LOS ANGELES -- Mexican legend Juan Manuel Marquez and former junior welterweight titleholder Mike Alvarado are both coming off losses, giving each of them a greater sense of urgency to defeat the other.
Two losses in a row would be a huge setback. Then, add to that the fact that the reward for such a victory is about as big as it gets in boxing -- a mandatory shot against the great Manny Pacquiao for the welterweight world title he regained April 12 with a unanimous decision against Timothy Bradley Jr. in their rematch.
So a fight many expect to be an intense battle has twofold importance to the combatants when Marquez and Alvarado square off in a welterweight title elimination bout Saturday night (HBO, 10:15 ET/PT) as boxing returns to The Forum in Inglewood, which has a rich history in the sport (and is also where a young Marquez fought 12 times from 1995 to 1999), for the first time since 2001.
The winner of the fight, which will be contested at a maximum weight of 143 pounds, probably will get a shot at Pacquiao in the fall. But first things first -- a likely grueling battle Saturday.
"Mike Alvarado is a strong fighter. He is a great fighter. He wants to win and I want to win so that will make it a great fight," said Marquez, still going strong at age 40. "The people want to see these kinds of fights. He likes to fight and I like to fight so that's what makes a great fight.
"I need to use all of my experience in the ring. This fight will be a war."
"Style-wise he is going to be tailor-made," a confident Alvarado said. "I have been watching a lot of films and everyone knows -- they have been watching Marquez for a long time -- he is a legend in the sport and has made his mark, but he's not a hard man to figure out.
"Coming off a loss for him it is going to be very interesting to see how much Marquez has left in his career, so I am going to exploit every weakness he has to see how much he has left in him."
In the opening bout of the telecast, junior welterweights Viktor Postol (25-0, 10 KOs), 30, of Ukraine, and Selcuk Aydin (26-2, 19 KOs), 30, of Turkey, will fight a title eliminator for the right to become 140-pound champion Danny Garcia's mandatory challenger.
Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs) and Alvarado (34-2, 23 KOs) lost their previous fights in October. Marquez dropped a split decision challenging then-titleholder Bradley, who then lost to Pacquiao. A week later, Alvarado, making his first junior welterweight title defense -- and doing so in his hometown of Denver -- got knocked down twice by Russian brawler Ruslan Provodnikov and was trailing on all three scorecards before retiring on his stool following the 10th round.
Marquez briefly considered retirement after the loss, but that didn't last long.
"I rested for one month then I went back to the gym to train for this fight," he said. "For this fight I have trained for three months and now I am ready for a fight."
The 33-year-old Alvarado absorbed tremendous punishment in the loss to Provodnikov and sees the fight with Marquez as a chance for redemption.
"I took a couple months to put that fight [against Provodnikov] behind me. Knowing that it was in my hometown, in front of all my people and my family, it was tougher mentally. But physically I am fine -- I got past it," Alvarado said. "I just focused on my health and I was good. Then I began to focus on which fight was going to be next."
He was surprised -- and delighted -- to land such a significant fight with Marquez after being knocked out.
"I was surprised a little bit but I know that I deserve it," he said. "Top Rank has had my back the whole time and my will is that much stronger, more so than I showed that night against Provodnikov. They blessed me with another opportunity and I am going to step up to the plate to put on a better show and back it up once again. I am here to put on a better show and perform at a higher level. This is where I belong and I am going to show that this weekend."
Whoever wins, Pacquiao, and the giant payday that goes with such a fight, looms.
Top Rank chairman Bob Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, Marquez and Alvarado, said he would line up the winner to face Pacquiao in the fall.
"The first thing I did was talk to Manny and he is up to fight the winner," Arum said. "There is nothing contractual with the two fighters that are fighting Saturday, but they know I will offer the winner a fight with Manny and it's up to the winner to accept or reject it. So that's where we stand. Manny has agreed to fight the winner, so I would say that once we got the terms straightened out it would be a done deal."
For Marquez, beating Alvarado would mean a fifth fight with his storied rival. Marquez is 1-2-1 against Pacquiao in their legendary series, but their most recent fight, in December 2012, ended with the only definitive result -- Pacquiao unconscious after being crushed by a right hand at the end of the sixth round for one of the most dramatic knockouts in boxing history.
Marquez, who has won world titles in four weight classes from featherweight to junior welterweight, vowed after the fight that he was done with Pacquiao for good, but the loss to Bradley and the burning desire to become the first Mexican fighter to win a world title in five divisions had a way of making him reconsider another fight with the Filipino icon.
"I want to make history by winning another world title," Marquez said. "[Titles in five divisions by a Mexican], it's something that has never been done. That is what I am looking forward to towards the end of my career, to win that next world title. I think even [trainer] Nacho [Beristain] will tell you that we all want to win the fifth world title. Five world titles in five weight divisions -- that's what makes us keep going."
But Marquez said he will not look too far ahead with Alvarado in front of him.
"It is not too difficult for me because I do not look past Mike Alvarado," Marquez said. "I concentrate only on this fight. Maybe in the future I think about that fight [with Pacquiao] but right now the most important fight of my career is against Alvarado because he is a strong fighter and a tough fighter. Right now all I am thinking is Alvarado.
"My thinking is first things first. If I win the fight then I will think about Manny Pacquiao. I will fight the fight on Saturday then go from there."
Marquez also laughs off the accusation from some that he avoided Provodnikov to instead fight the man he beat.
"Provodnikov fights at 140 pounds and Mike Alvarado is a welterweight fight," Marquez said. "Provodnikov is a great fighter but I want the champion. If I fight with Provodnikov I would not get the mandatory to fight the welterweight champion."
Alvarado also would like the opportunity to challenge Pacquiao but he knows that won't happen without beating Marquez.
"I am anxious to fight Pacquiao. Pacquiao has made his mark in boxing," Alvarado said. "This fight is my redemption to all of my fans. I know how important this fight is. What a fight with such a reward -- to fight [Pacquiao]. This is an incredible opportunity. I will be fully prepared to fight Marquez.
"[Being the underdog] is very motivating. It helps me in my training and gives me more focus in training knowing that a win here will only lead to bigger opportunities. It helps me train harder and helps me push through what I need to push through to be ready for the fight."