Juan Manuel Marquez has answered all the questions his vocation could pose to him. Now, like a university student who has completed his degree requirements with a few credits remaining, Marquez is in position to take only the electives that interest him. So which course will Marquez choose?
If Marquez is motivated by cultural currency and a sense of closure, he could pursue a fight with fellow Mexican Erik Morales. The only tussle between Mexico’s recent featherweight triumvirate that has yet to take place, Marquez–Morales provides Marquez with the occasion to establish his superiority among the trio, having already defeated Marco Antonio Barrera.
Flashes of guile and machismo notwithstanding, Morales is a greatly diminished fighter. It may reasonably be asked what a victory over the Tijuana fighter means for Marquez at this juncture. Marquez has retained his membership in the sport’s elite, while Morales is coming off of a loss to athletic yet unremarkable junior welterweight Danny Garcia. The careers of Marquez and Morales are on different trajectories. Morales would undoubtedly have his moments—to his credit he will not be denied them—but Marquez would be a prohibitive favorite should they meet.
Regardless of what the odds would likely imply, Marquez–Morales retains plenty of appeal. The traditional boxing ritual of the young scavenging the old is absent in Marquez–Morales, and there is something beautiful in that. Morales, for all his nastiness, has been benevolent to his fans. It would be refreshing to see him returned to retirement by the fists of a man who appreciates success and decline. But promotional acrimony between Top Rank and Golden Boy Promotions probably prevents this fight from happening, but its appeal is undeniable.
Promotional issues are irrelevant in the case of Brandon Rios, who, like Marquez, fights under the Top Rank banner. Indeed, Marquez–Rios was anticipated for July 14th at Texas Stadium, and the recent split-site pay-per-view served as a showcase to build the fight. Rios, however, has raised some concerns–both as a potential opponent for Marquez, and more importantly because of his lack of development.
He has become a bit of an unknown quantity, has Rios, and not in the appealing way produced by indeterminable potential. His failures at the scale are weighted almost as heavily as his recent ring performances, and those performances have become increasingly underwhelming. The regression in Rios’ form and fitness spells disaster against Marquez, who assembles scoring combinations like a Scrabble savant.
Rios has a passionate enough following that Marquez–Rios is an event in Texas, where fans attend fights. Rios’ persistent following means that, regression aside, he has promise as a draw. Top Rank boss Bob Arum may not want to subject Rios to defeat (especially since many thought Rios lost his last fight to sacrificial lamb Richard Abril). Marquez may want Rios, especially after the Abril fiasco; but Arum, with octogenarian eyes fixed on the future, could delay the younger fighter’s comeuppance. A win over Rios would be a laudable accomplishment, but the victory would come with an asterisk and probably be incorrectly assayed according to fan allegiance.
Mike Alvarado, undefeated in 33 fights, has used his last two performances to announce his presence in the junior welterweight division. A barrel-chested bruiser, Alvarado sprinkles enough sweetener into his game to pose a handful of serious questions to Marquez. The Colorado fighter is not only bigger than Marquez; he has also proven to be sturdy, sanguinary, and adaptable.
At the end of his bloody affair with Breidis Prescott, Alvarado looked as if he had kissed a weed-whacker. To his credit, he shrugged off his gruesome lacerations—sending a spray of blood flying—and broke Prescott in the final round. Against Mauricio Herrera two weeks ago, Alvarado let an even fight break out before dominating the second half. But Alvarado’s recent struggles may indicate a lack of pedigree—certainly Marquez would not labor against Prescott. But while his upper body boasts impressive musculature, Marquez’ legs have become increasingly unsteady in recent years. At 140lbs, the fighter to best Marquez need not be his fistic equal. It’s entirely possible that Alvarado’s ability to pressure and absorb could trump the exquisite marksmanship of the aging fighter. That Alvarado poses a greater threat to Marquez and is riding a crest of popularity may make this a more attractive matchup for Top Rank: an Alvarado victory would ensconce him in the sport’s collective consciousness. Marquez probably perceives the threat, but if he is motivated by a fourth Pacquiao fight, he may humor Arum in a gesture of symbiotic quid pro quo. While the Rios fight would garner Marquez more attention, a victory over Alvarado is a superior triumph.
If inferior remakes are more to your liking, Filipino southpaw Mercito Gesta is also available. The advantage of a Gesta fight is that it perpetuates the storyline of Marquez fighting southpaws from the Philippines, but the fight is a remora attached to the belly of a bigger beast. Gesta probably poses the least threat of the quartet; Marquez leaves him in a heap.
Whatever his next move may be, Juan Manuel Marquez is in the enviable position of knowing that the outcome of his next fight can do very little to tarnish his legacy. But if he chooses the right opponent, the ring could bestow even more glory upon him.