INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Although Juan Manuel Marquez rarely acts his age in the ring, the 40-year-old welterweight turned back the clock to a specific time and place while he battered Mike Alvarado.
Under the spotlights, the smoke and the deafening cheers, Marquez was once again the king of the Forum ring, returning in grand style to the refurbished arena for one more celebration of his brilliance and longevity.
Marquez won a clear unanimous decision over Alvarado on Saturday night, dominating in the Forum’s first boxing card in 13 years.
“I wanted to give the public here a gift,” the four-division champion said afterward while a pro-Marquez crowd roared its approval. “A gift that dignifies the history of this event and the history of the Forum. I wanted to make this fight a gift for the fans.”
Marquez (56-7-1) dismantled Alvarado with 12 rounds of technical brilliance and vicious power, knocking down Alvarado in the eighth round and bouncing back from his own ninth-round knockdown to finish strong, even staggering Alvarado right before the final bell.
Judges Max DeLuca and Julie Lederman scored it 117-109 for Marquez, and Robert Byrd favored him 119-108. The Associated Press also scored it 117-109 for Marquez, giving him 10 of the 12 rounds.
Marquez improved to 13-0 at the Forum, the former featherweight prospect’s regular home during the late 1990s. Although he once lived in Anaheim, Marquez hadn’t fought in California since his last Forum bout in 1999, and thousands of his local fans turned out to support arguably the greatest Mexican fighter of his generation.
The win sets up Marquez for a fifth fight with Manny Pacquiao in the fall in Macau, if Marquez wants it. His knockout victory over Pacquiao in December 2012 was the crowning moment of his career, but the money might compel him to add a fifth chapter to their rivalry.
“We’ll relax first,” Marquez said. “I don’t know at the moment, but any decision we make will be good for me, good for my family and good for the Mexican fans.”
Alvarado (34-3) never got rolling in his second straight defeat, struggling to land any major shots beyond the right that sent Marquez to the canvas.
“It was a bad experience being in there with a legend,” Alvarado said. “I was warming up a little bit too much before I started getting off. It was on me, but it was a great fight.”
Marquez, who made $1.4 million, showcased the roots of his success against Alvarado, whose apparent fear of Marquez’s famed counterpunching left him waiting for Marquez to clobber him.
Marquez outlanded Alvarado in 11 rounds, connecting with 44 percent of his 627 punches. His power shots were even more devastating, landing 57 percent to just 34 percent for Alvarado.
Marquez was in charge from the opening rounds. With Alvarado sitting back and waiting, Marquez pounded him to the body and pulped the left side of his face, opening a cut under his eye in the middle rounds.
“That’s the kind of fighter I am. I like wars,” Alvarado said. “That’s how he exploited me, but that’s how I fight.”
Marquez knocked down Alvarado with a counter right hand in the final seconds of the eighth, sending Alvarado sliding under the ropes and nearly off the canvas into the photographers.
Alvarado recovered after the bell, and he knocked down Marquez with a double right hand early in the ninth, stunning the crowd. But the shot only seemed to enrage Marquez, who landed big combinations for the rest of the round.
Alvarado’s face was swollen with damage under both eyes in the final rounds. Alvarado wobbled Marquez again in the 11th round, but Marquez kept his feet and finished to a standing ovation.
Marquez took a split-decision loss to Timothy Bradley last fall in his first fight since his victory over Pacquiao, but he was back on top in the heralded return of boxing to the Forum, the former home of the Los Angeles Lakers and Los Angeles Kings. The Forum was a boxing hotbed for 30 years, hosting Muhammad Ali’s second fight with Ken Norton along with dozens of fight nights promoted by the late Lakers owner Jerry Buss.
“It was a very entertaining fight, and the thing that really thrills me is it’s a great fight to come back to the Forum with,” Top Rank promoter Bob Arum said. “So many years ago, there were so many nights at the Forum when we had fights like this.”
Alvarado hadn’t fought since Ruslan Provodnikov stopped him last fall. Alvarado moved away from his native Denver to the Los Angeles area in preparation for this bout, determined to avoid the pitfalls lurking in his hometown.
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