Mike Alvarado was left in the gutter of boxing, about to be forgotten forever — or so he thought. One brutal loss on a bright stage can feel like 100 losses.

So Alvarado was surprised — after losing a home crowd bout in Colorado against Russian Ruslan Provodnikov in October — when Mexican star Juan Manuel Marquez came calling next.

"It's nice to know the boxing world hasn't given up on me — that they see something huge in me," Alvarado said by phone Wednesday from Los Angeles. "The chance to redeem myself against a legend, is so huge."

Denver's Alvarado, the one-time World Boxing Organization junior welterweight champ, will face Marquez on May 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

The fight is a chance to revive for both boxers — for Alvarado after his 10th-round retirement loss to Provodnikov in Broomfield and Marquez after a decision loss to Tim Bradley in an October title fight.

"I thought I'd have to get back to the drawing board and work back up," Alvarado said. "This is still a surprise to me, to be fighting a boxing legend. It's a huge opportunity. This is deep for me.

"It's like a real life dream come true."

Alvarado (34-2, 23 knockouts), despite going 1-2 over his past three fights, has proved one of the more exciting boxers in the sport. His back-and-forth with Brandon Rios over two bloody fights netted Alvarado his first career loss, in the first fight, and a WBO world title, in the rematch.

"We've always recognized Mike's talent," said Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, Alvarado's promoter. "Rather than step him way back and cut him down in what he could earn, we figured we could get him a big fight and have another go with him.

Mike Alvarado.
Mike Alvarado. (Gene Blevins, LA Daily News)

"He makes great fights."

Arum believes Alvarado fought a blockheaded fight in his loss to Provodnikov.

"He didn't fight a smart fight against Provodnikov," Arum said of Alvarado. "He's much more talented than he showed. I think he'll train harder for this."

Against Marquez, the man who knocked out Manny Pacquiao in 2012's fight of the year, Alvarado will need to add some wisdom to his brawn, Arum said.

"Alvarado has to realize that Marquez is a great counter-puncher. And it has to be controlled aggression on his part," Arum said. "If he goes in uncontrolled, Marquez will pick him apart."

Marquez (55-7-1, 40 KOs), at 40 years old, may be on his last hurrah of fights.

But the Alvarado-Marquez winner has been promised a fight against the winner of an April 12 bout between Pacquiao and Bradley for a world title.

"Alvarado is a big, tough fighter who gives it all in the ring and I expect a difficult fight," Marquez said.

Denver's Alvarado, who will get big billing on an HBO broadcast in a fourth consecutive fight, said he will change his approach against Marquez.

"I think I was looking past Provodnikov and not staying hungry for it," Alvarado said. "Staying focused and hungry is key. I know I can't toy around for this fight.

"I'm good — but I'm not better than good yet. My goal is to be great, not just good."

Nick Groke: ngroke@denverpost.com or twitter.com/nickgroke