Picks and Predictions: Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado to decide next Pacquiao foe

Chris Farina - Top Rank

Juan Manuel Marquez faces Mike Alvarado tomorrow night on HBO. Will Marquez earn a fifth fight with Manny Pacquiao, or can Alvarado pull the upset?

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Last Week, Kinda

Since I did not make a pick for Stiverne-Arreola last week (I would have picked Stiverne, honest!), I'll look back on what we've missed since then. On April 26, I went 4-for-4, picking Wladimir Klitschko, Keith Thurman, Lucas Matthysse, and Omar Figueroa to win. On May 3, I got the Mayweather over Maidana prediction correct.

So for the Official Bad Left Hook Predictions purposes, I am now 7-1 since starting this gimmick on April 19. Shawn Porter crushing Paulie Malignaggi is my only misstep. Not bad. That's why I'm paid the big bucks to be a genius, and why you should obviously bet your mortgage payments on what I say.*

* Please do not do this. Seriously. Don't do this. I'm on a lucky streak of fights that have been easy to predict right now. Don't bet your mortgage. Don't even bet a McDonald's lunch.

Now let's move on to this week, where we tackle ONE WHOLE FIGHT!

Juan Manuel Marquez vs Mike Alvarado

The narrative that Alvarado (34-2, 23 KO) wants to push is that he's a young, hungry lion. I'm not buying it at all. I mean, I'm not saying he's old, but he's 33 years old. He's not young, either. This is a veteran fighter, same as Marquez. Yes, he's younger than the 40-year-old Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KO), but then you throw in the fact that Alvarado has taken some big punishment over his his career, and is the age really that notable? I don't think so.

In just his last five fights, Alvarado has gone to war with Breidis Prescott, Mauricio Herrera, Brandon Rios (twice), and Ruslan Provodnikov. Prescott, Provodnikov, and the first fight with Rios did significant damage. The Herrera bout and the Rios rematch were no walk in the park, either, but compared to the other three, pretty tidy nights for Mike.

Marquez is aging, but if we're being completely honest here, the last we saw of Juan Manuel Marquez in a competitive loss to Tim Bradley was a hell of a lot better than Alvarado getting absolutely bulldozed by Ruslan Provodnikov. Marquez isn't Provodnikov, but he can punch, he's accurate, and he's a highly skilled guy. He's also ferocious on offense whenever he wants or needs to be, and as he's aged, he's become a very action-oriented fighter for most of his fights, relying less on defensive skill and counter-punching, and often more willing to lead the action. He didn't do that against Bradley, and it wound up costing him the fight.

Alvarado is best when he comes forward and makes the fight happen, but it's kind of a double-edged sword for him in this matchup. Either he lays back and most likely gets outboxed and out-thought by a superior tactician, or he comes forward and takes his chances at being able to close Marquez out with something big. Marquez has hit the canvas several times in his career, but he has the sort of bounce-back ability that we don't see too often. He's got incredible recuperative powers. Manny Pacquiao has floored him over and over, and never put him away. Michael Katsidis ripped Marquez with a bomb a few years ago, and wound up getting stopped in return.

So what do you do if you're Alvarado? Risk getting picked apart on counters and hope that your natural size advantage and on-paper strength advantage will be good enough to do what no one else has? Do you try to feel out Marquez and box him early, see if maybe he can be kept at bay with a longer jab?

I don't know. I mean, I'm not a fighter. I'm not Alvarado. I'm not his trainer or a member of his team. I just can't see a likely way for Alvarado to win this fight, and it boils down to something very simple. He's not as good as Marquez, and the advantages he does seem to have aren't big enough to make up for the difference in their ability. Alvarado is a good fighter. Marquez is a great fighter.

That said, I do believe there is danger here for Marquez. Sure, nobody's ever stopped him, and he fights back from adversity better than anyone in the sport, in my opinion, but he is 40 years old, and he is a naturally smaller man, and he does get caught with big shots shot, Mike Alvarado's power is certainly something Marquez can't just play around with or ignore.

I think there's a low but realistic shot of an upset here. I think Alvarado probably has about a 15-25% chance of winning this fight. It would certainly be a big upset, and it isn't what the money men want, either. Pacquiao-Marquez V is the fight that Top Rank wants, almost certainly, because it's the two biggest names in a storied rivalry, with the last fight shaking the boxing world in 2012. Alvarado can throw a wrench into that, but he's up against it in this fight.

But no matter if you think 15-25% chance is good enough for a fight to be considered competitive, or "worth" your HBO subscription fee, it's also almost a lock that this is going to be a good fight. I think this is a must-see matchup, because both guys are action fighters, both give their all, and both want to make that big impression and land the Pacquiao showdown later this year.

Prediction: I've all but made it already, but I'm going with the legend to set up that fifth Pacquiao fight he didn't want a year and a half ago, but is now the only really big fight out there for him. Marquez by decision, or possible late stoppage.

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