For the fourth time, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez will battle on Saturday night. (Photo by Gene Blevins - Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)
We didn't do a Last Five Fights feature for either of these fights for a couple reasons. First, it's tough to do one for Vazquez-Marquez. Three of their last five each have been with each other, and their last fight each in '09 was a comeback fight for both. If you combine the trilogy into "one fight," you still have problems. For Vazquez, that would mean the Priolo mess last year, the Marquez fights, the great war with Jhonny Gonzalez and Ivan Hernandez. The Gonzalez and Hernandez fights are, in my view, made rather irrelevant because the man who fought those fights is not the man who has emerged from the Marquez trilogy. The same goes for Marquez, whose five would be his easy win in Mexico last year, the Vazquez fights, two with Silence Mabuza (the rematch was really unnecessary) and Ricardo Vargas, a fight that took place five years ago.
I just don't think you can use their recent fights as much of an example of where they're at. These are hobbled warriors -- they have put themselves through the wringer and are not the pound-for-pound names they used to be.
Featherweights: Israel Vazquez v. Rafael Marquez (12 Rounds)
No belts, not even some rickety minor trinket nobody cares about, but they're scheduled for 12 anyway. They won't go 12.
Vazquez (44-4, 32 KO) and Marquez (38-5, 34 KO) first met in March 2007, a hardcore boxing fan's wet dream on paper. The 118-pound champ moving up to face the 122-pound champ, who had just retained in a glorious comeback stoppage of Jhonny Gonzalez, himself a top 118-pounder moving up to challenge the champ at super bantamweight. Vazquez and Marquez warred that night, did it again but better five months later, and then a year after their first battle, settled it (it seemed) with 12 rounds of furious action that was decided in the fight's final seconds.
Can they top those fights? No, they can't.
Can they equal those fights? No, they can't.
Can they still put on a great fight? Sure, they can.
I don't think this fight is going to last long. I'll get right to it: Marquez looked so much better in his comeback fight last year than did Vazquez in his that I don't think this fight is particularly close anymore. Marquez was already step-for-step with Vazquez. Israel was a little stronger and more resilient, Marquez was more accurate and better technically. Vazquez will still have strength, and likely still have the advantage there. The punch being the last thing to go is an old boxing cliche, and one that generally holds up to examination. Vazquez is a pretty good boxer, really, but he's a brawler by nature, and one with serious power. He'll still have the power.
Marquez, though, was already a better boxer. Not by a ton, but I thought that was clear in their three fights. The differences between them are small but obvious, I feel, which is what made for such dynamite fights. And they both have that traditional "Mexican warrior" gene. When the chips are down, their fists start moving at an electric pace.
The guy Marquez fought last year, Jose Francisco Mendoza, was a nobody who hasn't won a fight since 2006. He's 0-4-2 since then, and Marquez got him out in three rounds with little trouble. He was a bit rusty, but rust was to be expected. He finished his man without problem, though.
Vazquez fought Angel Antonio Priolo, and it was a different story. Priolo had lost six straight fights before facing Vazquez in September. Those losses were all at flyweight and bantamweight. He'd never been up as high as the featherweight limit before, which is where he fought Vazquez. Priolo had fought as low as 108 in his career. At 5'8" with a 67" reach, he wasn't quite as small as it sounds, but he still should have been no trouble. He shouldn't have been good enough to trouble Vazquez.
Trouble him he did. When Vazquez closed the show in the ninth round, the scores were 76-76 on two cards and 78-74 for Vazquez on the third, and I think the one with Vazquez leading was fairly kind to the veteran warrior. Yes, Izzy got him out, but he did so with way too much bother for my liking. That guy never should have been able to hang with Israel Vazquez, and never would have if it were the Israel Vazquez of old. He busted Vazquez up and took him way deeper than even a rusty Vazquez should have gone.
But it was because Vazquez is not just rusty, but took serious and already-obvious damage from the Marquez fights, and the other wars he's been in. Don't discount that Gonzalez fight, or his trilogy with Oscar Larios. Marquez didn't have a ton of vicious fights like that. Vazquez has had them. Three surgeries to repair a badly injured eye can't be ignored. Marquez was banged up, but Vazquez came out of the fights worse for wear, despite winning two of the three.
I do expect this to briefly look like the first three fights, or at least a battered knockoff version of those bouts. I think it'll be a good fight, and I don't think it's going to last long. Marquez is no Care Bear in there. He's going to target Vazquez's obvious weakness and exploit it. This may be the last time you see Israel Vazquez in a marquee fight, or at least one where the playing field seems even kind of even. Someone may pick him off as a name scalp after this one, but it won't mean what beating Israel Vazquez should mean.
I like Marquez in this one, and I like him big. Marquez TKO-5
Bantamweights: Yonnhy Perez v. Abner Mares (IBF Title, 12 Rounds)
This is really the more interesting and meaningful fight on the card. Perez (20-0, 14 KO) won a hell of a fight last year over Joseph Agbeko to capture a bantamweight belt on Halloween night in Vegas, a fight infamous for the strange but at the same time overreacted-to entrance of Agbeko led to the ring in chains by a white woman dressed as a gorilla. I mean, I get what people are saying, but the guy's nickname is "King Kong" and it was Halloween. This isn't rocket surgery, y'all.
Mares (20-0, 13 KO) is the one with the pure talent in this fight. The 24-year-old Mexican was an amateur standout and is a blue-chip prospect, one of Golden Boy's best young fighters. But Perez is a big, big step up in class for Mares. Yonnhy threw an astounding amount of punches that I believe would have shattered the CompuBox records last year had CompuBox been tallying that fight against Agbeko, and his constant motion propelled him to what was an upset win.
He does have flaws. Silence Mabuza was doing a great job with him in May 2009 before Perez came back with a 12th round stoppage in South Africa, on Mabuza's turf. Mares has the sort of skill that I think can take advantage of Perez, who is a damn good fighter but a bit crude and not a huge puncher, though not feather-fisted either. But the wins over Mabuza and Agbeko soundly trump anything Mares has on his pro sheet. Abner has been able to dominate the ring against everyone he's fought so far. Perez isn't going to make it that easy.
Right now, I have Perez ranked as the top bantamweight in the world, but that's a dicey call. It's one of those where he earned it more than I think he's definitely the No. 1 fighter at 118. Hozumi Hasegawa did hold the ranking before his loss to Fernando Montiel. Right now, my top four in the division are Perez, Anselmo Moreno, Montiel and Hasegawa, and there's not much between the top three. Perez had two terrific wins last year, and Moreno has been on a hell of a run. Montiel's iffy performances from before Hasegawa still weigh on my mind, and I wasn't ready to jump him all the way to the top spot.
I don't have Mares ranked top 10. It's a good division with a lot of strong fighters. But my gut feeling says Abner Mares wins this fight and joins the party. For talent, he's already up there. It's now time to start really showing what he's got against the best in the world, and Perez is at the least one of the very best. While I can see Perez's activity and height giving Mares fits, I think the better boxer wins the day this time. It could go the other way very easily, though. Mares UD-12