August 4 -- Dodge Arena, Hidalgo, TX
Winner: Israel Vazquez TKO-6
The visitors poll here at Bad Left Hook voted Fight of the Year like this:
Vazquez-Marquez II, 13%
Vazquez-Marquez I, 4%
Those that voted something other than this fight either didn't see it or are a bit loopy. Nothing came close to packing the fury that the second bout between Marquez and Vazquez did, not even the sensational fight between Taylor and Pavlik, and not even the first meeting between these two Mexican dynamos. Nothing held a candle to this fight. It was breath-taking.
There is no way in hell that Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez can fight one another for 12 full rounds. Human beings can't take that sort of punishment and stay standing, and there's no referee in the world that wouldn't step in at some point. Not even Steve Smoger. When Vazquez and trainer Freddie Roach threw in the towel after the seventh round in March because of Vazquez's broken nose, it was only the start. There had to be a rematch. Thankfully, we got it. No politics, no sanctioning body BS, no network garbage. It was a fight that had to happen again, or, if you will, a fight that had to be continued.
Some dubbed the first round of Vazquez-Marquez II "Round 8," and it certainly felt like it. Marquez, as he had done in the first fight, controlled the pace by using his jab and a straight right hand, showing his superior hand speed and technique. To beat Vazquez again, Marquez would need to do this, and thump when he got the opportunity, the same as he had done five months prior. The truth was clear: Marquez was the better boxer of the two. At the end of the first round, with Vazquez's temple already starting to swell up, Marquez landed a gorgeous left hook. It may have been his downfall.
Vazquez came out throwing grenades in the second round, though Marquez was generally able to avoid the big shots. Marquez continued to work his jab, but was caught with a vicious left hook and a nasty right hand near the end of the round. Marquez then tripled up on the jab, but was victim to another left hook.
Marquez was making a mistake, and you could see it. He was trying to hook with the hooker, one of the cardinal no-no's of boxing. He was playing directly into Israel Vazquez's game, making it a slugfest. Early in the third, Marquez was rocked hard with another left hook, and retreated to the ropes, where Vazquez continued to pound on him. Marquez fought his way out, and landed a left upstairs. With his legs back under him, the two went to war, firing off gigantic shots, one after the other, and trading with an unmatched intensity. Vazquez scored with an uppercut, and Marquez was hurt once again, though he fought back. A bad cut opened up over Vazquez's left eye, and shortly after, one near his right eye formed. Marquez staggered Vazquez with rights and lefts, letting it all hang out. Marquez wound up cut.
How could you beat this? Marquez was cut and swelling badly. Vazquez was bleeding from both eyes. We were only entering the fourth round.
And they went right back to work. Vazquez with a big shot, and Marquez started digging to the body. An uppercut from Vazquez hurt Marquez, but the champion retaliated with a thunderous hook to the body. He was goaded into Vazquez's fight, and though he traded to go back to the jab, it was too late. Brutal shot after brutal shot landed, as these two refused to do anything but move forward and fight. It was all action, the same as the first fight, only better. No holding, no stalling, no waiting around, no feeling-out. They knew what they wanted to do and they went for it.
After four rounds, I had it even. They looked like two guys who had been engaging in a slugfest for 15 rounds, not four. More phenomenal, technically superior brawling came about in round five, a round I couldn't score anything but even.
As we approached the close of the first half of the fight, the shamefully small crowd in Hidalgo, Texas, was in heaven. When a crowd is that small, you can be sure of two things: (1) The promoters did an awful job of promoting the fight, and (2) The fans know why they're there.
Vazquez floored Marquez with a monstrous left hook, but Marquez recovered. He had to survive for two and a half minutes, but Israel Vazquez is a tough storm to quell. Marquez, fighting back on instinct, was pounded with an uppercut and another hook. Marquez, to his credit, stayed on his feet. It was amazing. Referee Lupe Garcia stepped in -- "La Venganza" had come to an end, and Israel Vazquez was once again the 122-pound champion.
If you are a fight fan and weren't on your feet for these two, I don't know why you watch. The one problem I had with this fight was I felt Lupe Garcia should have let it continue a little longer. Marquez held a long winning streak, and had come back in the first fight from a knockdown. He was staying up, doing his best to defend himself, and trying to get his legs back. I think it's probable that Vazquez would have knocked him down again in the sixth round, but I think that should've been allowed to happen.
In a year that had a lot of good fights, a good amount of great fights, and a few truly sensational fights, this one stood above them all. The 13 rounds we got in 2007 between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez were the stuff of legends. There is no potential matchup in boxing that carries the outright guarantee of a great fight that Vazquez-Marquez gives you -- not a single one. They are tailor-made for each other, a perfect blend of skill, power, grit and determination. Their third fight, tentatively scheduled for March 1, will settle the score. If it's close to as good as the first two fights, there is no trilogy, pound-for-pound, that stacks up to this one. Vazquez and Marquez deserve every award they get, every standing ovation they've received, and then some.
Fights this good are exceedingly rare. It captured something raw and animalistic, with brutal, clean punching, but it was also a fine example of the art that is boxing. Maybe it wasn't anyone's true definition of "the sweet science," but these are great fighters who match up perfectly. There was a poetry to their violence, a beauty to be found in the blood and bruises. And when the two fights were over, nothing but respect flowed between the two men.
It wasn't the massive show that Floyd-Oscar or Floyd-Ricky were. It wasn't a pay-per-view main event, like Cotto's two fights or Barrera-Marquez. It got no mainstream hype, like Taylor-Pavlik, and there weren't 50,000 fans in attendance, like Calzaghe-Kessler.
It was the Fight of the Year, as simple as that.
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