I can't get my mind off of this fight, and the trilogy as a whole. We're heading into a pretty big weekend of major fights, with HBO and Showtime both in action on Saturday, but I want to give just a little more time for Vazquez-Marquez. We'll go bullet points style again.
- This is something that's gaining some steam among fans and writers: If they fought ten more times, Vazquez would win every time. It's nothing against Rafael Marquez. But while he's slightly taller and has a longer reach than Vazquez, Vazquez carries 122 pounds better, hits harder, and can weather Marquez's punching. In every fight, I think this was evident.
Look at the first fight. Marquez dominated two rounds, and got caught with a left hook that put him down in the third. He took over again after that, recovering very nicely. He won the fourth and fifth rounds, but the sixth and seventh saw Vazquez build a lot of momentum. What if Vazquez hadn't been fighting with a re-broken nose, caused by Marquez in the first round? Vazquez's people have always said he didn't go into their first fight with his nose at 100%. Again, not taking away from Marquez. As Rafael later said, in response to Vazquez talking about the nose so much, "I punched him."
That fight was turning toward Israel Vazquez.
The second time around, Vazquez came out sharper than he did in the first encounter. I thought they split the first five rounds (two for Rafael, two for Israel, and even in the fifth) before the Vazquez TKO in the sixth. You might think the stoppage was slightly premature, and I do, too. But don't you think that fight was 20 seconds or so from ending anyway? Marquez was being demolished.
On Saturday night, it was more of the same. As well as Israel Vazquez was fighting, Marquez was better in the earlygoing. I thought Marquez took five of the first six rounds, and he dropped Vazquez for the first time in the fourth. After six rounds, as excellent and as hotly contested as the fight was, I had Rafael Marquez running away with it, 59-54.
But this fight didn't end in six or seven rounds, as the first two did. It went the distance. And Vazquez's power punching and larger, better built for the weight frame was the difference. Vazquez won rounds seven through nine, and even though Marquez won the tenth, the point deduction for low blows was a killer. After ten rounds, I had it 95-93 for Marquez.
Eleven was Vazquez's round. And the 12th and final round was all Israel Vazquez. Again, I would have scored that 10-8 regardless of the knockdown. The round was SO one-sided, I think you could have scored it 10-7 for Vazquez. Marquez landed a few nice shots, but they had nothing on them. He was forced to flee from the raging Vazquez, and he couldn't sit down on his punches and really back Israel up. And Vazquez plugged away until he scored the knockdown that won him the fight on my card, 113-112, That was the same score on Dr. James Jen Kin's card, which, of course, is slightly more important.
The 12th round won the fight for Vazquez, and it's because he was stronger by then. Marquez faded in the third fight the same as he did in the first. The second fight saw him pummeled before he could really fade. His fading went right along with the stoppage of the fight.
- There's no need for a fourth fight. All of my feelings on a fourth fight are in the above paragraphs, and Franklin McNeil said basically the same thing at ESPN.
I also agree with McNeil that Marquez is the better pound-for-pound boxer of the two, and It's not particularly close. But those four pounds make all the difference in the world. Did you ever see Rafael Marquez fight at 118 pounds? My God, he was a wrecking ball. The 118-pound version of Marquez was as high as No. 2 on my personal pound-for-pound list. He was that good, that destructive, and that overpowering. His fast hands and lightning combinations combined with vicious power, and it was truly a thing to behold.
At 122, the power just isn't the same. Also credit Vazquez for being a tough, tough son of a bitch. If you make a pound-for-pound list of the toughest fighters in the game, I'd put Vazquez No. 1. He has spent the last four fights of his career getting pounded and overcoming it. The only thing that stopped him from winning the first fight against Marquez, I now feel, was the fact that he couldn't breathe. If you've never seen his epic comeback over Jhonny Gonzalez, seek it out. It was another case of a 118-pound fighter outboxing Vazquez before the heat got turned up and Israel overwhelmed his opponent.
But with as much as I'm praising Vazquez, I also think Rafael Marquez deserves just as much in way of props. If you consider him a bantamweight that has had a three-fight stint at super bantam, then I think he's a top five pound-for-pound fighter. If he's firmly at 122 now, guess what? He's so good that he's still the second-best in the division, behind Vazquez, and he's still top ten pound-for-pound. Would anyone really favor Caballero or Ponce de Leon over Marquez?
- Going back to the Gonzalez fight briefly, when is the last time a fighter had four straight fights as electrifying as Israel Vazquez has put together? Forget Manny Pacquiao or anyone else -- the must-see action fighter in boxing is Israel Vazquez. This is not up for debate.
- A friend of mine watches a lot of fights with me, and has seen all three Vazquez-Marquez fights. He loved every one of them, as everyone else has. He's not a huge boxing fan, but he knows the difference between a good fight and a piece of crap. When a fight is good (Cotto-Mosley, Cotto-Judah, Vazquez-Marquez, Barrera-Marquez, even Taylor-Wright), he gets into it. When it's not (Klitschko-Ibragimov, Pacquiao-Barrera II, etc.), he knows the difference.
He also wonders -- as I'm sure many casual fans do -- why more fights aren't like these fights. The first reason is that few fights are. But I think the bigger issue is this: How many times do we see a matchup of this caliber? There are lots of them to be made. Haye-Maccarinelli promises to be outstanding fun this Saturday. And I know I've complained about the pay-per-view status of Mosley-Judah, but I'll also all but guarantee that we see an entertaining fight between those two.
So few fighters and promoters are willing to actually make these fights. Humberto Soto could have challenged Pacquiao last October instead of safety-first Marco Antonio Barrera, and we'd have gotten a much better fight. Of course, Pacquiao would have gotten a smaller payday. Mayweather could fight Miguel Cotto, but this is a business, and Oscar de la Hoya promises to make him a LOT more money.
Juan Diaz could've fought Michael Katsidis in what would have been an all-action affair. Instead, we get Diaz-Campbell and Katsidis-Casamayor, two fights that have their good points on paper, but don't outright promise the action.
You don't see these fights often because nobody actually puts them together. Someone always gets in the way. That's also a reason why we should treasure them.
- Does anyone else think that the talk of Vazquez stepping up to 126 is a mistake? The guy is my favorite fighter, but does the power translate four more pounds? Marquez moving from 118 to 122 saw him retain maybe 75-80% of his power. The same, I think, could happen to Vazquez at 126. And considering he's not a slick boxer (though he's pretty good), that could really hurt him at the higher weight.
Robert Guerrero already said he'd like to fight Vazquez. If it makes Vazquez more money, then all the best to him. Personally, I think Golden Boy would be insane to not match Vazquez with Daniel Ponce de Leon sometime this summer or fall, after a long rest for Vazquez to recover from these grueling wars. Vazquez-Ponce would not be Vazquez-Marquez, but it's another dynamite matchup. This is not an opponent who would be afraid to mix it up with Ponce de Leon, which is when Daniel (1) has problems and (2) produces dull fights. An opponent willing to engage him gets the most out of Ponce de Leon, and we as fans get the most out of his fights.
One more salute to Vazquez and Marquez, and a hearty thank you to those fighters, Showtime and Gary Shaw, and everyone else that initially thought, "You know what would be a hell of a fight?" and then actually made it happen.