The last time we saw Israel Vazquez, it wasn't pretty. (Photo by Tom Casino/SHOWTIME)
In an interview with BoxingScene.com's Boxing Lab radio show, former super bantamweight champion Israel Vazquez said he's hoping to return to the ring in 2012:
"I am looking to fight again. I am taking a good rest. I should have taken a longer break after I fought the Colombian (Priolo) instead of going straight to Rafa," Vazquez told The Boxing Lab. ... "I don't want to go out how I went out against Rafa," stated Vazquez. "I am taking a rest to recover and heal up but I plan to return to the ring next year."
Vazquez turns 34 on Christmas, and longtime readers will know that he is absolutely one of my all-time favorite fighters. He was a great fighter and a great warrior even before the trilogy with Rafael Marquez shot him into greater notoriety and popularity. The first three fights with Marquez and Vazquez's stunning win over Jhonny Gonalez in 2006 are four of my favorite fights of the last decade.
But he probably shouldn't fight again. Even what he says doesn't necessarily add up. He fought Angel Priolo in October 2009, then Marquez for an ill-fated fourth time in May 2010. How much longer does he think he should have sat out and waited? Fact is, he didn't just lose to Marquez, predictably because his surgically repaired eye couldn't hold up to punches, but he struggled with Priolo, a non-factor who had lost six straight fights before facing Vazquez.
He's never going to be who he was, or even close. This isn't even a situation like Erik Morales, who retired for a few years before returning to the ring. Most were against that, too, and Morales has proven to not be quite as worn out as was suspected.
Morales didn't have something like Vazquez's eye injury working against him. The scarring is bad. The eye itself looked awful going into the Marquez fight, and what wound up happening was exactly what I expected would happen: Marquez would bust him open and get the fight stopped. It took seven minutes and 33 seconds of ring time.
I understand his desire to not have his career end that way, or at least I understand how he would feel that he needs to go out a winner. If it's one fight, against an easy opponent, with almost no risk, then fine. He's a fighter. But that won't happen -- because he's a fighter.
Some months back, a member of Vazquez's team told us that he had retired from the sport. He's done some commentary work. He's been around the game. I was hoping he wouldn't entertain this thought, but of course I'm not surprised that he's doing so. He's not the first, won't be the last.
If he climbs back into the ring, hope for the best outcome, and a quick retirement thereafter. But don't bet the farm on either one. He's not getting younger, and while his body has perhaps recharged itself with the time off, he's always going to have serious cut problems. And never again will he be the heroic, top-level fighter that he was at his peak.