Stay In Your Lane, Mike Alvarado

It is difficult for me to recall more than one or two phrases, quotes, or pieces of advice that I could live by and consider my “mantra.” The one quote I can remember and that I have to remind myself of every so often is – “stay in your lane.” That basic idea of this quote is to keep doing what you are really good at and don’t stray too far away from your core competency.

Now, you would think that I heard this from someone important – in a speech by a President, a sermon by a Priest, or maybe something my grandfather told me when I told him I wanted to be an artist even though I couldn’t color inside the lines of my coloring book. But the source may surprise you.
In an interview some years back, Dave Chappelle said “stay in your lane” to a fellow comic who was seeking advice. This was at the height of Dave’s stardom when his television show, “The Chappelle Show” took Comedy Central by storm and pushed the boundaries of comedic television.

On Saturday night at The Forum, in what was the first fight at the historic venue since 2001, Forum-veteran and Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez squared off against young brawler Mike Alvarado in a bout that had significant ramifications on both fighters’ careers. In what turned out to be a tale of two fights – Marquez owned rounds one through six until Alvarado finally woke up – fight fans were treated to an exciting bout between two warriors that reopened the famous venue and exceeded expectations.

Even though the fight turned out to be exciting, it was apparent that Marquez won nearly every round. For me, the big takeaway was that one fighter “stayed in his lane” and the other was swerving all over the road with reckless abandonment.

Juan Manuel Marquez, in what was his thirteenth fight at The Forum and the venue where he began his career 18 years ago, was able to utilize his smarts, savvy counterpunching attack and revitalized power to put Mike Alvarado to the canvas once, battering Alvarado’s face and ultimately winning the fight by unanimous decision. Not only did Marquez land at will with four and five punch combinations, but he also floored Alvarado in round eight, sending the Denver-native halfway across the ring and nearly through the ropes. Alvarado beat the count as the bell rang and the round came to a close.

Marquez has always been a phenomenal counterpuncher, who had made his bones on anticipating his opponent’s attacks and using his speed to disrupt their offensive strategies. The anomaly in the latter years of Marquez’s career has been his recent increase in power. Add in the fact that he is 40 years old and at the tail end of his career and you have to ask question: How is his power getting better at this age?

In his last bout against Manny Pacquiao, Marquez looked like a college athlete who spent the winter bulking up for spring break to Panama City Beach. And we all know how that fight worked out. And on Saturday, Marquez, who was sporting a ripped physique, was able to physically dominate a bigger man who is over ten years younger in age and has taken Ruslan Provodnikov and Brandon Rios’s best punches for over 30 total rounds.

In the other corner while Marquez was busy “being Marquez” and using his 20 years of ring experience to dominate the first six rounds, Mike Alvarado started the fight flat, slow and at times looked confused. His corner consistently begged him to fight like he knows how, but something wasn’t clicking for Alvarado on Saturday night.

The fight changed slightly in round nine as Alvarado found something that allowed him to attack Marquez, beat his counterpunching attack and send him to the mat with a big right hand. It appeared this was the Mike Alvarado of old. It appeared that he was able to steer that car back in his lane. As he went back to his corner after a strong round that included a knockdown, Alvarado’s corner vehemently reminded him that he needed to do what he does best. He needed to punch. He needed to punch hard and often if he wanted to win the fight. He needed to stay in his lane.

As the rounds came and went and the fight came to a close, it was apparent that Alvarado needed a knockout to win the fight. He was behind on all scorecards and it was an easy decision as Juan Manuel Marquez added another win to his resume, which includes 56 wins and only 7 losses. The win was satisfying for Marquez and his fans, which was a Mexican-heavy hometown crowd for Marquez. The win also gave Marquez a mandatory shot at current titleholder, Manny Pacquiao, in what would be a historic fifth fight between the two and certainly be a big ticket event for Bob Arum and Top Rank.

The outcome for Mike Alvarado was less than ideal as he now has two losses in a row and will take a few steps back in the overall rankings for the division. The good news for Alvarado is that if he does choose to stay in his lane and fight like he knows, then he is almost guaranteed a third fight with Brandon Rios in what will go down as one of the most memorable trilogies in boxing history.

While the outlook for Alvarado is not terrible despite the two consecutive losses, it is disappointing for me as someone who enjoys watching him fight. He was successful when he was Mike Alvarado. He was outclassed when he tried to be someone other than Mike Alvarado. As a Mike Alvarado fan, I am hoping he learns from this and uses the heart, skill, and relentless pressure that has made him a must-watch fighter. Personally, I can’t wait until Rios-Alvarado III.

There is something off about Juan Manuel Marquez. While Marquez has been the consummate professional for nearly twenty years, taking any fight that is out there and consistently putting on good fights, I can’t get over the recent increase in power. The historic straight right-hand that almost ended the career of Pacquiao was a great punch that Marquez described as “the perfect punch.” But it is Marquez’ physique at his advanced age that raised some eyebrows. And on Saturday night, when Alvarado went flying halfway across the ring, my first thought was suspicious at best. We will just have to wait and see how pre-fight test results come back.

At this point I am preparing myself for Marquez-Pacquiao V. I have seen that movie before and unfortunately I will go see it again.

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