A win for Mike Alvarado could be less than ideal for Top Rank. | Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images
Whether Mike Alvarado knows it or not, he’s the monkey wrench that can throw Top Rank’s plans for Manny Pacquiao’s next big fight into disarray and send the Filipino into the waiting arms of Golden Boy Promotions in 2015.
It’s no secret that the biggest fight for Pacquiao -- aside from the showdown with Floyd Mayweather that we still hold out hope for -- is a fifth meeting with Juan Manuel Marquez. Ever since Marquez left Pacquiao laying face down in a heap when the two met at the end of 2012, the boxing world has wondered what would happen if and when those two met again.
With Pacquiao dispatching of Timothy Bradley in April, he’s set his sights on avenging the knockout loss to Marquez. The Pacquiao-Marquez rivalry is one of the most intriguing in the history of boxing. But before the plans for their fifth meeting are set into motion, Marquez must first get past the battle tested Mike Alvarado on May 17.
And this is where things can all fall apart for Top Rank Promotions.
The Marquez-Alvarado matchup is dangerous for a number of reasons. It is certainly no easy fight for Marquez, who was last seen looking every bit of a fighter struggling to ward off Father Time in his loss to Timothy Bradley last October. A loss not only derails plans for Pacquiao’s next fight, but could also send Marquez into retirement. Meanwhile, a victory for Alvarado exposes a glaring problem with Top Rank’s stable of welterweight fighters: A lack of prominent names for Pacquiao to fight.
Although much has been made about Mayweather’s lack of deserving dance partners, the pool of pugilists justifiable of a Pacquiao fight under the Top Rank banner is alarmingly shallow.
If Alvarado were to defeat Marquez, would Top Rank leap at the opportunity to schedule a Pacquiao-Alvarado fight? Probably not and here’s why:
Considering that Alvarado was stopped by Brandon Rios in their first affair and took such a beating at the hands of Ruslan Providnikov that he was unable to come off the stool for the 11th round in their showdown last October, “Mile High” doesn’t present the most intriguing option for Pacquiao unless he utterly annihilates Marquez. And even if that were to happen, the argument is that Marquez was over the hill and ripe for the picking. Also, the low number of pay-per-view sales generated from Pacquiao’s last fight with Timothy Bradley (between 750,000 and 800,000), which was labeled “disappointing” by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, only compounds the issue when it comes to putting together fights for Pacquiao that the public wants to see.
Alvarado would enter a fight with Pacquiao as a massive underdog without the name recognition or the support of a country to carry the other half of a PPV. Remember when Arum suggested that fans boycott Mayweather’s May 3 showdown with Marcos Maidana due to the perceived notion that the Argentinean slugger was an overmatched underdog and the bout wasn’t worthy of being a PPV?
Pot, meet kettle.
Can you can see the dilemma that Top Rank is in if Alvarado were to pull off the victory?
If not, allow me to paint a better picture of Top Rank’s cloudy welterweight future.
Pacquiao has already defeated Brandon Rios, Bradley (twice, unofficially) and Marquez (twice, officially). The only noteworthy welterweights left that Pacquiao hasn’t fought are Provodnikov and Alvarado. Aside from Provodnikov, who lost a spirited decision to Bradley last year, all of the aforementioned names are considered to be on the decline. Terence Crawford, Mikey Garcia and Guillermo Rigondeaux, who all are smaller than Pacquiao, anchor the future of Top Rank. Rigondeaux is far from a household name, thanks to his depressingly calculated style; Crawford is still a diamond in the rough who has a hefty task at hand with Yuriorkis Gamboa this summer; Garcia is suing to get out of his Top Rank contract.
Yup, it’s slim pickings over there for Pacquiao.
At Golden Boy Promotions, you won’t be as hard pressed to find a crop of noteworthy young fighters who could compete with Mayweather. With all signs pointing to a September rematch with Maidana, the sport’s premier talent isn’t completely at a loss when looking into the future at potential opponents.
Amir Khan, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia and even Adrien Broner are all names that could be considered formidable whether it comes to in-ring action, overseas drawing power or outside drama that could help drive buys. And, all of those fighters are under the age of 30. None may become the next Mayweather, but the future is in good hands.
Which brings us back to Alvarado and Marquez’s upcoming fight.
Marquez declined a fight with Provodnikov in order to face Alvarado. Although he says that he wouldn’t gain much by defeating Provodnikov, the reality is that “The Siberian Rocky” is far too dangerous of an opponent for the 40-year-old Mexican. Simply put, Alvarado presents the path to Pacquiao with the least resistance. Alvarado’s last five fights have all been hellacious wars and it is very likely that the 33-year-old’s body could betray him once Marquez lands a few of those beautifully timed counters.
This isn’t to say that Marquez-Alvarado isn’t an intriguing fight, because it is. Alvarado’s aggression versus Marquez’ impeccable timing is a recipe for a potential fight of the year. If you’re looking for a fight to compare it to, go back to Marquez’s 2009 “fight of the year” against Juan Diaz where Dinamita turned Diaz’s aggression against him for a scintillating 9th round stoppage. The ingredients are all there for these two to turn in an exhilarating performance.
But today’s version of Marquez is far different than the one who beat Diaz five years ago. He’s noticeably slower and could be susceptible to Alvarado’s aggressive infighting. Even though he stopped Pacquiao, it wasn’t a dominant performance by any means. It was Manny who appeared to be closing in on the stoppage before that picture perfect counter turned the Filipino’s lights off.
As for Alvarado, considering he’s had his brain bounced around in his skull for the past 49 rounds thanks to his crowd-pleasing style, he could be even worse off physically than Marquez. Even still, he could do enough to win the fight and become the mandatory challenger for Pacquiao’s WBO welterweight title.
And then what?
If fight fans weren’t intrigued by the prospect of Pacquiao exacting revenge on Bradley, what will they think of a fight with Alvarado? Not much.
And that’s the dilemma that Arum finds himself in.
If Arum wants to keep Pacquiao happy, he’ll have to bring opponents that are both a challenge and can sell tickets because Pacquiao is all about giving the fans what they want. Marquez sells tickets. Every other welterweight at Top Rank? Not so much.
And with Pacquiao’s promotional contract with Top Rank expiring at the end of the year, it’s not all that farfetched that Pacquiao could defect over to Golden Boy to get the Mayweather fight he and the rest of the universe has desired for the past half decade.
That’s why Arum and company cannot afford for Alvarado to beat Marquez on May 17.