By Francisco Salazar, Video by Ryan Burton
Miguel Vazquez goes by the nickname “El Titere,” which means “The Puppet.”
There is nothing funny or amusing about his career, though, as he has reeled off 13 consecutive wins, won a world title which he has defended six times, and has gained greater respect from boxing fans.
While other fighters may be content with this, he wants more.
Vazquez will attempt his 7th defense of the IBF lightweight title against Mickey Bey on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev. The bout will precede the rematch between Floyd Mayweather and Marcos Maidana.
Both fights will be televised live on Showtime Pay Per View, beginning at 8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT.
Vazquez (34-3, 13KOs) was a relative unknown outside of Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. His pro debut was a split decision loss to a then-16 year-old Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez. His first fight in the U.S. also resulted in a loss, dropping a 10-round decision to Timothy Bradley in their July ’07 Showtime-televised matchup. He made his United States debut when he fought and lost a 10 round unanimous decision to Timothy Bradley in July of 2007.
His last loss came one year later, in a rematch with Alvarez as he dropped a 10-round decision.
The past six years have been filled with wins, including a near-shutout of Ji-Hoon Kim in Aug. ’10 to win the lightweight crown.
This weekend, Vazquez faces, in Bey, a fighter who has shown flashes of brilliance on some nights while underperformed in other bouts.
In his last bout on May 2, Bey won a 10 round unanimous decision over Alan Herrera. Bey was dropped in that bout, having also struggled to a draw versus Jose Hernandez, and was stopped in the final round by John Molina in a bout he was winning handily last July.
Regardless of what has happened in recent fights, Vazquez expects the best version of his challenger on fight night.
“I know he is going to come to win my title,” Vazquez told Boxinscene.com at a recent media workout in Oxnard, Calif. “But I’m coming into this fight well-prepared to not lose my title. I have confidence that I will be victorious that evening.”
Bey comes into the fight brimming with confidence, looking to establish himself as the face of Mayweather Promotions. Plenty of talk has come in the weeks leading up to fight night of how he will go on to become world champion.
Vazquez has heard it all before. Rarely will he have anything to say in response—at least not until the opening bell.
“There are fighters that have focused on talking, but I focus on my preparation,” the defending champion insists. “I know there are a lot of people who think that I’m beatable in the ring. But when they get in the ring (with me), then they realize something else.
“Mercito Gesta was someone that talked before a fight. He kept saying that it was going to be easy. I focused on what I needed to do in that fight because I took that fight seriously and we beat him.”
If there’s a criticism to be found of the longtime titlist, it’s the perception that he lacks a fan-friendly fighting style. Regardless of past comments, the 27-year old is able to brush it aside and performs effectively in the ring.
A strong psychological work ethic in addition to his tireless efforts in the gym has enabled him to get through many tough fights. That includes preparing for each fight as though he is the challenger, rather than the champion. The results speak volumes, as he has proven a tough out for any given lightweight, where has yet to lose a fight (defeats to Bradley and Alvarez came at and above 140 lb).
“Truthfully, I never give up that hunger. I won a title, but I always want more,” Vazquez reveals. “I always prepare as if I’m fighting for a world title for the first time. I’m not the typical fighter who is a champion who believes he knocks down someone with their own breath. I prepare myself as if my opponent is the champion and I’m the challenger.”
Although he is the favorite to win this fight, Vazquez believes he has a lot to prove. A victory will give him more credibility as a champion, of which he has received more from fight fans in recent months.
Aware of a hungry challenger whose promoter is the house fighter, Vazquez remains steadfast, believing he will once again have his hand raised in victory.
“I know he is a fighter that counters and attacks spontaneously,” Vazquez observes. “I know that it will be a hard and difficult fight. He doesn’t have (a strong chin). Because of that, I believe victory will come my way.”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing