Vazquez and Marquez faced off three times in three of the best fights of the decade.
Now that 2009 is getting close to wrapping up, it means this decade is almost over. Before the end of the year, I hope to get through all the weight classes, presenting to you some choices for the best fighter in a given weight class in the decade. I'm not going in any particular order here, but we'll get through all 17 weight classes.
When voting, please only consider the time that the fighter was in the specified weight class during this decade. Also, I'm not going to count obvious ballot stuffing when I tally these up at the end of the year. Because of the ballot stuffing patterns, voting will be done in the comments rather than by a poll for this one.
There's a pretty solid argument that super bantamweight may have been one of the strongest divisions of the aughts, if not the strongest weight class of the decade. Several sure-fire hall of famers fought at least a few times in the weight class, and no less than five fighters graced the pound for pound top 10 at some point while in the weight class. In addition, many of the elite fighters in the weight class actually fought each other, losing some and winning some, making it difficult to pick a single standout from the weight class.
Celestino Caballero - Caballero has gone 26-2 in the weight class. As freakish as it is, at 5'11", he's actually spent almost the entirety of the decade at the weight, and managed to unify titles and enter many top 10 pound for pound lists. His key victories include 6 current, former and future titlists, including Steve Molitor, Lorenzo Parra, Mauricio Pastrana, Somsak Sithchatchawal, Yober Ortega, and Daniel Ponce de Leon, as well as other good wins over Ricardo Castillo, Jeffrey Mathebula, Jorge Lacierva, Jose Valbuena and Giovanni Andrade. The losses came to Ricardo Cordoba and Jose Rojas.
Joan Guzman - Back when Guzman was at 122, he actually somewhat lived up to his "Little Tyson" moniker. Guzman went 6-0 in the weight class in the early part of the decade, capturing a belt with a victory over Fernando Beltran Jr. He also holds a dominant knockout win over Agapito Sanchez, as well as victories over Edel Ruiz, Hector Julio Avila, Armando Guerrero and Fabio Daniel Oliva.
Poonsawat Kratingdaenggym - Poonsawat has gone 16-0 in the weight class, including picking up a title from Bernard Dunne. Other key victories include Somsak Sithchatchawal, Carlos Lopez and Rafael Hernandez.
Oscar Larios - Larios went 14-2 in the decade at the weight, being one of the elite fighters in the weight class in the early half of the decade, and went 10-1 in title fights. Key wins include Israel Vazquez, Willie Jorrin, Nedal Hussein, Wayne McCullough (twice), Cesar Soto and Kozo Ishii. Both of his losses came to elite fighters who he also beat at one point or another, with the losses coming to Israel Vazquez and Willie Jorrin.
Juan Manuel Lopez - Lopez has gone 21-0 in the weight class in the decade, including six victories in title fights. Key wins include Daniel Ponce de Leon, Gerry Penalosa, Jonathan Oquendo, Cesar Figueroa, Olivier Lontchi and Rogers Mtagwa. All but two of his wins came by way of knockout.
Manny Pacquiao - Pacman spent the earliest part of the decade at the weight, going 8-0-1 and becoming the lineal titlist in the weight with his win over Lehlohono Ledabwa. Other key wins include Nedal Hussein, Emmaneul Lucero, Jorge Julio and Fahprakorb Rakkiatgym. The lone draw came in a hard fought bout with Agapito Sanchez.
Israel Vazquez - Vazquez went 14-2 in the decade in the weight class, and finished his time there ranked in the top 5 of most pound for pound best lists. Most memorably, he holds two wins over Rafael Marquez in what was likely the most thrilling trilogy in the history of boxing. Additionally, he made eight defenses of his title, with other wins over Oscar Larios (making him lineal champion), Jhonny Gonzalez, Ivan Hernandez, Armando Guerrero and Jose Luis Valbuena.
Others for consideration: Rafael Marquez (only fights at the weight were the trilogy against Vazquez, in which he went 1-2), Marco Antonio Barrera (no notable wins in four fights in the decade), Erik Morales (1-0 in the decade, with the win over Barrera), Lehlohono Ledabwa, Mahyar Monshipour, Steve Molitor, Fernando Beltran Jr., Somsak Sithchatchawal, Ricardo Cordoba, Daniel Ponce de Leon, Jhonny Gonzalez, Toshiaki Nishioka, Willie Jorrin
PLEASE VOTE IN THE COMMENTS. THE INCLUSION OF PACQUIAO HERE MEANS THAT THERE WILL BE NO POLL, BUT I WILL STILL TALLY UP THE WINNER BY WHOEVER HAS THE MOST VOTES IN THE SUBJECT LINES OF THE COMMENTS.