The future of some of boxing's best fighters will be decided on Saturday when Juan Manuel Marquez returns to The Forum in Los Angeles to meet Mike Alvarado in what figures to be an entertaining welterweight bout.
By itself, the Marquez-Alvarado fight has plenty of significance because of what could come next. Another loss for Marquez would be his second in a row, and would make selling a fifth fight against Manny Pacquiao even harder.
An Alvarado defeat would also be his second in a row and the third in his last four. That would raise questions about whether the public would accept him as a top-level attraction.
But the outcome of Saturday's fight will impact the futures not only of the men in the ring but also of Pacquiao, Brandon Rios, Timothy Bradley, Ruslan Provodnikov and Jessie Vargas, among others.
Top Rank is looking to make a marquee fight for Pacquiao, likely in November in Macau, China. Given the disappointing nature of his pay-per-view performance in his April 12 win over Bradley – roughly 800,000 buys – Pacquiao needs a top-level opponent to help him sell.
That would be particularly true if the fight indeed is in Macau, where the pay-per-view number would drop by as much 25 to 40 percent. Because of comments made last month by Top Rank CEO Bob Arum about executives at MGM Resorts, it doesn't seem feasible that the MGM Grand would be interested in working with the company any time soon.
That greatly limits Top Rank's options for a Pacquiao fight and might make it more likely that Pacquiao's next fight will be in Macau.
But whether that is against Marquez, should he win on Saturday, is hard to say. Marquez hasn't been interested in a fifth fight against his long-time rival, but the fact that Pacquiao holds the WBO welterweight title might help him to overcome his objections.
Top Rank president Todd duBoef said nothing is outlined and that he wants to keep his options open and see what happens in the fight.
"Anybody who knows boxing would tell you that Marquez-Alvarado is a great fight," duBoef said. "Boxing fans are really excited about this fight, because they know both guys have long histories of putting on great events.
"What this does for the winner will depend on many things, including how the fight goes and what everyone thinks. But there are tremendous options there. Pacquiao would reap the most economic benefits for the winner, and so I'm sure that will be a factor, but we have a lot to consider and I don't want to corner myself with just one option."
DuBoef said that while he doesn't believe a loss will terribly hurt either fighter, a sensational victory would be an incredible boost.
That would be especially true if the winner is Alvarado, who is attempting to move into the elite range.
But duBoef said that if Alvarado were beaten, he'd still have plenty of options.
"I think we have to get away from this thinking that a loss in one fight is going to kill your career," duBoef said. "It's not about that. What kind of fight was it? Did people like it? Do they want to see you fight again? I mean, if for a second we assume that Marquez wins, are you telling me that you wouldn't want to see Alvarado fight Rios again? Of course you would. Of course you would.
"That's because they've had two great fights and it would be a great fight if they fought again. So, it's not so much about winning and losing, it's about putting together the fights the people want to see."
Putting together the fights the people want to see is code for saying the fight they'll buy on pay-per-view.
Marquez and Pacquiao have fought four sensational fights, each almost more exciting than the next.
If they fight for a fifth time later this year, that would mean their series would cover more than a decade. They first fought on May 8, 2004, when Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the first round. But Marquez battled back and the fight was scored a split draw.
They then rematched in 2008, which was a close Pacquiao win; 2011, which was another close Pacquiao win; and 2012, which was a sixth-round knockout victory for Marquez.
But before that fight is contemplated, Marquez needs to get past Alvarado on Saturday. Marquez knows the threat Alvarado poses and insists he's ready for the challenge.
"He's big and he's strong and he can do a lot of things in there," Marquez said of Alvarado. "He's not going to go away (easily)."
Neither will Marquez. Alvarado raved about Marquez and repeatedly referred to him as a legend. Marquez is about seven years older and Alvarado said he remembers watching many Marquez fights from The Forum, where he built his reputation.
Marquez has fought 10 times at The Forum, going 10-0 with eight stoppages. They came when he was a featherweight on the rise. He last fought there in 1999, when Alvarado was just 18.
"I was really heavily into wrestling at that time, but I remember seeing him fight a lot (at The Forum)," Alvarado said. "It's sort of crazy and very uplifting to me that here I am now fighting this guy I used to love to see on TV."
Futures will be decided when they meet, and more than just their own.
That fact alone gives plenty of extra significance to what already appears to be a terrific match.