Marquez-Alvarado winner cuts to the front of WBO line

By Lyle Fitzsimmons | CBSSports.com

Juan Manuel Marquez could find himself back in the ring with Manny Pacquiao if he beats Mike Alvarado. (USATSI)
Juan Manuel Marquez could find himself back in the ring with Manny Pacquiao if he beats Mike Alvarado. (USATSI)

It seems like déjà vu, but that's only because we've all been here before.

Provided he steps past one remaining obstacle on Saturday night, it seems the path is cleared for Juan Manuel Marquez – who turns 41 years old in August, by the way – to do battle once again with a man he's already engaged four times over 42 rounds and 10 years, Filipino superstar Manny Pacquiao.

Top Rank czar Bob Arum is eager to set up round five between the decade-long rivals, and the cherry on top this time is that a late 2014 showdown would be for the World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight title Pacquiao regained by beating Timothy Bradley last month in Las Vegas.

In fact, Marquez's weekend fight at the Forum in Inglewood, Calif. is conveniently billed as an official elimination bout for that WBO belt, which means Saturday's winner will become the Puerto Rico-based sanctioning body's mandatory challenger for Pacquiao.

That's in spite of the reality that neither Marquez nor his opponent for the West Coast get-together, Mike Alvarado, are ranked by the WBO at 147 pounds.

Marquez was labeled the WBO's “super champion” at 140 pounds in the ratings posted on the organization's website as of Wednesday morning, while Alvarado is slotted fifth at junior welterweight and hasn't weighed more than 140 for a fight since 2010. The WBO's No. 1 challenger at 147 pounds, incidentally, is one Bethel Ushona, a 32-year-old who's fought 26 of his 34 pro fights in Namibia.

Ushona will also be fighting Saturday night, but don't look for it on HBO – which will carry the Marquez-Alvarado fight atop a two-fight show airing live at 10:15 p.m. ET. Instead, he'll be matched with the equally anonymous Ebenezer Lamptey in a scheduled 12-rounder for the WBO's African title at a park in Omuthiya, a town of about 4,000 residents that lies 80 miles from Namibia's northern border with Angola.

Not quite on the level of Southern California “fabulous” provided by the Forum, whose relationship with boxing will be rekindled for the first time since 1999 – when regular twice-monthly shows at the venue ended.

“I'm very excited,” Arum said. “One of the advantages of being around this sport so long is, yeah, you get old, but you have so many memories and you remember what was important. And I'll never forget this building and how important it was for the sport of boxing.”

Less important to the WBO, apparently, are contenders already in line for a title shot alongside Ushona, a list that includes Adrien Broner and Frankie Gavin at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, along with former champions Robert Guerrero (No. 9) and Devon Alexander (No. 12) and unbeaten Washington, D.C. prospect Dusty Hernandez Harrison at No. 15.

The problem for them all, it seems, lies within the organization's own curious regulations, which require that a mandatory challenger be the highest classified available boxer who, in the judgment of the World Championship Committee best satisfies a three-pronged set of criteria.

The top-ranked Ushona, based on his No. 1 slot, apparently clears the first hurdle of having “a record acceptable to the World Championship Committee” and being “recognized by the World Championship Committee as a class boxer,” along with the second step that mandates compliance “with the WBO and Association of Boxing Commissions Criteria for the Ratings of Professional Boxers.”

But he falls woefully short on the third, which draws a direct line between title shots and out-of-ring influence by requiring the mandatory challenger “in the event that the champion has a contract with a major television network, is an acceptable challenger to the champion's television network.”

HBO's purchase of Marquez-Alvarado – and the fact that it's shown each of Pacquiao's last five fights, and all four with Marquez since 2004 – clearly shows it's on-board with whatever comes out of California, with no tangible concern for whether the WBO's rankings, or its rules, are the bigger laughingstock.

And in reality, it's pretty doubtful Marquez cares either as he hones in on Arum's future carrot.

“We all want the fifth title. It's very important to all of us,” he said. “That's the motivation now to keep going. The first thing is Alvarado, but we know that the fifth fight with Pacquiao is a possibility.”

Weekend Watch List

Fox Sports 1 -- Thursday, 10 p.m.

Antonio Orozco vs. Martin Honorio -- 10 rounds, junior welterweights

Manuel Avila vs. David De La Mora -- 10 rounds, junior featherweights

Manuel Roman vs. Jose Silveira -- six rounds, bantamweights

ESPN2 -- Friday, 9 p.m.

Delvin Rodriguez vs. Joachim Alcine -- 10 rounds, junior middleweights

Derric Rossy vs. Joe Hanks -- 10 rounds, heavyweights

Showtime -- Friday, 10 p.m.

Joel Diaz vs. Tyler Asselstine -- 10 rounds, junior lightweights

Frank Galarza vs. Sebastien Bouchard -- eight rounds, junior middleweights

HBO -- Saturday, 10:15 p.m.

Juan Manuel Marquez vs. Mike Alvarado -- 12 rounds, welterweights

Viktol Postol vs. Selcuk Aydin -- 12 rounds, junior welterweights

UniMas -- Saturday, 11 p.m.

Jose Ramirez vs. Jesus Selig -- six rounds, junior welterweights

Gary Salazar vs. Daniel Valdivia -- four rounds, featherweights

Andy Ruiz vs. Manuel Quezada -- 10 rounds, heavyweights

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