Rivals Israel “El Magnifico” Vazquez and Rafael Marquez stood side by side posing for the cameras during the post fight press conference.
Vazquez’s left eye looked like somebody slapped a piece of meat over it while Marquez looked slightly battle worn.
After 28 rounds of the most scientifically brutal and awe inspiring prizefighting at an elite level, many fans, experts and friends are asking to end the intense rivalry between the two Mexico City gladiators.
“That’s it,” said Frank Espinoza Sr. who manages Vazquez. “I hope he listens to my advice and retires.”
It only lasted three rounds but sighs of relief from the more than 9,000 spectators blanketed the Staples Center when referee Raul Caiz Jr. jumped in between Marquez and Vazquez to end the fight that culminates a four-fight series between the two future Hall of Fame boxers that started three years ago.
It all began on March 3, 2010 when the fight took place outside at the Home Depot Center’s tennis venue. Very few people arrived for the event that was announced in February with little time to get the word out. Both boxers were considered to be in their prime and at their peak.
Marquez, 35, caught Vazquez with a pretty uppercut that broke the nose and forced him to turn his back in pain. With Freddie Roach in Vazquez corner at the time, a decision was made to end the fight at the end of the seventh round. It was a wise decision but many fans and experts called Vazquez a coward for quitting in the corner. Those same people would have to eat their words. Marquez took the WBC junior featherweight title.
“I couldn’t breathe,” said Vazquez, 32, who realized that fighting a killing machine like Marquez was difficult enough. But to continue with a broken nose like that was not very intelligent.
The move proved correct. A rematch was signed and both met in Hidalgo, Texas. This time Vazquez proved the stronger fighter and dropped Marquez and eventually forced the referee to save him. Vazquez had avenged his defeat of five months earlier and did it in six rounds. Maybe 2,000 people were in attendance.
The third clash occurred seven months later. An incensed Marquez wanted revenge for the TKO loss that was voted Fight of the Year in 2007. Now it was March 2008 and Marquez wanted revenge.
For 12 rounds both Vazquez and Marquez engaged in a back and forth battle that showcased their elite fighting skills before 8,000 fans including celebrities such as Jack Nicholson, Sylvester Stallone and others. No longer were they two little guys from Mexico City. Now the world knew what to expect from the two junior featherweights considered among the top 12 fighters pound for pound.
They didn’t disappoint. Vazquez rallied in the last round to knock down Marquez with a left hook and win by split decision. But the battering each boxer sustained left Vazquez with a torn retina, numerous facial lacerations and who knows what kind of trauma to the head. He later would undergo several eye operations. Marquez suffered numerous cuts and trauma to the head. A boxer in Marquez’s Mexico City gym says that dizzy spells forced him to miss training for almost a year.
Most fans did not want to see Marquez and Vazquez give any more of their blood. Both boxers were hailed as heroes and beseeched to hang up their gloves.
Now, with Marquez winning the fourth bout and evening the rivalry at two wins apiece, it seems the perfect ending.
“I’ve known Israel for 12 years, he lived with me in my house for a while and he’s one of the nicest guys in boxing,” said Espinoza who has managed Vazquez the past decade.
“He’s like a son to me. I don’t want to see him hurt. His legacy is set he does not need to prove anything more.”
Vazquez’s skin tissue is so delicate that a mere jab is capable of busting open a cut.
“My plan was to work on the eye,” admitted Marquez after the fight.
Both Vazquez and Marquez gave fans and the sport more than a pound of flesh. They pounded on each other so much that neither fighter is the same. But fans poured into the arena on Saturday almost as a show of respect for the two gladiators.
It is so fitting that this amazing series ends tied at two. Both men will go down in history alongside the greatest fighters this sport has known,” said Ken Hershman, general manager of Showtime Sports that televised all four bouts. “We are proud to have been part of this historic rivalry.”
Most of the 9,000 fans at the Staples Center had wanted the rivalry ended but attended the fight out of respect for the two Aztec warriors who fought with a savagery and intensity not often seen.
A sigh of relief was the natural sense of order for many in attendance and those watching on television.
“Israel is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet in boxing,” said Espinoza.
Others say Marquez shares similar traits outside the prize ring.
“Rafael is a very classy person,” said Shaw.
Both fighters emerge victorious as heroes for the sport.
Fights on television
Thurs. Fox 8 p.m., Jose Navarro vs. Benjie Garcia
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Librado Andrade vs. Eric Lucas
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Sebastian Lujan (32-5-2) vs. Emilio Julio (18-5-1).
Sat. pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. (18-0-1) vs. Zsolt Bedak (15-0).
Sat. Fox, 8 p.m., Jesus Soto Karass (24-4-3) vs. Gabriel Martinez (24-1-1).