Vazquez-Marquez III: The Grand Finale

By Anthony Coleman: So it has come to this. After two brutal and exhilarating bouts, Junior Featherweight champion Israel Vazquez will defend his title against former Bantamweight champion Rafael Marquez for likely the final time. To say that this final showdown has a lot to live up to is like saying is like saying that Scarlett Johansson has big breasts.:

it is saying the obvious. And much like the assets of the thick and lovely Miss Johansson, those first two fights were damn good to look at. However, if the joy of watching Izzy and Raffy box made you aroused, well then umm, that’s good for you. I guess. But enough of the analogy of one of curvy famous actresses let me further elaborate on the facts.

The first match last March was a great fight, with a very ant-climatic ending. Marquez started out fast working his sledgehammer jab and then staggered the champion with a right cross at the end of the first round. The story continued for Marquez for the second round and to the early part of the third. Then Vazquez landed a hard left hook on the inside which sent Marquez on the seat of his pants. Marquez got up, clearly stunned, bought some time and by round’s end he stood his ground and continued throwing and landing his blows. The action continued with Marquez’s jab and right hand landing and damaging Vazquez’s nose, but by the seventh it looked as if the champ was finally starting to turn up the heat as he started to get inside and landed his hooks to the body and his own right cross. Of course then Vazquez quit on his stool because his nose was badly busted up, thus robbing us of a definitive end to this clash.

Yet last August in the rematch, the two modern day Mexican greats squared off for a second time, and in this go around Vazquez would regain his crown by stopping Marquez in the 6th round, and they managed to not only equal the high action of their March encounter; they actually surpassed it. The fight featured more heated exchanges; and time-capsule third round with Marquez getting stunned badly by Vazquez’s left hook, Marquez getting battered yet coming back and stunning Vazquez along with opening huge cuts over both of his eyes. Round four and five featured the same two-way action with both men soldiering on and showing their world class skill. As the fight moved into the 6th round the question of the fight was whether Marquez could keep himself up for the final bell, or if Vazquez could get to him before the fight was stopped because of his cuts. Then Vazquez dropped the champ with a short left hook and finished him off with a final barrage. This rematch was so good that the fight was named “Fight of the Year.” by me and most boxing publications and websites (Round 3 was also the near unanimous “Round of the Year” by both the fans and media outlets.) So yeah this fight has a lot to live up to.

So the question goes as follows: can Marquez and Vazquez pull off the trinket and give fans another great fight? Probably. Their styles are so offensive minded and meshes so well with one another that you’d get the feeling that these two would create great crowd pleasing matches 100 times. Plus in the context of history, this fight has a chance of joining the other elite trilogies in boxing history namely; Barrera-Morales, Zale-Graziano, Gatti-Ward, and of course Ali-Frazier. That is some very elite class, and it guarantees that fight fans and historians will not forget the careers of Vazquez and Marquez. But beyond that the question of both men’s standing in history may be determined by this fight.

With his long reign at Bantamweight, Rafael Marquez has probably punched his ticket into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. However this fight maybe the chance for him to make that march to all-time greatness, and because he is already in his thirties time is beginning to run out. If he is going to make that charge it will help him by winning this series. Also, he probably wants to show the boxing world that he can last the distance with a fighter who is near the class of puncher (both technique and power wise) as he is.

Throughout his career Marquez has acquired the label as the Mexican equivalent of Terry Norris. Much like Norris, Marquez is a nearly perfect offensive fighter, throwing perfect punches and combinations that lands with accuracy and devastating power. However, they also share the same flaws: both have bad chins and occasionally will become overconfident which results in them losing concentration on their defenses and results in them getting hurt or KO’d (the only differences between the two was the fact that Norris had faster hands, Marquez was more powerful, and Norris was more prone to losing his temper during a fight.) Much like with Norris’ fight with Julian Jackson and Simon Brown, these flaws cost Marquez in his KO loss to Vazquez. Instead of coming out jabbing and fighting with caution like he did in the first encounter, he elected to trade and expected to blow Vazquez out with one big punch. It didn’t happen and he ended up getting beaten up pretty badly.

Now it is his time for Marquez to prove that he can adjust and come back from a devastating loss. In fact, this is where the Norris comparison maybe more applicable.

“Terrible Terry” established his image as a tough guy by coming back from his devastating loss from an incredible puncher like Jackson and faced another KO artist in John Mugabi and showed his belief in his abilities by brutally KOing “The Beast,” in one round to pick up the WBC Junior Middleweight title.

Later, when he was deep into his first title reign and an established pound-for-pound fighter he was stopped by Simon Brown. Yet he came back two fights later and regained his belt with a rematch against Brown in perhaps his best display of pure boxing throughout his great career. That kind of confidence in his skills was responsible for him to come back while lesser fighters would have been crushed by those defeats, and throughout his career Marquez has shown that kind of resolve.

Remember, he lost by KO three times earlier in his career but managed to pick himself up, rebuild his career and then win the IBF Bantamweight crown against Tim Austin. And nobody doubts his boxing ability or IQ.

Because of his tutelage under Nacho Beristain, he has developed into one of the best pure boxers in the sport along with his brother Juan Manuel Marquez, Floyd Mayweather and of Bernard Hopkins. Plus he is the slightly more athletic and technically skilled boxer than Vazquez. It wouldn’t surprise me that he would come out in the rematch, circle around the ring while leading with that sledgehammer jab, counterpunch and pick his spots to a decision win or late stoppage. It is a very real possibility.

As for Vazquez this fight, if he wins, will strengthen his case that he belongs along with the best pound-for-pound boxers of his era. It clearly wasn’t a fluke that he won the rematch as he came with a game plan of giving Marquez no time to breather, but if can do it again it will increase his stock even higher. And if he were to go on to defeat WBO champion Daniel Ponce DeLeon, WBA champ Celestino Cabellero and IBF titlist Steve Molitor he will be a lock for the Hall of Fame.

There is no doubt that he can do it. He is a very good boxer, can punch and is as tough of a fighter you’ll see in the sport today. The question is if he can deal with the adjustments that Marquez might make in the rematch. We’ll find out on Saturday night.

As for the prediction, I’m not fully confident in my decision, but I’ll go with Vazquez via 10th round TKO. I think he has the momentum going into the rubber match and I think he’ll be ready to pounce and adjust. However, I wouldn’t be shocked by a Marquez upset either. The fact is that these two men are so evenly matched that is very difficult to determine who the favorite is.

But there is one thing I’m very confident in: we’ll get another damn good battle. We should be grateful to these two excellent athletes because over the year, they’ve provided boxing fans with great drama and excitement. The only sad part is that the casual sports fan will not pay the fight any mind because it features two Spanish speaking Mexicans who are 122 pounders. It is a damn shame while novice arm-chair commentators still talk about Roy Jones and De La Hoya as if they were still relevant fighters, or worry too much about the state of the Heavyweight division, that they won’t pay boxers below 147 pounds any attention despite some of our sports’ best competitors being there. However, as I said last year, this fight is for the dedicated boxing fan and we should be thankful for what we’ve received out of Vazquez and Marquez.

Article posted on 01.03.2008

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