It isn't often that a loss can send a fighter into the biggest fight of his career. But for the all-action Mike Alvarado, that's exactly what took place.
One fight removed from losing his junior welterweight title by stoppage against Ruslan Provodnikov last October, Alvarado will square off in a welterweight title eliminator on Saturday against Juan Manuel Marquez at The Forum in Inglewood, California (HBO, 10:15 p.m. ET/PT).
Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) enters the bout, contested at a catch weight of 144 pounds, coming off a loss of his own last October by split decision against Timothy Bradley Jr. But both he and Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) will be competing for a worthy prize -- a potential fall date with Manny Pacquiao.
For Alvarado, 33, who built a name for himself with a pair of memorable action fights against Brandon Rios, the fight represents his biggest chance to begin a run on the elite level. In order to maximize his chances, he moved his training camp from his hometown of Denver to Los Angeles.
Alvarado recently took time away from camp to talk with ESPN.com about regaining his focus:
What does it mean to land a fight against such an all-time great name in Marquez?
It feels great. It makes me feel more confident to know that I'm still alive in this game. I don't have to really start over too much and work my way back up. I still have this huge opportunity at hand right now and that means a lot and gives me that much more confidence. It helps me in training to have the right attitude. I'm happy and just excited.
At 33 and having taken part in five consecutive all-action fights, there's a concern that you've been in too many wars and are no longer the same fighter. How does that sit with you?
It motivates me a lot. People would never know. They are not here. They don't know what's going on inside my head or mind, or how I feel. It's just all opinions. It gives me more motivation to be more determined to do better and to show them. I know. I'm happy with myself. I know deep down inside my heart and my mind that I'm good and I'm ready. I know what I deserve and what level I can push it to.
You had some success boxing early on against Provodnikov in your last fight. But what's your biggest regret in how the fight ended up playing out?
I guess just not being as focused as I should have been in that fight. The preparation was good but it wasn't great. I should have prepared a little bit more. I wasn't as hungry. I was kind of looking past Provodnikov. I wasn't really into him as much as I should have been. I was kind of underestimating him for that fight. I was mentally not as focused as I am now. I've got that hunger back now. This fight is huge for me. It's a big step in my life and it's going to show.
You entered the Provodnikov fight fresh off the biggest victory of your career in the rematch against Rios. What was the reason for your focus not being where it should have been?
[The aftermath of the Rios win] was really overwhelming at times. And then to show up at home and have my whole hometown and my supporters, it kind of got to me a little bit. I guess I wasn't as hungry as I should have been after getting that title. It was like humility. [The Provodnikov loss] made me more humble again to look at what I was losing out on. It showed me that [the title] was precious to me and I needed to keep that hunger.
How important was it for you to move your training camp from your hometown of Denver to Los Angeles for the Marquez fight?
It was pretty important. I was coming off a loss in my hometown. I needed to change up the scenery and change up the vibe. That was what I needed -- to soul search a little more and to get away and look within. I had to really observe and search for this and put more heart into it. And it was good. I had a great camp.
Marquez, despite turning 40, has been able to maintain his standing as a pound-for-pound level fighter. How much do you think he has declined in recent years?
I know he is very well-experienced and he knows this game. He has taken care of himself, so I don't take nothing from Marquez. I give him all the respect in the world. I don't believe it's his time now, though. I do believe it's my time, and it's his time to pass it to me. I'm going to be ready for any Marquez that comes out that night, but I do believe deep down in my heart that it's time for him to hang it up and it's time for someone else to run that torch.
How confident are you that you'll be able to impose your size and will on Marquez at this point in his career?
I believe I will. I really do believe that. I'm going to force that to him. I'm going to make him see that I am the younger fighter. I have been in many wars but I haven't been in as many tough fights throughout my career that he has. He is going to feel that. I'm going to show him that I'm the younger, stronger, bigger fighter in the ring that night. I'm going to make him dig deep and realize that himself. That's my goal. That's my mental and physical goal to make him feel that throughout the fight.
With the potential of a fifth fight against Manny Pacquiao lingering in the distance for Marquez, do you believe there's any chance he is looking past you entering this fight?
I think he kind of is overlooking me. That's what it kind of seems like. But at the same time, he's still going to have to get in there and fight me. He's in there with someone who is hungry for this win. Someone who is bigger and stronger and can implement different things and someone who is going to try to take that from him. That's my goal -- to exploit that. It's time for him to hang it up and time for someone else to take over in this boxing game right now at the level that he's on. I'm ready.
How much does the idea of playing the spoiler for Marquez's best-laid plans motivate you?
It definitely does. I've fought on a lot of undercards on a lot of Pacquiao fights and [Miguel] Cotto. I've always been in great, exciting fights and have kind of spoiled the surprise of the main event and have kind of stolen the show a little bit. I like being in that kind of spot.
Win or lose against Marquez, how much unfinished business do you feel you still have with Rios after two grueling battles against him?
That's open, always. That fight is inevitable. Me and Brandon went 1-1. That fight is definitely going to be an option later on down the road. We could be 40 years old, 50 years old and that trilogy will still matter. We'll see what happens in our next few fights.
How much of a deep-rooted respect and friendship have you and Rios developed after going through such tough fights against each other?
I felt like we developed that, definitely. We fought our hearts out against each other. Knowing that, we've got that mutual respect for one another. It was already like that we were cool to each other, but we really respect each other. There's no need for any kind of hype when we enter the ring, because people know we are going to put on a great show every time.
What drives you to keep chasing your goals at this point in your career?
What drives me is the want to be better. The want to make more of a mark, the same way Marquez did. He's a boxing legend, and when people just say his name, you know it's a name that people will remember. I want to make a mark. I don't want to just be good, I want to be great. I want people to say that I was a great fighter as well. I want to leave a mark in this game.