By Jake Donovan (photo by Chris Cozzone/FightWireImages)
Revenge was three years in the making for former two-division champion Rafael Marquez, who came out with a vengeance and pummeled Israel Vazquez inside of three rounds Saturday evening at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.
The bout – the fourth between the pair of former lineal super bantamweight champions – was carried live by Showtime. Lacking was the sustained action that came in the first three fights, but none of that to say the fight was boring.
It was just the least competitive of their four entries, with the score now knotted at two apiece.
All of six seconds were needed for the familiar foes to get reacquainted with one another, as Vazquez landed with a right hand to start the fight. The war was thought to develop from there, but most of the first round was fought at a measured pace. Marquez controlled the pace with his jab and landed in combination to end the round.
No sooner did it take for their rivalry to renew was Vazquez reintroduced to another familiar scenario – fighting through adversity.
A cut developed outside his left eye, which Marquez treated as a bulls-eye in the second. The blood started flowing as Marquez was precise with his jab and left hook. Vazquez came on towards rounds end, but left himself open for a series of body shots.
Marquez came out blazing in the third round, only for his momentum to be slightly delayed by an accidental head butt which opened a cut over Vazquez’ right eye.
Referee Raul Caiz Jr made an immediate ruling, in case the bout had to be stopped due to the infraction. A stoppage would come, but for different reasons entirely.
Marquez had knockout on his mind from the moment this fourth fight was announced, and fought the round determined to make that prediction come true. A right hand upstairs caused a delayed reaction knockdown. Vazquez was up early in the count, but the fight for all intent and purposes was over.
An ensuing volley left Vazquez wobbled and on the verge of being dropped again before Caiz Jr. jumped in to rescue the valiant Mexican from suffering further damage.
The official time was 1:33 of the third round.
With the score tied up at two wins a piece, the obvious post-fight discussion centered around a possible fifth fight. The immediate concern is Vazquez continuing with his career, considering the alarming ease with which his skin gets cut in recent years, not to mention his general disregard for defense.
All that said, both fighters are willing to do it if the fans once again demand it.
“The fifth one could be a possibility if the fans vote for it,” stated Marquez, who improves to 39-5 (35KO) with his second consecutive win since returning to the ring last year. “This is what I live for. Israel Vazquez is a great fighter.”
On this particular evening, Marquez happened to be an even greater fighter. It was by far the best performance of his career since the first fight with Vazquez, in which Marquez forced his foe to quit on his stool after seven rounds of two way punishment.
It’s been a long struggle since then, losing twice to Vazquez over the course of the next year, leading to a 14 month exodus from the ring before returning a year ago.
Despite having not fought in more than a year, the former two-division champion was sharp from the very beginning, while Vazquez never seemed to have a chance to get going.
“All of my punches were effective tonight,” said Marquez. “The fight ended a lot quicker than I thought. He hit me with a few effective shots, but I trained hard for this fight.”
No doubt that Vazquez put in overtime during training camp as well. The willingness clearly exists, but the question becomes whether or not his skin can hold up long enough to continue with his career.
“I was concerned that my eyes would open up, but we fought to the best of our ability and took our chances,” stated Vazquez, who suffers his first loss in more than three years as he falls to 44-5 (32KO). “I didn’t know it opened until I saw my own blood.”
What he’ll now have the opportunity to see is his career as a whole before deciding what will be the next move, if any at all other than retirement. He was hardly impressive in his last showing, going life and death with made-to-order Angel Priolo before stopping him in nine rounds in what was his first fight in more than 19 months.
At this stage of his career, the clear message is money fights or bust. Judging by the sizeable crowd on hand at the Staples Center, the temptation will surely be there to grab another payday for yet another dance with his old partner-in-crime.
“If the chance comes for a fifth fight, I’m willing to do it. I’m going to sit out for six months, perhaps more if surgery is required, and just see where I can go from there.”
Regardless of what happens in their careers, it will be forever impossible to not mention one’s name without recalling the other. Despite four brutal and bloody fights between them, a general level of respect and admiration exists between the two fighters. Such was exuded by Marquez upon night’s end.
“Israel is a great fighter and an even greater human being. We will always be remembered for these fights.”
PEREZ-MARES II? BANTAMWEIGHT BOUT ENDS IN A TIE
In the televised opener, friendly former amateur rivals Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares fought to a 12-round majority draw in a terrific and closely contested bantamweight title fight.
The first five rounds lived up to the pre-fight suggestion that the bout would find a way to steal the show as both fighters were throwing and landing often. Mares settled into a boxing groove midway through the fight, which was effective but not always to the crowd’s liking.
Perez was the aggressor for much of the night, but also took his licks. Mares had the defending titlist briefly stunned towards the end the tenth, scoring with a left hook and follow-up right hand after Perez had controlled the action for much of the round.
It was nip-and-tuck in the championship rounds, leaving the ringside judges little from which to choose as the bout headed to the scorecards.
The vibe from ringside was that Mares – a member of the 2004 Mexican Olympic boxing squad – did enough to wrest the alphabet strap from Perez, defending the belt for the first time. Only one of the three judges agreed, scoring the bout 115-113 in his favor. That card was overruled by matching tallies of 114-114, leaving both fighters still unbeaten, but with the sense that unfinished business still lingers.
With the even verdict, Perez remains champion as his record moves to 20-0-1 (14KO). The bout was his first since winning the crown with a thriller over Joseph Agbeko last October.
Mares’ record now stands at 20-0-1 (13KO), as his first bid at a major title falls inches short of ultimate glory.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com and an award-winning member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Contact Jake at [email protected] .