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For action, not even Pacquiao tops Vazquez

Following his wonderful fight against Juan Manuel Marquez last Saturday night, many in the boxing community have rushed to sound the horn for Manny Pacquiao, in a mythical return to being the sport's No. 1 action star.

Excuse me, but when did attention spans become so short that we're forgetting one of the best fights of the last however many years, which happened all of two weeks ago?

I don't have a thing in the world against Manny Pacquiao or his great rematch with Juan Manuel Marquez. Right now -- even as early as it is in 2008 -- it is the solid runner-up for Fight of the Year, and any fights the rest of the year will have to do a hell of a special job to bump it down a spot.

But Manny Pacquiao is no Israel Vazquez in terms of action, and Marquez-Pacquiao II was no Vazquez-Marquez III.

It's really nothing more than "What have you done for me lately?" mentality, even taken to the two weeks ago extreme. But Vazquez deserves to be widely known as the most exciting top fighter in boxing. And as great as Manny Pacquiao is, he's been firmly dethroned.

Let's rate the last five fights of both men on a 1-10 Warrior Scale. There's no real set criteria for this, just the loose rating itself. And I'm not trying to sound like some grand authority, either.

Manny Pacquiao

v. Oscar Larios, 2006-07-02
Larios, 29 on fight night, was a beaten man going in. He had jumped two weight classes after a three-round thrashing at the hands of old rival Vazquez (go figure), was simply another tough Mexican foe for Pacquiao to destroy, and lived up to his billing both as a tough guy and a patsy. In boxing, really, there is no shortage of both. Larios wasn't a gimme for Manny, but he was hopelessly overmatched by the younger, much stronger, faster fighter. That said, he took Pacquiao all 12 rounds, even though he tasted canvas in the fourth and twelfth. Warrior Scale: 6.5/10

v. Erik Morales, 2006-11-18
Larios came between two fights against Morales, the first of which (second in their trilogy) would definitely rate high on the Warrior Scale. The third one just can't get too far up there thanks to the fact that it ended via brutal, third-round and one-sided knockout for the favored Pacquiao, who had broken Morales down to great effect in their second fight. In essence, the second of Morales' three fights with Manny was the last time we ever saw Erik Morales, and he was systematically picked apart that night. It was exciting and entertaining for the two-plus rounds it lasted, but Pacquiao was hardly tested this night. That said, you can't fault him for that -- and it was exciting. Warrior Scale: 7/10

v. Jorge Solis, 2007-04-14
Please, huh? Pacquiao sleepwalked through this total mismatch, ending it in the eighth, which is the first time all night he seemed like he really wanted to. He carried an overmatched fighter and then turned the lights off at will. Warrior Scale: 4/10

v. Marco Antonio Barrera, 2007-10-26
Whether or not you believe in the recent claims that Pacquiao never went for the kill against Barrera because he respected him too much to want to embarrass him in what was to be Marco Antonio's last fight, you can't get around that this hyped rematch was a massive bore. Neither man took risks, Pacquiao looked slow and light-fisted for much of the fight, and Barrera was just totally disinterested in giving a last stand sort of effort. There were spotty exchanges where it felt like the tension would break into out-and-out warfare, but it never came about. Warrior Scale: 4/10

v. Juan Manuel Marquez, 2008-03-15
Now we're talking -- great exchanges, fists a-flyin', blood and drama and momentum shifts by the bushel. A great fight -- an instant classic, really. Warrior Scale: 9.5/10

Israel Vazquez

v. Ivan Hernandez, 2006-06-10
Following his rivalry-winning third round knockout of Larios, Vazquez got a slot on the undercard of the huge Tarver-Hopkins fight, and made the most of it. He battered Hernandez for four rounds. Warrior Scale: 5/10

v. Jhonny Gonzalez, 2006-09-16
Gonzalez, the long bantamweight titlist who had a 3-inch height advantage on Vazquez, dominated Israel for much of this fight, using his jab wonderfully and showing just how good of a boxer he is. Then Vazquez staged a remarkable rally, culminating in a 10th round TKO. A heroic effort, befitting of any of the era's great action stars. This is the fight where Israel Vazquez's name was truly born. It stole the show on the Barrera-Juarez II show, and was a contender for 2006 Fight of the Year. Warrior Scale: 8.5/10

v. Rafael Marquez, 2007-03-03
We've been over it. You know the fight if you've been here, because I can barely shut up about any of the three of them. Vazquez fights through a broken nose as long as he can, flooring Marquez early on, only to have Rafael take momentum back. And then, Vazquez grabbed it from him, only to have to retire on his stool. Warrior Scale: 8.5/10

v. Rafael Marquez, 2007-08-04
Unbelievable action. An absolutely thrilling slugfest. The 2007 Fight of the Year from basically everyone on earth. Warrior Scale: 10/10

v. Rafael Marquez, 2008-03-01
The best fight of the three, in my view, and that of many others. And that ending? My God. Warrior Scale: 10/10

Cumulative head-to-head scores of their last five fights, on the woefully unscientific Warrior Scale: Vazquez 42, Pacquiao 31. Frankly, it's not even that close.

Again, this is in no way about trying to slam Manny Pacquiao, more just to emphasize how outstandingly exciting Israel Vazquez has been over the same timeframe. Manny's been firmly dethroned as King of Action. All hail Israel Vazquez!

And I also don't think it's any surprise that the two have spent a lot of time sparring together, and are friendly outside the ring. After all, both are trained by Freddie Roach, both go into fights with the same mindset, and both exemplify everything good about boxing.

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