by David P. Greisman
Did they give too much? Did we ask too much?
Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez faced each other in three great but grueling fights, 25 rounds of war waged within 363 days. Each, somehow, was better than the one before it. The third garnered “Fight of the Year” honors. And then Vazquez and Marquez took time off, well deserved, to recover so that, eventually, presumably, they could return.
Their trilogy wrapped up March 1, 2008. Since then, each has fought just once.
Marquez came back first, stepping between the ropes May 23 of this year, more than 14 months since he was knocked down in the last seconds of the last round, the decking proving to be the difference between a draw and a split decision loss.
Marquez needed less than three rounds to dispose of Jose Francisco Mendoza.
Vazquez waited longer before getting back into the ring. He did so this past Saturday, some 19 months since taking the rubber match against Marquez, giving him wins in the second and third installments.
Vazquez scored a ninth-round technical knockout over Angel Priolo.
Their situations are similar but different, comparable but contrasting.
Marquez looked comfortable and composed, sharp and refreshed, flooring Mendoza with a single right hand.
Vazquez appeared to be uncertain, understandably slow and rusty, never appearing to be in a class beyond an opponent who had lost his last six, five by knockout, who had gone from flyweight to featherweight, had only fought once in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and had not fought in 17 months.
Priolo, a few inches taller than Vazquez, sometimes was the aggressor against the harder hitter, and he had little trouble landing right hand counters over Vazquez’s lazy jab. Through seven, Vazquez had swelling and a gaping gash over his left eye. Through eight, the fight was even, two of the judges’ scorecards reading 76-76, the third arbiter finding the action 78-74 for Vazquez.
Priolo didn’t make it through nine.
Vazquez landed a right hand to Priolo’s temple that shook him, following with two more that put him on the canvas. Vazquez would score two more knockdowns before the referee decided he’d seen enough.
It is difficult to say whether Vazquez’s performance was a product of the layoff, of the lasting injuries, or of both. The 19 months that Vazquez spent on the shelf are not at all like the 21 months that Floyd Mayweather Jr. had between fights. Mayweather, though retired, remained in the gym and in shape. Vazquez was injured, needing three surgeries for a detached retina.
But it is entirely possible that wars have left Vazquez the worse for wear. Vazquez, like other warriors, has less in the way of defense and lots in the way of drama. Beyond the three fights with Marquez were three fights with Oscar Larios and a come-from-behind victory over Jhonny Gonzalez. Fighters like him don’t necessarily hold up well after 14 years and 48 fights.
He could be an old 31, exacerbated by what the Marquez matches forced him to leave within the ring.
Marquez is 34 with 43 fights, also a pro for 14 years, but his speed and reflexes still seemed to be there against Mendoza. Of course, Marquez’s recuperation was different than that of Vazquez, his return sooner.
They were too good for their own good. Though Marquez won the first fight by technical knockout, though Vazquez won the second bout by the same result, each took plenty to give back plenty, their stubbornness and skills allowing them to absorb damage and deliver it.
Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward had their trilogy take place within a span of 13 months, but Gatti took far less punishment in their second and third bouts. Ward retired afterward, a departure planned before they first faced off.
Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales faced each other in 2000, 2002 and 2004, and though each stayed active in-between, different competition meant a respite from their spirited fights.
Vazquez and Marquez had chemistry from the first round of their first go-around. That war created demand for a second, which led to a third. Even after their trilogy ended, fans, pundits, and the fighters themselves continue to speak of a fourth.
Perhaps they’ve given too much.
Barrera went on to other opponents, a star on his own, headlining whether his winning required boxing or brawling. Morales had only one style, but he often was so much better than his opposition that his other bouts did not mirror the Barrera battles.
Gatti’s post-Ward victory lap included a title win and two successful defenses, victories in which he was either faster or bigger and stronger.
Though Vazquez and Marquez were seen, at the height of their trilogy, as being at the top of the 122-pound division, neither had true star power. They were not headliners before, though their trilogy was aired on Showtime in the main-event slot.
Perhaps we’ve asked too much.
We expect nothing but what we’ve seen between Vazquez and Marquez. That is why we salivated over them facing each other for a fourth time, or why we pondered pairings with other junior featherweights and featherweights who, too, would bring out the brawling.
Now those other 122- and 126-pounders hold the title belts and the television dates. Marquez-Mendoza, meanwhile, took place on the undercard of a TV Azteca broadcast. Vazquez-Priolo was shown on HBO Plus and Fox Sports Espanol. HBO Plus is carried in Mexico, Central America and South America. FOX Sports Espanol and TV Azteca are not available to a majority of cable subscribers in the United States.
Marquez does not have another fight scheduled. And unless the Priolo bout was more an aberration than an indication, Vazquez, perhaps, should not have another fight scheduled.
Their three wars took place in less than a year. There should be no rush to send them back to the frontlines, though they deserve another way to return to the headlines.
The 10 Count
1. Great moments in boxing history:
Sept. 19, 2009: Golden Boy Promotions hypes its latest signing – Jorge Linares, 27-0, former featherweight titlist, at the time a 130-pound beltholder. Golden Boy says it will co-promote Linares with Japan-based Teiken Promotions; Linares, a Venezuelan, has spent most of his career in the Land of the Rising Sun. Linares’ nickname, by the way, is “El Nino de Oro,” or “Golden Boy.”
Oct. 10, 2009: Linares, fighting in Japan, loses by first-round technical knockout to a 20-0-1 challenger named Juan Carlos Salgado. The bout lasts 73 seconds.
2. What that reminded me of:
October 3 2002: Vernon Forrest signs a six-fight, multimillion-dollar contract with HBO. Forrest, at the time, is 35-0 with one no contest, the lineal welterweight champion, and he is coming off of two straight victories over Shane Mosley.
Jan. 25, 2003: Forrest, in his first bout since signing the contract, loses by third-round technical knockout to Ricardo Mayorga.
3. Just a note about Fernando Guerrero, whose ability to draw sizable crowds to his fights in rural Maryland was profiled in last week’s “Fighting Words.” Guerrero took a 10-round majority decision this past weekend over Ossie Duran.
How was the attendance?
Mike Greenhill, a photographer who wrote a report for Fight News, said the minor-league ballpark Arthur W. Perdue Stadium, had a “near-capacity crowd of almost 6,000.”
A friend who attended the card confirmed that account: “I wouldn’t say sell out,” she said. “It was very crowded – only some space on the first- and third-base sides closest to the outfield. Behind home plate was packed, as were the ringside and field seats.”
I’ve not yet seen the fight and so cannot yet comment on how Guerrero looked.
4. Boxers Behaving Badly, part one: Hector Camacho Sr. is being held in a Florida jail on a probation violation, according to various Tampa area news outlets. What he allegedly did to violate said probation isn’t clear from the paltry reporting put forth by said news outlets.
Camacho, 47, is indeed back behind bars – his mug shot is on the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Web site. He was arrested Oct. 9.
The sheriff’s office site indicates that the probation violation is related to a “Mississippi burglary.” The former three-division titlist had gotten in trouble in 2004 for breaking into a Mississippi computer store. He was sentenced to seven years in prison with all but one year suspended, but even that penalty was dropped, in September 2007, to time served, Camacho receiving credit for the five months or so he spent in jail.
Camacho was also sentenced at the time to a year under house arrest and three years on probation.
More details are needed: what the alleged violation of probation was, and what the consequences, if any, will be.
5. Boxers Behaving Badly, part two: Billy Joe Saunders, a British super middleweight who represented his country in the 2008 Olympics, was arrested late last month on a charge of assault, according to the St. Albans and Harpenden Review. A report in tabloid The Sun says Saunders hit his wife. Then again, The Sun also had Saunders’ current weight class wrong (so did the St. Albans paper) and his number of pro fights wrong.
Saunders, who lost in the second round of the Olympics, will return to court Oct. 30. He fought in his fourth pro fight this past weekend, taking a four-round decision over some dude named Alex Spitko.
After the Olympics, Saunders was suspended in 2008 from the national team over allegations of behaving lewdly toward a woman in a team hotel in France. He turned pro earlier this year.
6. Boxing Trainers Behaving Badly update: There is no longer a bench warrant out for Roger Mayweather, a former 130-pound champion and 140-pound titlist who is now uncle and chief second to Floyd Mayweather Jr., for failing to show up earlier this month for an arraignment in a Las Vegas court.
Instead, Mayweather, 48, will return to court Jan. 15 for a preliminary hearing, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Mayweather is charged with assaulting a female boxer he had previously trained. The August incident has him facing one felony count each of coercion and battery. Police say Mayweather entered a Las Vegas condominium he owns and ordered Melissa St. Vil, a 26-year-old with a 1-1-1 pro record, to get out immediately, according to The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press.
St. Vil lived there with another boxer, Cornelius Lock, a 30-year-old man who is 19-4-1 as a pro. St. Vil refused to leave, and the disagreement between St. Vil and Mayweather apparently then got physical. Police officers said they saw Mayweather choking St. Vil when they arrived at the scene. She was taken to a local hospital, treated and released. Mayweather, who had a lamp broken over his head and had injuries to his head and face, was arrested.
Lock told police that the incident grew out of St. Vil no longer having Mayweather as her trainer and Mayweather not liking that St. Vil still lived in property he owned.
Mayweather spent six months in jail from 2006 to 2007, convicted on battery charges after an incident in which he punched the maternal grandmother of his infant son.
7. Boxing Trainers Behaving Badly: Scott Dixon, a former welterweight and junior middleweight fighter from Scotland who is now the coach for Malta’s national boxing team, is in jail and facing drug distribution charges, according to The Malta Independent.
Dixon was one of six people arrested after police seized 450 kilograms, or about 992 pounds, of marijuana. Dixon pleaded “not guilty to conspiring to deal in cannabis, trafficking and being in possession of the drug, and breaching the conditions of a probation order handed down last year, when he had been found guilty of possession of cocaine,” according to the newspaper.
Dixon fought from 1995 to 2004, compiling a record of 27-10-3 (6 knockouts). His last appearance as a pro boxer was in April 2004, a sixth-round stoppage loss to Matthew Macklin.
8. Boxing Commissioners Behaving Badly update: Shane Crampton, a former tribal boxing commissioner in Michigan, pleaded guilty last week to a charge of wire fraud. In exchange, prosecutors dropped a charge of extortion arising from his allegedly demanding money in exchange for getting fights booked at a local casino, according to The Grand Rapids (Mich.) Press.
Crampton, 38, had been accused of demanding $1,000 from Detroit-based promoters Clip Boxing Inc., saying the money could help get their fights hosted at the Little River Casino and Resort.
Crampton will be sentenced Feb. 10.
9. Boxers Behaving Badly update: Female lightweight Erin McGowan is now 11-0 in the ring and, as of last week, 2-0 in court cases, according to Australian newspaper The Sunday Times.
McGowan, 28, was found not guilty last week on charges that she assaulted two women in January 2008 after, of all things, one of the women was upset that McGowan was taking too long to use the toilet.
Earlier this year, McGowan was found not guilty on charges of assaulting a woman in March 2005 outside of an eatery in a suburban area near the Western Australia city of Perth.
McGowan turned pro in 2007. Seven of her victories have come by way of knockout. Her last appearance was in July, a six-round decision over some dudette named Angie Parr.
10. And, finally, Mike Tyson will appear on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” today (Oct. 12).
Tyson on Oprah? Oh, the irony: Tyson has had a life straight out of a month’s worth of “Jerry Springer” episodes…
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. His weekly column, “Fighting Words,” appears every Monday on BoxingScene.com. He may be reached for questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org
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