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Thursday, March 13, 2014
Updated: March 22, 12:08 PM ET
Juan Manuel Marquez to fight May 17

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

When Mexican star Juan Manuel Marquez was an unknown fighter on the way up in the 1990s -- long before he would go on to win world titles in four divisions, establish himself as a future Hall of Famer and engage in a historical four-fight series with Manny Pacquiao -- he was a regular on cards at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif., once a boxing hotbed.

Now, after years of dormancy, the Forum is getting back into boxing and Marquez, one of its favorite sons, will headline the first card at the newly refurbished building when he takes on former junior welterweight titlist Mike Alvarado in a welterweight world title elimination bout on May 17 on HBO, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum told ESPN.com on Thursday.

Both fighters have agreed to terms, Arum said, and the winner of the bout, to be contested at a maximum contract weight of 143 pounds, will earn a mandatory shot at the winner of the April 12 rematch between Pacquiao and titleholder Timothy Bradley Jr. 

"Besides the fact that this is a tremendous fight between two exciting fighters, the thing I like most about it is the historical significance," Arum said. "They spent a lot of money refurbishing the Forum and it brings back memories of all the great fights that took place there, like when Muhammad Ali fought Ken Norton there [in their 1973 rematch, which Arum promoted]. Marquez is a guy who earned his bones there. The Forum is where he established himself and this is going to be a great homecoming for him.

"I've been in this business for so long and, to me, the history is important. I'm really thrilled for my company to be re-opening the new Forum for boxing."

In 1995, in the 10th fight of his career, Marquez began fighting regularly at the Forum for the now-defunct Forum Boxing promotional company. It was there where he built his reputation and went from unknown prospect to big-time contender. The 40-year-old Marquez fought there 12 times in all.

"I think this fight has a lot of story lines," Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. "It's at the Forum and it will be raucous, and we know Marquez's history there. And, obviously, when the bell rings it'll be a hellacious fight where neither guy will back up."

Marquez and Alvarado, 33, are both coming off defeats, which adds to their urgency to win this fight.

On Oct. 12 in Las Vegas, Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) lost a split decision challenging Bradley for his title, one fight after Marquez scored a massive one-punch knockout of Pacquiao in their fourth battle. One week after Marquez lost to Bradley, on Oct. 19, Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) lost his 140-pound world title in front of his home crowd in Denver when Ruslan Provodnikov stopped him in the 10th round of a bruising battle.

"Mike is so excited. We have been training already for three weeks. Marquez has always been on our radar and he is the one we always wanted to fight," said Henry Delgado, Alvarado's manager. "This fight is our redemption to all of our fans. Mike knows how important this fight is. We plan to relocate our training to Los Angeles this weekend. What a fight with such a reward -- to fight the winner of Pacquiao versus Bradley.

"This is really an incredible opportunity. We will be fully prepared to fight Marquez on May 17."

Said Moretti, "I think you'll see a more motivated and focused Mike Alvarado. He knows he has to perform well in this fight after the loss at home and it's also a very dangerous fight for Marquez."

Although Marquez had said that he was not interested in a fifth fight with Pacquiao, Arum said he changed his mind and would fight him again as long as Pacquiao defeats Bradley next month. The reason is because it would mean an opportunity to win a world title in a fifth weight class -- no other Mexican boxer has done that -- and he has said that is important to him. And if Bradley beats Pacquiao, it would mean a rematch for Marquez and a chance to not only win the belt but also to avenge a loss.

"Marquez wants to win that title and that's an incentive for taking this fight with Alvarado, because he knows he will get that opportunity if he wins," Arum said. "So if it's Pacquiao, he said he would fight him again, and if Bradley wins, well he wants that fight too. And if Mike wins, he certainly will be a good opponent to fight Bradley or Pacquiao, whoever wins."