Mexico City fighters seem to be making a big comeback in the world-class level of boxing as Israel Vazquez defends his WBC junior featherweight title against Jhonny Gonzalez. Both hail from Mexico’s capital.

Vazquez will meet the taller Gonzalez (33-4, 28 KOs), who is moving up from the bantamweight division, on Saturday at the MGM Grand. The fight will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.

“They seem to know Jhonny more than me probably because I live in California now,” said Vazquez (40-3, 29 KOs) who began his boxing career in Mexico City. “Perhaps after I beat him I’ll be bigger.”

Last year, Vazquez was named boxing’s Fighter of the Year by several publications for his impressive wins over Oscar Larios and Artyom Simonyan. He’s considered by The RING magazine to be the real junior featherweight world champion and is the 100th Mexican to win a world title. It’s been a good year.

Considered by many to be the strongest at the 122-pound weight division, Vazquez now fights someone who is several inches taller in Gonzalez.

“I took the fight because we’re both Mexicans from Mexico City. It’s an opportunity to fight the best. Jhonny has been making a big hit in Mexico,” said Vazquez, 28, during a telephone conference call. “The market in Mexico has forgotten me and I want to prove I’m a worthy champion and can beat these fighters.”

Gonzalez, 24, who holds the WBO bantamweight title, has sought a marquee type fight for over a year. He eagerly vied for a match with WBA bantamweight titleholder Rafael Marquez, another Mexico City slugger, but was unable to agree to terms. Now he has Vazquez.

“It’s the most important fight of my career to fight a great champion like Israel Vazquez,” said Gonzalez during the telephone conference call. “Israel has shown through many fights he’s very strong and comes forward. I’m very well prepared. He can withstand a lot of pressure but he is not invincible. I feel it’s a 50-50 fight.”

In his last match Gonzalez fought Fernando Montiel, the WBO junior bantamweight titleholder who was moving up in weight to fight him. Gonzalez won in a strategic battle. Now Gonzalez moves up in weight to fight Vazquez. Will it be too much?

“He (Montiel) was very small and I feel comfortable at the bigger weight,” said Gonzalez during the same conference call. “I’m bigger physically and feel a lot stronger at 122. I was having problems fighting at 118 pounds.”

Freddie Roach, who trains Vazquez said the game plan against Gonzalez is very clear:

“Jhonny Gonzalez is a very slow starter,” said Roach, a master strategist. “Israel is going to come out fast with the pressure from the start.”

When you mention the fight to Vazquez his eyes beam.

“This is going to be fireworks,” he said smiling.

More fireworks

Argentina’s Jorge Barrios (46-2-1, 33 KOs) defends his WBO junior lightweight title against Dominican Republic’s Joan Guzman.

Barrios, a devil-may-care kind of slugger, faces the quicksilver style of Guzman who darts in and out and hits with abandon. It’s the type of fight that is difficult to ascertain who has an advantage.

Guzman (25-0, 17 KOs), a former WBO junior featherweight titleholder, moved up two weight divisions to meet Mexico’s Javier Jauregui several months ago and somewhat easily outpointed the veteran fighter. Now he faces the human punching machine Barrios who took the title from California’s Mighty Mike Anchondo a year ago and has already defended it three times. His biggest fight was against Brazil’s Acelino Freitas who knocked him out in the last round in 2003. It was some kind of war with both fighters dropped twice, but that’s Barrio’s kind of fight.

Oscar De La Hoya, whose promotion company is staging the fight card, says it may be the best matchups they’ve ever made.

“I’m actually very excited about this whole card from top to bottom,” said De La Hoya by telephone. “Every single fight is too close to call.”

Other Las Vegas fights

If you happen to arrive in town Thursday, check out the fight card at the Orleans Arena featuring Kid Diamond fighting Jairo Ramirez for the NABF lightweight title. Also on the card will be Jose Luis Zertuche meeting Fulgencio Zuniga in a junior middleweight showdown. If you like watching top-flight prospects check out middleweight Andy Lee, a tall southpaw. Another can’t miss prospect is John Molina, a tall lightweight slugger with speed and power. It’s an impressive fight card. It will also be shown on the cable station Outdoor Living Network (OLN).

Fights on television

Thurs. OLN, 7 p.m., Kid Diamond (22-1-1) vs. Jairo Ramirez (20-2).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Librado Andrade (23-0, 17 KOs) vs. Richard Grant (19-13-1).

Sat. HBO pay-per-view, 6 p.m., Marco Antonio Barrera (62-4) vs. Rocky Juarez (25-2); Jorge Barrios (46-2-1) vs. Joan Guzman (25-0); Israel Vazquez (40-3) vs. Jhonny Gonzalez (33-4).