By Cliff Rold

With the seconds ticking off the clock, time is running out for any fight, in any weight class, to stop an impressive three-peat.  Barring an Armageddon in a fight most won’t see in time even if it does happen, the 122 lb. realm looks set to claim Fight of the Year honors for the third year in a row and fourth time in the last nine.  It’s a classic action for top honors reliability not seen in a single weight class since the Heavyweights in the 1970s.

The fight of course is not the only thing.  There have been some new faces and strengthened ones over the last twelve months.  Still-new WBO titlist Juan Manuel Lopez emerged with a youth and fire marking him as the potential pivotal star of the future.  Now unified WBA/IBF titlist Celestino Caballero looks forward a chance in 2009 to add not only more belts but final polish to his resume as he heads for age 33.  And, quietly, former Bantamweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez racked up four wins by knockout to keep his name lurking in the shadows, a potential menace to any big name who tries him on.

None of them could rise above the peak just yet.  As it was in 2007, it was a two-man demolition squad, appearing only once on March1st, who defined the Jr. Featherweights and each other.

Jr. Featherweight Fighters and Fight of the Year: Israel Vasquez/Rafael Marquez

Not many divisions could lose Manny Pacquiao, Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, Oscar Larios and Paulie Ayala and come up with something arguably greater than anything those names created while there.  Yet, in three fights, it is Vasquez-Marquez which defines Jr. Featherweight moreso than any rivalries and battles those men provided.  Barrera-Morales was finished one, and then two, divisions away.  Pacquiao, Larios and Ayala didn’t catch those big names until they moved up as well. 

Vasquez was just a hair behind the big names, his timing just a wee bit off.  Marquez was building bona fides one division below, at Bantamweight, after a shaky career start.  Their first two battles were classics a year ago, the second of them Ring Magazine’s Fight of the Year.  The rubber match was the best of the bunch, an acceleration of violence over twelve rounds which saw both men on the floor and covered in glory.

Vasquez exited the third contest, and the three fights so far, with a narrow victorious edge.  Months removed from battle, both are honored for the memories they gave the fans.  Vasquez-Marquez stands alongside Ali-Frazier and Zale-Graziano as a rivalry so fine it works as noun or verb.

Or legend.

As reported at:

The third fight began just as furious as the first two. Neither fighter was willing to work with a different script. The power punches flowed like a river in every round, but in the fourth, we saw a masterpiece. A left hand that was followed by an uppercut sent Vazquez down for the first time in the trilogy. As Marquez went for the finish, he was stunned by a hard right hand and it was Vazquez who tried to finish him off. Moments later, Marquez once again stunned Vazquez as they battled to the fourth-round bell.

After falling behind early, Vazquez continued to work his way into the fight with hard punches and body damage on the inside. In the tenth, Marquez lost a crucial point after being warned for numerous low blows during the fight. Marquez and Vazquez began to trade power punches in the eleventh as both of them tried to take the late round as they were both advised by their corners of the fight being very close.

Between the final two-rounds, Vazquez's corner begged him step it up and go for a knockout. Vazquez listened and came out like a killer in the final round, throwing nothing but power combinations to punish an exhausted Marquez. As the entire crowd stood on their feet chanting for both fighters, Vazquez was blasting away until he badly hurt Marquez, who fell backwards and grabbed the ropes to hold himself up in the final five-seconds of the fight. The referee gave him a standing eight count because if not for the ropes, Marquez would have went down.

Taking a look at the official scores, the low blow penalty and the ref calling the knockdown in the twelfth was the difference in the scoring and won Vazquez the fight.

After the decision was announced, Marquez felt he won the fight by at least two-points and was very upset with the ref’s low blow penalty in the tenth and the calling of a knockdown in the twelfth.

“It was not a low blow. That was bs. I hit him on the belt. You could watch the replay. I never went down the twelfth. Yes I held the rope, but I never went down. I was fine,” Marquez said.

Both fighters said they were open to a fourth meeting.

Jr. Featherweight: The Year in Results

Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes.  Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the New Year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Jr. Featherweight results of 2008.

First Quarter

01/19: #3 Steve Molitor (25-0, 10 KO, IBF) UD12 Ricardo Castillo (33-5, 22 KO)

02/23: #8 Juan Manuel Lopez (21-0, 19 KO) TKO3 Jonathan Oquendo (14-2, 9 KO)

03/01: World Champion Israel Vasquez (43-4, 31 KO, Lineal/Ring/WBC) SD12 #4 Rafael Marquez (37-5, 33 KO)

03/07: Rendall Munroe (1341, 9 KO) MD12 #10 Kiko Martinez (17-1, 14 KO)

03/31: Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (33-1, 23 KO) TKO11 #5 Somsak Sithchatchawal

(56-3-1, 44 KO)

Second Quarter

04/04: #9 Jhonny Gonzalez (37-6, 31 KO) KO3 Edel Ruiz (29-20-4, 20 KO)

04/05: #3 Steve Molitor (27-0, 10 KO, IBF) UD12 Fernando Beltran (30-3-1, 18 KO)

04/06: #6 Rey Bautista (25-1, 18 KO) KO2 Genaro Carmango (17-4, 11 KO)

05/06: #8 Ricardo Cordoba (32-1-2, 21 KO) TKO3 Franklin Solis (11-4-1, 7 KO)

05/09: #9 Jhonny Gonzalez (38-6, 32 KO) TKO4 Mauricio Pastrana (34-9-2, 22 KO)

05/23: #5 Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (34-1, 24 KO) TKO2 Ifan Bone (?)

06/07: #1 Celestino Caballero (29-2, 20 KO, WBA) TKO12 Lorenzo Parra (28-2, 18 KO)

06/07: #7 Juan Manuel Lopez (22-0, 20 KO, WBO) TKO1 #2 Daniel Ponce De Leon (34-2, 30 KO)

06/24: #5 Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym (35-1, 25 KO) KO3 Jason Butar (2-4-1)


Third Quarter

08/01: #5 Jhonny Gonzalez (39-6, 33 KO) TKO1 Levi Brea (16-7-3, 8 KO)

08/29: #4 Steve Molitor (28-0, 11 KO, IBF) TKO10 Ceferino Labarda (18-1, 7 KO)

08/30: #9 Rey Bautista (26-1, 19 KO) TKO2 Eden Marquez (16-4-3, 12 KO)

09/15: #8 Toshiaki Nishioka (32-4-3, 19 KO) UD12 Napapol Kiatisakchokchai (46-3-1, 39 KO)

09/17: #1 Celestino Caballero (30-2, 21 KO, WBA) KO1 Elvis Mejia (27-8-1, 7 KO)

Fourth Quarter

10/4: #3 Juan Manuel Lopez (23-0, 20 KO, WBO) W KO1 Cesar Figeuroa (30-7-2, 22 KO)

11/1: #8 Daniel Ponce De Leon (35-2, 31 KO) W KO4 Damian Marchiano (15-6-1, 5 KO)

11/21: #1 Celestino Caballero (31-2, 22 KO, WBA/IBF) TKO4 #4 Steve Molitor (28-1, 11 KO)

11/21: #6 Jhonny Gonzalez (40-6, 34 KO) KO4 Reynaldo Lopez (30-6-2, 21 KO)

11/22: Heriberto Ruiz (40-7-2, 23 KO) UD8 #9 Rey Bautista (26-2, 19 KO)

12/6: #3 Juan Manuel Lopez (24-0, 21 KO, WBO) TKO1 Sergio Medina (33-2, 18 KO)

Other divisions in 2008 reviewed:



Super Middleweight: 




Jr. Bantamweight:

Jr. Flyweight:

Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at