Saturday night at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the world was treated to the fourth installment of what is arguably one of the most action packed rivalries in boxing as Featherweight Rafael Marquez (39-5, 35 KO’s) came determined to even up the score against his ultimate rival, former three time titlist, Israel Vazquez (44-4. 33 KO’s), who had won their last two contests. The fight was fought at 125 pounds. In four fights, only once had it gone the distance. This would be the shortest of their fights so far, with Marquez winning by KO in three rounds. Marquez is the better boxer and Vazquez is the bigger puncher. Ultimately, both men possess a nearly equal level of ability, which is the stuff great fights are made of.
If Vazquez would’ve won, he’d have been up 3-1 and it might’ve been over. But Marquez, who came in with a new trainer and even sharper boxing skills than last time was able to make quick work of his rival by busting up his eyes and never letting up on the gas.
In their first fight, back in March of 2007, Marquez won when Vazquez’ retired in his corner after sustaining a broken nose and couldn’t breathe well enough to continue. Marquez looked very satisfied to have finally beaten Vazquez Saturday night after having lost their last two encounters, the last one in 2008 by Split Decision and the fight prior to that (in 2007) by TKO in six.
Vazquez landed a big right to start things off. Marquez jabbed and landed frequently, setting up his combos, which were effective. Vazquez left eye began swelling early from the Marquez jabs. Marquez punched in combination from low to high, catching Vazquez on both body and head. Vazquez was less effective, landing a few good shots but one at a time, including a nice left to the face near the end of the round. Marquez was more active and effective overall. 10-9 Marquez.
Vazquez was cut over left eye.
They mix it up quickly. Lots of back and forth action. Both threw often, and a rhythm of jabs, feints and body shots saw the second round much like the first and just like the rest of their fights. Marquez, the finer technician, was able to land the better shots and block much of Vazquez’ returns. Vazquez pressed, looking to land something big that might even things up but Marquez was just elusive enough to evade the bombs and force Vazquez to box and chase him, which set things up for Marquez to counter punch when Vazquez got in close enough to land anything. Vazquez landed a few more good shots, many jabs hitting the cut eye. Vazquez landed a few but Marquez moved outside, then came back in with a series of punches that had to hurt Vazquez. They exchange words and then tap gloves at the end of the round. A head butt helped worsen the cut on Vazquez eye. A few Marquez rights near the end of the round tested Vazquez durability. 10-9 Marquez.
Between rounds, Vazquez corner worked on the eye, which was worsening quickly.
Vazquez must’ve had a hard time seeing with all that blood dripping into his eyes. Marquez continued to have the edge and was getting bolder by the second. Vazquez tried to take advantage but Marquez was too fast and too busy. During a clinch, a head butt ripped open the cut over the right eye of Vazquez, who was already bleeding badly above both eyes. A Marquez straight right put Vazquez down.
Vazquez was up quick enough but with those gashes above his eyes looked worse than many a fighter who might’ve been stopped already, if not for the reputation of toughness that Vazquez brings. When action resumed, Marquez went for the kill and rallied with a fury of shots, punishing Vazquez, who was going backwards towards the ropes and losing his ability to defend himself. At that point, referee Raul Caiz Jr. stepped in and did his job and stopped the fight on the spot. It was the right call.
Marquez won the fourth fight by knockout and evens up the score between them to 2-2.
Marquez and Vazquez hugged afterwards and exchanged friendly words and respect. Vazquez injuries look potentially career ending. He’s had problems with those eyes getting busted up before. It will take a lot of surgery to close both those nasty gashes he suffered.
After four great, ‘fight of the year’ caliber fights, these men have a bond that most pro fighters today don’t get to experience. Rivalries are great for boxing, especially now, in this era of non-structured, hand picked competition and too many Pay-Per-Views that are predictable and have crappy undercards.
When things settled down, both men were interviewed and both were gracious toward the other. Marquez expressed relief for his redemption after being upset about two consecutive losses and having to wait nearly two years to redeem himself. He said it was part of his strategy to go after Vazquez’ eyes, which he knew were susceptible to cuts. He also said his punches were effective on this night. He also was surprised this was such a quick one because he knows Vazquez is a strong fighter. On Daniel Zaragoza being his new trainer he said; “There was a lot of difference tonight, even the bandage work was great.”
He continued, crediting Vazquez as a great fighter and saying that he came out on top in this fight. When asked about a fifth fight, Marquez said everyone’s done their job, from the promoters to the corner men and he’ll be ready if this is what the fans want.
Vazquez was interviewed and was humble as ever. When asked about the cuts and how his eyes are, he said he was okay and thankful that he can see. He said he didn’t expect or think about his eyes being a problem coming in. He said he only realized the cuts because of the blood. He wasn’t coming in worrying about the eyes but Marquez caught him with good shots and the cuts opened up.
On wanting a fifth fight, he said “Yes, of course.” And he said he’s willing to do it if it can be arranged but would need about five or six months to heal up.
He also said he was proud to be part of this rivalry, credited Marquez and hoped the fans enjoyed three good rounds. Marquez was invited to add to the talk and he said Vazquez is a great fighter and a great human being. He said they always fight great fights and he won this last one. Both men stood there and you could feel the mutual admiration.
When asked who Marquez wants to fight next, he said the usual line, that it depends on Gary Shaw (his promoter). But he did mention Vic Darchinyan and that would be an exciting match up.
Marquez and Vazquez would have to fight one more time to determine who wins the series. Vazquez seemed eager to do it again. Marquez left it up in the air, deferring that answer to his promoter but I have no doubt he’d want to do it again.
While both may be up for it, it’s possible that this is the end of the line unless Vazquez can adequately heal up and a few other variables come to pass. Both men are obviously getting older and both have taxed each other tremendously as it is. With the condition of Vazquez’ eyes, his career could be over, because those areas may have been surgically treated too often to be sturdy enough to take anymore damages.
Congratulations to Rafael Marquez for the victory and to Israel Vazquez for showing up in another great fight. More top fighters would do well to engage in rivalries because nothing makes this sport more exciting to watch.