Sometimes in boxing, we get a rematch no one wants to see. Holyfield/Ruiz II, or perhaps Holyfield/Ruiz III. Saturday night's second meeting of Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez is not one of those unwanted rematches, though.
On March 3rd of this year, Marquez stepped up to 122 pounds to challenge Vazquez for his title, having already ruled with an iron fist at 118. Both fighters hyped a coming war, Vazquez promising a Fight of the Year, and Marquez saying he would give his life to defeat Vazquez. It wasn't disrespect; quite the opposite, in fact. It was an intense respect between two fantastic, hard-nosed Mexican champions.
Fight night came, and with it, an electric atmosphere as the bell sounded. Within the first round, Israel Vazquez was wobbled and bloodied -- Marquez had broken the defending champ's nose. The challenger continued his hot start with several bone-rattling shots in the second round, and early in the third, he appeared to have Vazquez in serious trouble.
Then, suddenly, Vazquez floored Marquez with a brutal left to the jaw. Just like that, it was an even fight on the scorecards.
But Marquez regrouped, coming back to win the next two rounds. An action-packed sixth round could have gone either way, and the seventh went to the champion.
My scorecard through seven rounds was 66-66, and Brent had it 67-65 for Marquez. Things were about to get interesting. Vazquez had seemingly found his rhythm, and Marquez, as great as he is, is known for starting hot and cooling off down the stretch. Plus, both guys were hurting each other, and Marquez had already been down from one big punch.
Unfortunately, Israel Vazquez quit on his stool following the seventh round, conveying to trainer Freddie Roach that he could no longer breathe effectively.
To fight six-plus rounds with a broken nose is astounding. To knock someone down when your breathing is messed up is, too, and so is fighting a guy like Rafael Marquez as well as Vazquez did. Who knows what would have happened had Vazquez not been injured in the opening frame?
On Saturday night, we pick up where we left off five months ago. I think we all knew we'd get the rematch. Post-fight, both Marquez and Vazquez had nothing but compliments for their opponent, and both were more than willing, immediately, to talk of a rematch. We'll get it in two days' time, live on Showtime.
It's a cliche, but styles make fights. Marquez is a tremendous technician, and he has good power. Vazquez has thunderous power and a lot of guts. He can take a pounding and come back to win a fight. We saw it last year against Jhonny Gonzalez, when Gonzalez was totally dominating Vazquez before the champ blasted his way back into the fight, and, ultimately, into another victory.
It's boxer versus slugger, but there's more than that. Marquez can punch. Vazquez can box. On paper, you cannot get a bad fight from these two guys when they're paired against one another. And the seven rounds in March did not disappoint what was some serious hype.
I expect more of the same on Saturday. There's not another fight scheduled this year I'm more excited for than Marquez/Vazquez II, and we've got some huge, exciting fights coming up. For my money, none of the upcoming megafights (Floyd/Hatton, Calzaghe/Kessler, Mosley/Cotto, Pacquiao/Barrera II) carries the near-guarantee of being a great fight like Marquez/Vazquez II.
It's a fight that I've waited for with great anticipation ever since Vazquez and Roach decided to throw in the towel five months ago. We could see some real magic in this one.