By Jake Donovan
March 3rd represents the 8th anniversary of the first fight in the epic series between Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez. Each of their first three fights of the four-bout set were among the best fights of the year, with the rematch and rubber match both universally hailed as 2007 and 2008 Fight of the Year, respectively.
In honor of such an incredible series between the two warriors, Showtime announced its plans to relive the entire series. All four bouts will be rolled out beginning tonight (Monday, March 3) on Showtime Extreme.
Monday's episode properly commemorates the anniversary of the war that began it all. Marquez moved up from bantamweight to take on Vazquez, at the time the reigning World super bantamweight champion. It was one of two bouts in which the crown changed hands, though Marquez was forced to climb off the canvas to pull out the victory, when Vazquez quit on his stool after seven rounds due to an inability to breath through his broken nose.
The ending was a bit anti-climactic, but the seven rounds of warfare warranted a return go. There was no quit in Vazquez in their Aug. '07 rematch, dropping and stopping Marquez in the 6th round of what was recognized as 2007 Fight of the Year.
The best was yet to come.
Exactly 52 weeks following their first meet, Vazquez and Marquez squared off in March '08 in efforts to break the tie. Twelve rounds of warfare followed, producing easily the best bout of the incredibly savage series. It also included the most thrilling ending of the bunch, as Vazquez puts Marquez on his seat in the closing seconds of the 12th and final round, a sequence good enough to pull out a split decision and remain champion.
The ending was of course protested by Marquez and then-promoter Gary Shaw, but there was no disputing what the overall night represented. The rubber match received near-universal praise as 2008 Fight of the Year.
Both fighters were well past prime, though Marquez had a bit more in the tank when they met for the fourth and final time in 2010. Marquez picked off the remaining carcass of Vazquez, scoring a 3rd round knockout in what was the final fight of Vazquez' illustrious career.
Marquez went on to lose four of his final six fights, including two failed bids at becoming a three-time titlist. The former bantamweight and super bantamweight champ was stopped in eight rounds by then-unbeaten featherweight titlist Juan Manuel Lopez in the 8th round of their all-action affair in Nov. '10. A move back down in weight didn't help much, as Marquez dropped a competitive but clear decision to then 122 lb. champ Toshiaki Nishioka in Oct. '11.
After posting a confidence-rebuilding 1st round stoppage over Eric Aiken in May '12, Marquez' career closed with back-to-back 9th round knockout losses to Cristian Mijares and Efrain Esquivas, the latter prompting him to call it quits in Sept. '13.
The full list of replays is as follows:
TODAY/Tuesday, March 3
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez I, 10 p.m. ET/PT
Wednesday, March 4
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez II, 11 p.m. ET/PT
Thursday, March 5
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez III, 10 p.m. ET/PT
Saturday, March 7
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez I, Noon ET/PT
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez II, 1 p.m. ET/PT
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez III, 2 p.m. ET/PT
• SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING: Vazquez vs. Marquez IV, 3 p.m. ET/PT
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox