The Hottest Boxing Storylines for the Week of May 12
It's natural for boxing fans to be feeling a bit of a hangover effect from last weekend's big "The Moment: Mayweather vs. Maidana" pay-per-view, but luckily we have plenty of stories to keep us busy.
Juan Manuel Marquez returns to the ring on Saturday night against Mike Alvarado. How many good fights does the Mexican legend have left in him, and why is he wasting one of them on Alvarado?
Will the winner of that bout face Manny Pacquiao next? And will it take place in Macau?
While we're on the Filipino icon, what's with his sagging PPV numbers?
We have a new heavyweight titleholder—notice we didn't say champion—but does Bermane Stiverne's win do anything to change the heavyweight landscape?
We discuss these and other questions in this week's edition of the hottest storylines in boxing.
Did Juan Manuel Marquez Take the Easy Road?
Marquez returns to the ring on Saturday night at the recently redone Forum in Inglewood, California, and the Mexican legend and future Hall of Famer seems to be taking the path of less resistance.
In his last contest, a welterweight championship challenge against then-undefeated Timothy Bradley last October, Marquez was outboxed by the younger man and had a great deal of difficulty landing clean punches. The fight was somewhat close, yes, but the correct man had his hand raised, despite overblown protestations of a robbery.
Marquez comes up against another younger man in this bout in Alvarado, a former junior welterweight champion. However, unlike the Bradley fight, where the onus was on the champion to prove himself, the weight of expectations has shifted here.
Alvarado is coming off a loss to current WBO 140-pound champion Ruslan Provodnikov, a fight where he quit in front of his hometown fans. While he's tough, few are expecting Alvarado to win.
This fight is a bit of a head-scratcher for Marquez. In January, he told Lem Satterfield of The Ring Magazine that he wasn’t interested in a fight with Provodnikov because all he wanted was another championship and fights that build his legacy.
That makes sense. Marquez will be 41 later this year, and he shouldn’t be bothering with insignificant fights at this point.
But Provodnikov is the champion, and what’s more, he took that belt from Alvarado. And he did it by making him quit at home. So that logic seems a bit shoddy at best.
Marquez should just be straight up. Provodnikov was just too dangerous at this stage, especially with a potentially lucrative fight greeting the winner of this bout. This may not be the easy road—if Alvarado brings his A-game, it could be interesting—but it’s certainly the easier road.
So let's just call it that.
Does the Winner of Marquez vs. Alvarado Get Pacquiao?
Pacquiao got his revenge against Bradley in April, convincingly outpointing the previously undefeated fighter who had received a gift decision over him in 2012 and taking back the WBO Welterweight Championship.
All along the plan has been for the winner of that fight, Pacquiao, to face the winner of this Saturday’s Marquez vs. Alvarado clash in Los Angeles. The assumption is that this mini-tournament format would result in a fifth clash between longtime rivals Pacquiao and Marquez.
All sides of this equation will reserve comment until after this Saturday’s fight—you never want to assume—but Pacquiao’s promoter Bob Arum seemed to indicate, per Steve Kim, that the Filipino icon’s return to the ring would likely come in Macau this November.
Arum engaged in a well-publicized war of words with the MGM Grand in Las Vegas prior to Pacquiao vs. Bradley II, lambasting the hotel for promoting Mayweather vs. Maidana, which was then weeks away, instead of his fight that was days away.
He went so far as to call out MGM leadership in their presence and commented that The Venetian, which hosted Pacquiao’s fight against Brandon Rios in Macau, would never have disrespected his fighters that way.
Given Golden Boy Promotions' full-throated defense of the MGM during last weekend’s Mayweather pay-per-view, you can all but bet that Arum and Top Rank won't seek out or be welcomed back at the MGM in the near future.
The question remains whether Marquez, the favorite to advance to this match, would be willing to take his show to Macau. He has considerable drawing power, and that fight would make more financial sense in Las Vegas, Los Angeles or maybe even Dallas at AT&T Stadium (formerly Cowboys Stadium).
Does Bermane Stiverne's Win Change the Heavyweight Landscape?
Bermane Stiverne became the first Haitian-born fighter to capture a share of the heavyweight crown Saturday night on ESPN, coming from behind to stop Chris Arreola in Round 6 and secure the WBC Heavyweight Championship.
The title, which was vacated by Vitali Klitschko upon his retirement from boxing, is largely symbolic on its own—Wladimir is the legitimate champion until he loses or retires—but it does pave the way for a shot at the real title.
Stiverne, who broke Arreola’s nose and won a lopsided decision in their first bout, struggled early in the fight when the “Nightmare” let his hands go and attacked. But the fight turned when he was able to connect with a right hand to the temple that sent Arreola to the canvas and effectively ended the fight.
Another knockdown and several big punches later, referee Jack Reiss stepped in and halted the contest.
Deontay Wilder, he of the perfect 31 knockouts in 31 fights, is the mandatory challenger for the new champion, and while he stated he wanted to face the winner, the IBF has mandated that Klitschko defend his title against Kubrat Pulev.
Assuming he gets past that fight, a fair assumption until proven otherwise, the winner of Stiverne vs. Wilder would be the biggest and potentially most threatening fight that Klitschko has faced during his reign.
For the first time in quite some time, the heavyweight division could be on its way to relevance again.
Oh, and Don King is back.
Is Manny Pacquiao Still a Draw at the Box Office?
Pacquiao got a dose of good news when the judges rendered the correct verdict in his rematch against Bradley in April, but this past week he got a bit of bad news.
The fight, which was billed as the most hotly anticipated rematch of the year, turned out to be something of a dud at the box office.
According to ESPN.com, the fight drew in somewhere between 750,000 and 800,000 buys on pay-per-view. That number is down from the first fight, which was purchased by 890,000 homes.
That’s a huge disappointment for Pacquiao, Top Rank and HBO, all of which heavily touted the potential marketability of a redux of 2012’s most controversial decision.
And it doesn’t stand to reason. Pacquiao has always been one of boxing’s biggest draws, and Bradley upped his stock by winning the 2013 Fight of the Year over Provodnikov and clearly decisioning Marquez.
It’s possible that fans were still annoyed over feeling jobbed by the bad decision in the first fight. That’s the best-case scenario.
Of course, it’s also possible that Pacquiao is no longer the draw he was when he was buzz-sawing through the ranks. That’s a far more troubling possibility for Pac-Man and his team, but it’s a question that is worth asking.
Will the Forum Become a Big-Time Venue for Boxing?
For years, the Forum in Inglewood was one of the most iconic sports venues in the country. It played host to the Los Angeles Lakers, the Los Angeles Kings and even Muhammad Ali’s 1973 rematch against Ken Norton.
In 2012, after a couple of years as, no joke, a church-owned site that was used primarily for prayer services and occasionally leased out for sports events, it was purchased by the Madison Square Garden Company and completely revamped.
Big-time boxing returns to the venue on Saturday night when Marquez and Alvarado will meet, presumably for the right to challenge Pacquiao later in the year.
Marquez is still one of the biggest names in boxing, and he’ll almost certainly draw well at the venue, owing to Los Angeles’ large population of rabid Mexican boxing fans.
And if this fight does well, you can all but bank on more fights finding their way to the Forum in the future. And that’s a great thing for the sport.