Mark E. Ortega

Commentary: Calling Alvarado a ‘quitter’ is unfair

When Tony Weeks went to the corner of Mike Alvarado at the completion of the 10th round during his WBO 140-pound title defense against Ruslan Provodnikov, the veteran referee gave Alvarado every opportunity to continue.

Alvarado’s trainer Rudy Hernandez made it clear that he was intent on stopping the fight, though he gave Alvarado multiple opportunities to say he wanted to continue.

Alvarado stayed quiet. By definition, he quit.

However, for fans and critics to question Alvarado’s manhood and heart afterwards is where a line should be drawn.

Those labeling Alvarado a “quitter” are forgetting what he endured to even make it back to his stool at the end of the 10th.

It was a close fight through seven rounds. That all changed when Provodnikov put Alvarado down early in the eighth after a series of powerful left hooks and body shots. Alvarado beat Weeks’ 10 count by a nanosecond, rising to his feet at a count of nine-and-three quarters.

There was more drama and punishment to come before the round was over. Alvarado was dropped a second time, but made it to his feet again. At this point, the fight could have easily been waved off without too much complaint.

If Alvarado was really looking for a way out of the fight, he could have not gotten up from either knockdown. He also could have stopped fighting, forcing a stoppage from the referee or from his own corner.

Alvarado did the complete opposite. In the final 30 seconds of the eighth round, he mounted a rally. Knowing another knockdown spelled the end, he did everything in his power to remain in the fight.

It’s only because of this that Alvarado even made it to the end of the 10th, giving people the opportunity to call him a “quitter.”

As the fight continued for another two rounds, it became clear that Alvarado’s hopes of winning had all but evaporated. He got beat up in the ninth and 10th.

Most importantly, he hadn’t proved he could hurt Provodnikov, who at this juncture had a wide lead on the scorecards thanks to the two knockdowns. The scores at the time of the stoppage revealed this to be a fact.

“Would Arturo Gatti have quit or gotten off his stool?” one fan Tweeted after the fight.

Probably not. Gatti would have likely found a way to get off his stool and continue the fight. To hold every fighter to the standards of Gatti in the guts and heart department is ludicrous.

By doing so, you’re taking away from what Gatti was able to do when he continued in fights that almost everyone else would have decided it was better to call it a day.

What made Gatti special wasn’t that he was a Terminator who couldn’t be hurt, a la a prime Antonio Margarito. It was that Gatti winced as he was tagged with a number of power punches and decided to continue. It’s also important to note that Gatti had the kind of power that could change a fight at a moment’s notice, no matter the opponent.

Alvarado did not, especially given who he was looking at across the ring.

To hold everyone to the standards of a Gatti or Micky Ward takes away from what made them so special.

It’s fair to point out that Alvarado didn’t continue, but to hold it against him is not.

Certain fighters have earned the respect of the boxing community for their display of grit in tough situations.

Paul Malignaggi was never more respected than when he was handed his first loss by Miguel Cotto. Not universally liked at the time by any means, Malignaggi earned the respect of his biggest detractors by soldiering through the Cotto fight with a busted nose, right eye and badly swollen jaw. Malignaggi’s chances of victory were also extremely slim given his lack of power and the deficit on the scorecards when it occurred.

Other fighters have earned the boxing community’s scorn for not continuing to fight in tough bouts. Victor Ortiz has rightfully and wrongfully been criticized in two different bouts in which he elected not to fight on.

Ortiz headlined at the STAPLES Center in Los Angeles against then-unknown Marcos Maidana. Ortiz almost ended the fight early as he put Maidana on the canvas three times in the opening two rounds.

In other words, Ortiz had proved he could hurt Maidana whereas Alvarado never proved that against Provodnikov on Saturday night in Broomfield, just a short drive from his hometown of Denver.

Ortiz, who was dropped hard in the first round and in the sixth round (from a body shot), did absorb a lot of punishment before calling it a night in the sixth. His face was badly swollen, and after getting up from a second knockdown, turned his back and walked away, giving referee Raul Caiz no choice but to stop it.

Ortiz’s post-fight interview drew as much criticism as his choice not to continue. Ortiz said he didn’t deserve to take that kind of punishment, much to the shock of fans and the boxing community.

It was a much different scenario last June when Ortiz stopped fighting against underdog Josesito Lopez.

In a fight that Ortiz was ahead on the cards, he suffered a broken jaw that had him in immense pain every time Lopez landed a punch. Ortiz had landed some massive shots throughout the fight, but Lopez always seemed to answer back, never looking in much trouble.

Ortiz’s trainer Danny Garcia never thought of trying to stop the fight, forcing Ortiz to make the call himself at the end of the 10th. Ortiz’s corner should have saved him from saying enough was enough for the second time of his career.

Yes, it is fair to acknowledge Ortiz elected not to continue with a broken jaw. That’s what makes it more incredible that Malignaggi and Arthur Abraham somehow endured the same issue in recent years, as well as a handful of others.

Those calling Alvarado a quitter are also forgetting his heroic effort in his first defeat against Brandon Rios last October.

Alvarado took the worst of it during the fight-of-the-year candidate. In the seventh, Alvarado was badly hurt and caught on the ropes, prompting referee Pat Russell to stop it. Alvarado heavily disputed the stoppage as he wanted to continue.

You can also recall Alvarado’s bloody 2011 fight against Breidis Prescott, where he scored a stoppage in the final round after being beat up early in the fight.

In defeat against Provodnikov, Alvarado was classy. He said it was a good stoppage and that he was glad they had his health in mind; otherwise he would have kept going.

There’s no shame in going out that way and it doesn’t make him any less of a man or warrior.

Is Alvarado the next Gatti, ad HBO’s Max Kellerman inferred during the broadcast on Saturday? Not quite. But it’s very likely we don’t see another like Gatti in our lifetime, which is why he resonated so much with boxing fans despite the lack of credentials at the elite level.

One of my favorite fights that doesn’t get talked about often enough is THE RING’s 1991 Fight of the Year between junior bantamweights Robert Quiroga and Akeem Anifowoshe.

It was as brutal of a 12-round bout as you’ll ever see, one where you’re left wondering how either guy saw the final bell.

Anifowoshe’s heroic effort in defeat led to him collapsing in the ring following the announcement of the verdict. His license was revoked in the U.S. for medical reasons and he died three years later in his native Nigeria from brain injuries related to his savage battle with Quiroga.

Had Anifowoshe elected not to get off his stool a few rounds earlier, he might still be alive today.

Had Leavander Johnson decided that it’s a better idea to fight another day when fighting Jesus Chavez in 2005, Twitter boxing experts might have labeled him a “quitter,” but he might also be alive today to hear the criticism rather than fall into a coma and pass away from the injuries sustained in the fight.

Alvarado can be grateful that his short term health was saved as we won’t know the long-term effects of Saturday’s fight for many years.

Fans of boxing forget – but need to be reminded – that this sport isn’t a game. Lives can be lost or otherwise ruined by taking sustained punishment. To expect everyone who steps into a ring to be a Terminator in their ability to absorb punches is not only unfair, it isn’t realistic.

Alvarado did technically quit, but those that paid attention to the fight and his career to this point will know he put forth a great effort in defeat and knew it was the right decision to fight another day.

 

 

 

Photos / Chris Farina-Top Rank, Doug Pensinger-Getty Images, Al Bello-Getty Images, Kevork Djansezian-Getty Images, Jed Jacobsohn-Getty Images, Harry How-Getty Images

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