By Jake Donovan
It took four years to do so, but the third time proved to be a charm for Luis 'El Nica' Concepcion.
The diminutive slugger avenged a pair of knockout losses to Hernan 'Tyson' Marquez with a 12-round shutout in their super flyweight interim title fight Thursday evening at Arena Roberto Duran in Panama City, Panama.
Concepcion scored the bout's lone knockdown, flooring Marquez late in round five but was forced to settle for a landslide decision. Scores were 120-106, 120-107 and 120-109 in favor of Concepcion, who has now won 11 of his last 12 starts including avenging his first loss to Marquez which took place in this very arena nearly five years ago.
The third meeting between the two came about only after Marquez answered the call on late notice. His promotional stable mate Giovani Segura (both are promoted by Zanfer Box) was originally due to contend for Concepcion's interim title, but instead opted to pursue a fight with World flyweight champion Roman 'Chocolatito' Gonzalez in early 2016.
Having already scored two knockout wins over Concepcion in 2011, Marquez decided to take a run at making it a hat trick. Having fallen on hard times in the ring, however, that outcome seemed highly unlikely.
Even aside from having suffered four knockout losses over that stretch, the first sign of trouble came at Wednesday's weigh-in. Both fighters initially missed weight, but Concepcion was able to shed the one pound he was over the limit in eventually squeezing into a super flyweight frame. The same could not be said for Marquez, who weighed in at the bantamweight limit of 118 lbs., three pounds overweight and thus ineligble to win the title at stake even had he emerged victorious.
Given the beating he took, lasting 12 rounds would be his lone consolation prize.
Concepcion fought like a man on a mission from the opening bell, never forgetting how close he was to victory before suffering a heartbreaking 11th round knockout defeat in their April '11 war. More humiliating was the 1st round stoppage loss he was dealt in their rematch later that October. Four years of pent-up frustration was dished out over the course of 12 rounds on this particular night.
Marquez' face began to show the pain he endured. The fading brawler from Mexico was cut over his right eye, which was swollen shut by fight's end. He barely made it out of a disastrous round five, dropped hard but late enough to where upon rising he was able to make it to the bell.
As the evening wore on - a late one at that, as their fight didn't begin until well after 1:00 a.m. local time - Concepcion sensed that his desired knockout ending was not going to materialize. He instead alteternated boxing and slugging, letting his hands go and then backing off just enough any time Marquez threatened to mount a rally or return fire.
The two fighters embraces in center ring by fight's end, which was followed by Concepcion's ceremonial backflip off the corner ringpost. The crowd was sent into full-blown celebration upon the reading of the final scores, with all three judges awarding Concepcion every round, although one judge scored two rounds even.
Concepcion moves to 34-4 (24KOs) with the win, his second straight and 11th of his last 12 starts dating back to his second knockout loss to Marquez on 2011. His lone defeat over that stretch came in April, dropping a 12-round decision to unbeaten 115 lb. champ Carlos Cuadras in Mexico.
Marquez falls to 39-7-1 (28KOs). On the bright side, it's his first distance loss since March '10 when he was upset by Richie Menaprum while still an unbeaten contender on the rise. Five knockout defeats have come since then, having been stopped by Nonito Donaire, Brian Viloria (ending his flyweight title reign), Segura, McJoe Arroyo and unified flyweight titlist Juan Francisco Estrada in his most recent bout this past September.
Even with the moral victory of lasting the distance, Marquez - while only 27 - is a very old 27 in terms of in-ring wear and tear. His team will have to think long and hard about his next move.
As for Concepcion, the sky isn't exactly the limit although he's in a much better place than his longtime in-ring rival. The interim title he holds puts him in the mix for a showdown with Kohei Kono, who is two months removed from a points win over Koki Kameda in their sensational 12-round shootout this past October in Chicago.
Wherever he goes from here, comfort can be taken in knowing he was able to exorcise at least one past demon.
The bout aired live on TV Max 9 in Panama, also streaming live on the network's website.
Jake Donovan is the managing editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox