Deep in Central Mexico there must be thousands of boxing fans who wish they were living in Southern California when Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez meet on March 3, at the Home Depot Center.

Marquez, the IBF bantamweight world champion and Vazquez the WBC junior featherweight world champion signed to meet each other in a fight that sends ripples throughout the world for boxing fans. Both champions are Mexico City natives.

Get this. Tickets are only $25 apiece.

“It was just too good to pass up,” said Gary Shaw, who is co-promoting the event with Sycuan Ringside Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions. “It’s the best fighting the best.”

Both Mexico City fighters are destined for the Boxing Hall of Fame when they retire.

Vazquez, 29, was voted Fighter of the Year in 2006 by the Riverside Press-Enterprise among other publications and was last seen getting off the floor from two knockdowns against WBO bantamweight titleholder Jhonny Gonzalez last September. He knocked him out in blistering fashion. He’s beaten a number of world titleholders including Ivan “Choko” Hernandez, Oscar Larios and Jorge Elicier Julio. One more to go.

“This is my chance to prove I’m one of the best boxers today,” said Vazquez (41-3, 30 KOs), who is trained by Freddie Roach. “Rafael Marquez is coming into my division where I’m the strongest. I’m going to knock him out.”

Marquez, 31, emerged from the club fights at the Inglewood Forum to become a sharp-shooting knockout puncher with speed. Few outside of Southern California knew about the younger brother of former featherweight world champion Juan Manuel Marquez. Then came the two upset wins over the great Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson in 2001 and 2002. That was followed by a huge knockout win over undefeated Tim Austin. Now the rest of the world knows Marquez.

“I’m very strong at this heavier weight,” Marquez (36-3, 32 KOs) said, who’s been toiling at 118 pounds since his pro career began in 1995. “I’m going to be the best fighter at 122 pounds.”

The two “chilangos” migrated north from Mexico City to the more lucrative boxing arenas in Southern California. Mexico City has been a haven for professional prizefighters for decades. It’s no surprise.

Before the Spanish conquest 500 years ago, Mexico City was known as Tenochitlan and was the capital of the Mexica (Aztec) empire known as Aztlan. It was a warrior culture that dominated an area that encompassed Central America to parts of the Southwest in the U.S. No other sport epitomizes that culture than boxing.

If you look at the IBO computer rankings you’ll see four of Mexico City’s best fighters ranked in the top 25. Boxing is a staple of that area and continues to bring its best prizefighters to our country.

Remember Sugar Ramos, Vicente Saldivar, Carlos Zarate, Alfonso Zamora, Ruben Olivares, Pipino Cuevas or Lupe Pintor to name a few.

We’ve been sucking up Mexico City’s talent like a vacuum machine for the last 40-plus years.

“For years the Inglewood Forum was basically a showcase for fighters from Mexico City,” said Rick Smith, a boxing expert from Los Angeles. “Now people normally have to go to Las Vegas to see these great fighters from Mexico City.”

On March 3, two more great Mexico City fighters will meet against each other at the Home Depot Center in Carson and Southern California fans will benefit. Not since Zarate met Zamora in their famous battle at the Inglewood Forum in April 1977 have two great knockout punchers from “D.F.” – as it is known in Mexico City – fought each other in Southern California.

“It’s a natural fit for this area,” said Nacho Beristain the trainer of Marquez while in Los Angeles last Wednesday. “We want to reward the fans.”

Also on the fight card will be IBF flyweight champion Vic Darchinyan (27-0, 20 KOs) defending his title against Mexico’s Victor Burgos (39-14-3).

Darchinyan, who fights out of Australia, wants a crack at Jorge Arce. Both have been trading taunts for more than two years.

And it’s only going to cost $25 for two legitimate world title fights. Grab those tickets now.

Malignaggi, Smith and Segura too

Paul Malignaggi, one of my favorite fighters, captured a unanimous decision victory over rock hard Edner Cherry in a 10-round fight on Saturday.

Fighting in front of a hometown crowd, Malignaggi used his speed and boxing ability to maneuver away from Cherry’s bombs in a junior welterweight contest at the Hammerstein Ballroom.

“I felt it was the smart thing to do,” said Malignaggi who boxed and moved in winning by scores of 98-92 twice and 99-91. There were no knockdowns.

In a junior middleweight bout, Sechew Powell won by a surprisingly wide margin in a 10-round bout with Ishe Smith. All three judges scored it 97-92 for Powell. One of the judges scoring was Dick Flaherty who had the outrageous scoring for Samuel Peter in the first match against James Toney.

Though it was a close fight, Smith scored a knockdown and was the more dominant and effective puncher in the last four rounds. But the judges saw it otherwise. Maybe it was a hometown decision.

Watching it on HBO was no help. The Boxing After Dark camera crew or director did a poor job and missed some of the most important action several instances.

In a welterweight bout, Andre Berto obliterated Norberto Bravo with three knockdowns in the first round. Under New York rules the fight is over whenever a boxer is knocked down three times in a round.

Berto appeared last year in Aguas Caliente Casino and did not appear to be as good. His punches were rather slow though strong. Now he seems to have more zip. I saw him spar a few months ago with Winky Wright and looked pretty impressive.

“He’s going to be a world champion some day,” Wright said.

Fights on television

Thurs. Versus, 8 p.m., Humberto Soto (40-5-2) vs. Humberto Toledo (30-2-2).

Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., Darnell Wilson (20-5-3) vs. Kelvin Davis (24-4-2).

Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., David Banks (13-1-1) vs. Elvin Ayala (16-1).

Fri. Telemundo, 11:30 p.m., Cecilio Santos (21-7-2) vs. Luis Melendez (20-1-1).