Juan Manuel Marquez is one of the smartest, most well-trained boxers of this, or any, generation. He's nearly 41 and fights like he's still 21.
You know what to expect every time out from Marquez. He's going to come in shape, he's going to counter punch expertly and he'll take advantage of every hole, shortcoming or weakness his opponent has, and exploit them to their fullest effect.
His opponent on Saturday in an HBO-televised welterweight fight at the Los Angeles Forum is Mike Alvarado, a talented guy who in many ways is Marquez's polar opposite.
Whereas there are never any questions about Marquez's dedication, questions abound with Alvarado. Marquez is willing to pay any price in training camp to be ready on fight night. Alvarado has made a career out of frustrating his coaches and skipping practice.
In January, a custom Cadillac Escalade that Denver police believe Alvarado purchased was dumped into Sloan Lake. Alvarado has denied involvement, but the police weren't so sure.
That was four months ago, and it's in the past. Just days before the fight, Alvarado is giving the all-clear. He's a charming, engaging guy when he wants to be, which is most of the time, and he's saying all of the right things.
He's coming off a loss to Ruslan Provodnikov in suburban Denver on Oct. 19. He was distracted, he says, by being the local hero fighting at home. He didn't put in the work or show the attention to detail that needs to be done to beat an opponent of Provodnikov's caliber.
He trained in a tiny gym in Los Angeles to prepare himself for Marquez, mostly to avoid the temptations at home.
It's hard not to believe him when he says he did the right things, and he's so charming, it's almost as if you want to believe him.
"I have no pressure and I'm going to go out there and fight Marquez the best way I can," Alvarado told Yahoo Sports. "I trained good. I did what I needed to do. I fixed all the issues in my life. I'm happy. I'm healthy. I'm ready.
"In my heart, win, lose or draw, I'll be fine because I know I gave it my all. If I give it my all, then I'm good with whatever happens."
But Alvarado has a history of saying one thing and doing another, so it's going to take a string of consistent efforts inside the ring to decrease the level of skepticism that surrounds him.
Trainer Shann Vilhauer wasn't pleased with Alvarado after the Provodnikov loss and manager/corner man Henry Delgado was left to explain the issues.
"The whole thing, including the preparation for the fight, was not where it needed to be," Delgado said of Alvarado's training before the Provodnikov bout. "That's what they were talking about. Shann said, 'See what happens when you don't take things as seriously as you should?' That was the consensus, and we are not making any excuses, but that wasn't the Mike Alvarado that everyone came to see fight.
"This time it is completely different. We said, 'This is how you got there and you are letting it go. You've got to do what got you there and now you know how to stay there when you get there, by doing all the things that got you there.' Now he realizes that. It was kind of embarrassing because of the opportunity Top Rank gave us and he didn't take advantage of it."
Part of his preparation issues prior to the Provodnikov fight weren't totally of his making. He was the star of the first major show in the Denver area in years, and he was in high demand.
Top Rank promoted the fight extensively, and Alvarado was all over the news and his face was plastered all over promotional materials. For a fighter who hadn't been through that before, it was a bit much.
Delgado set up a training camp in Los Angeles before the Provodnikov fight, but Alvarado overruled him and said he wanted to train at home.
He said the same thing this time, but Delgado wouldn't hear of it.
"This time, I put my foot down [and forced him to train in Los Angeles]." Delgado said. "There are too many distractions in Denver and Denver is a hotbed of sports with the Broncos. They treat him like a god and they were pulling him in too many different places.
"In Los Angles, he is just another guy and we are getting our training done and taking care of business."
Alvarado insisted he learned from his mistakes and said he's different, both as a man and as a boxer, than he was even last year.
And even though he's fighting a boxing legend in Marquez, a man who figures to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, Alvarado said he's not worried.
"I'm at peace in my life and I'm happy and I'm living the right way," he said. "I've looked hard at my life, inside and outside the ring, and I've learned what I have to do. I'm working hard and I'm taking advantage of the opportunities I have right now.
"When I do the right things, everything seems to fall into place. And I'm committed to doing the right thing from this point on. So I'm at peace and I was able to prepare the way I needed to prepare to fight a guy like Marquez."
He gets an A-plus for his diction.
But the words won't matter when the bell rings at the Forum on Saturday and more than 10,000 fans will be screaming their lungs out for Marquez.
It will be Marquez handing out the grades then, and he's a tough teacher.
- Sports & Recreation