Israel Vazquez reaches Super stardom

israel vazquez08.08.07 – By Anthony Coleman: On Saturday night, Israel Vazquez reached the pinnacle of his boxing career. He not only avenged his earlier loss to Rafael Marquez, but he did it in impressive fashion. He survived some brutal cuts over both eyes, and showed absolute courage and world class skill in knocking off one of the very best fighters in the sport today. More importantly he received two things that he has long sought throughout his career: recognition and respect.

The road to the top has been a long one for Vazquez. Like most little fighters, he fought on undercards to bigger named fighters, and for smaller purses. In his first attempt at a world title, he would be stopped in 12 rounds by Oscar Larios (the fighter he had blitzed in one round back in 1997). Even after he picked up his first world title in 2004, he was still was considered just another title holder; a solid boxing professional yet not one of the very elite.

However; Vazquez really began to turn heads back in 2005 when he partially unified the 122 pound title by stopping his rival Oscar Larios on cuts in 3 rounds. That win gained him near universal recognition as the best 122 pound fighter in the world. He would defend his title two more times, until he met Jhonny Gonzalez last September in what turned out to be perhaps the best boxing fight fought on US soil in 2005. Early in the fight, the power punching Gonzalez would drop Vazquez twice and badly injure his nose in the process. Yet, Vazquez preserved and gathered strength going into the late rounds of the fight and would eventually stop Gonzalez in the 10th round. That win got really etched his name into the collective unconscious of hard core boxing fans, and created demand for a showdown between he and Bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez.

In what turned out to be an excellent fight, for seven rounds Marquez and Vazquez showed great technique, skill and will until Vazquez was forced to quit on his stool after suffering a severely injured nose. The fight cost him not only his Super Bantamweight championship, but also some respect in certain members of boxing fandom (though the reaction was totally unwarranted).

Going into the wildly anticipated rematch with Marquez, many wondered if Vazquez even stood a chance. While the first fight was considered a 50/50 fight, Marquez was considered the clear favorite going into the sequel. Plus many questioned if Vazquez would be prepared to fight because of his switch from Freddy Roach to Rudy Perez as trainer. Yet with his amazing and gutsy win over the ultra-talented Rafael Marquez, Vazquez not only regained his boxing title, but now has finally earned his place on nearly every writer’s pound-for-pound list. The distinction is much deserved and overdue.

Israel Vazquez is not only one of the most courageous fighters in the sport today, but also one the best practitioners of the sweet science. While his defense isn’t perfect, he is a great, versatile offensive fighter. He throws short, accurate and precise punches, has very good punching power, can throw every punch in the book with effectiveness, and his combination punching is tremendous. That inside right uppercut-short left hook which dropped Marquez in round six (and signaled the impending end of the fight) was as text book and as good a combination you will see.

He also possesses very good athleticism and stamina, for an elite fighter. Yet perhaps his most important attribute is his ring intelligence. His fight plan against Marquez last Saturday night was outstanding, basically showing relentless pressure, crouching low, and throwing punches form either angle so he wouldn’t become predictable. Unlike in the first fight, in which he started slow, Vazquez learned from his mistakes in his first fight and gained immediate momentum in the fight. This win is quite simply his crowing achievement.

Right now, Vazquez should be basking in the glow of his victory, and there is more to come. There will almost certainly be a rubber match with Marquez, and if he wins that fight and unifies against Celestino Caballero, he would have built up a serious case for the Hall of Fame. He may not receive first-ballot support, yet his case for Canastota would be genuine (and it would be a hell of a lot stronger than Arturo Gatti’s case). Whether he gets into the Hall of Fame, is a question best reserved for when he retires, but right now we should appreciate Israel Vazquez for what he is: one of the most skilled, hardworking, exciting, and courageous boxer-punchers in the sport today.

News of The World:

rafael marquez-Though Rafael Marquez lost his title last Saturday, he still should be guaranteed a spot on the pound-for-pound rankings. He should drop a few spots, but he shouldn’t be knocked off the lists. He is still one of the best boxers in the sport. However, as great as Vazquez was on Saturday (and make no mistake, this version of Vazquez would have probably taken out both Caballero and Ponce De Leon), Marquez made a few mistakes in the fight. He let his two flaws cost him his title: his willingness to trade and his chin. He became overconfident and traded (especially with the left hook) when it wasn’t beneficial for him thus opening up and giving Vazquez too many opportunities to land. Unlike in the first fight, in which he boxed from the outside and used that Jack hammer of a jab, he went out looking for a knockout and traded leather from the beginning. If he would have jabbed more and moved around the ring it would have increased of chances of winning dramatically (though it must be said I don’t know if he still would have won the fight). I suspect that Marquez will to that strategy in the inevitable rematch and provide fight fans with another thriller.

-The fight itself was the fight of the year so far. In terms of technique and sustained action no other fight has delivered in terms of these two. It was an excellent fight and the best fight since the Patron Saint of Ring Wars: Castillo-Corrales I. It seems as if Raffy and Izzy could fight 100 times and the fight would be tremendous; that is how well their styles mesh. I don’t care what anybody tells you: this is the best rivalry in the sport today-BAR NONE!

-With so many big fights on the second half of this year, this is shaping up to be the best year in boxing we’ve seen in a long time. In September we’ll get Taylor-Pavlik, in November Calzaghe-Kessler, and in that same month we’ll probably see Cotto-Mosley. From a fight fans perspective, the sport of boxing hasn’t looked this great in years.

Article posted on 08.08.2007

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