119-108 were merely a formality. As one sided as it was, I would watch this fight again and again. Marquez getting knocked down only added to the fundamental Juan Manuel Marquez-ness of it all. He’s a fighter to savour while he’s still around. Alvarado said in his post fight interview that this loss will make him better. It won’t, and it hasn’t. It’s just added a lot of miles to the clock of a young man who has already taken way too much punishment in his career. He should get out while he still can.
Before the main event, the Forum crowd was at first mystified then bored by the junior welterweight co-feature: a one-sided Black Sea Brawl between Ukraine’s Viktor Postol and Turkey’s Selcuk Aydin. For their troubles, though, they were rewarded with a spectacular round 11 knockout, as Aydin was sent to the mat in a heap by a series of uppercuts.
From early on Postol kept Aydin in check with staccato jabs, though the Turk landed a huge overhand left hook that stumbled him in the 1st round. That was the high water mark for Aydin, who gamely came forward throughout but hardly landed anything.
In the middle rounds Postol began throwing power shots and rocked Aydin with a 45 degree right uppercut in the 7th. His left rip also began to pay dividends, as a frustrated and marked up Aydin began to recklessly charge forward. The Turk’s cleanest punch might have been a body shot on the break in round 8 which drew a warning from referee Raul Caiz, Jr. Postol, though, wasn’t bother and retaliated with a seemingly deliberate head butt which was missed by the ref.
The bloodthirsty crowd quietened down a little bit as Postol went into punishment mode, looking for all the world like a man in the gym, working on his combinations to the call of his coach. The end came immediately after Aydin was docked a point for hitting behind the head in the 11th; Postol nailed his opponent with a hard right and followed it up with series of uppercuts. The final one, a right, sent Aydin down in a crumpled heap. Postol confirms his status as a real contender at junior welterweight, and I think a bout with a more effective pressure fighter than Aydin would be something to savour. I doubt we’ll be seeing Aydin again.
(Marquez, pictured at left, vs. Alvarado, via twitter.com/hboboxing)