Israel Vazquez’s manager said that a fourth fight with Rafael Marquez is a possibility, but not for a while.
“We’re going to give him a good rest,” said Frank Espinoza, Vazquez’s manager. “I can see a fourth fight with Rafael if the terms are right.”
Spoken like a boxing manager.
Vazquez is absorbing the heaps of praise much like he absorbed the tons of punishing blows from archrival Marquez, taking it all in stride.
“He’s a great champion,” Vazquez said of Marquez after the fight.
The scene following one of the best fights in recent history was euphoric.
Hundreds of fight fans were standing around talking about what they had just seen with smiles on their faces. There were still about five or six fights to go after the main event (Showtime wanted the main event to start at 6:30 p.m.) but fans had been spoiled. What those in attendance and those watching on television had seen was surgical brawling.
In my career as a boxing writer I’ve witnessed a few live that could be called among the best: Marco Antonio Barrera and Kennedy McKinney, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales I, Paulie Ayala and Johnny Tapia I, Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo I, Vitali Klitschko and Lennox Lewis (yes, a heavyweight match!), and now Vazquez and Marquez III.
In the first three rounds it looked like Vazquez was going to blow out Marquez. He stunned Rafael a few times and wobbled him too. But there he was turning the tables by keeping his distance and working that stiff left jab to perfection.
Looking at the crowd seated in the tennis stadium –that’s perfectly constructed to watch boxing – few people were getting out of their seats for popcorn or beer. They were glued, no, cemented, to their seats.
I sat next to my buddy Doug Fischer and veteran boxing writer Jerry McGee of the San Diego Union-Tribune, and we could not believe the action in front of our eyes. In front of me Robert Morales of Long Beach Press-Telegram turned around every so often to see how others were scoring the fight.
The fourth round was one of the best I’ve seen as Marquez floored Vazquez with a beautiful combination. But quickly Vazquez regrouped and began a counter-attack that dazzled and exhilarated the crowd. Then with about 10 seconds left in the round, Marquez countered that counter-attack with another flurry. It reminded me of the fifth round between Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales in their first fight eight years ago. Barrera was in the crowd at the Home Depot Center, I wonder what he thought of the fight?
Marquez tried to slow down Vazquez with body shots, but his geography was a little off and he repeatedly landed in the forbidden zone. Referee Pat Russell visibly warned him twice.
One tactic that Marquez used to perfection was saving his strength for a final flurry once the 10-second warning came. In three rounds he opened up and caught Vazquez with some beautiful shots that won him the rounds nine through 11 though he was pretty much on the receiving end for two minutes and 45 seconds. He fooled New Jersey judge Tom Kaczmarek who gave Marquez all of those rounds. Judge James Jen Kin bought the ploy in the ninth and 10th but not the 11th. Only Judge Max DeLuca saw through the façade and only gave Marquez the 10th round.
It was a close fight entering the 12th and final round. Fischer and Morales had Marquez ahead and I had Vazquez on top, but we all knew that it was anybody’s fight entering the last stanza.
Boy, did Vazquez know the score.
The former Mexico City fighter, who now makes California his home, busted out of his corner with a look on his face that could be described as do or die. It’s the kind of look that Homer must have envisioned in writing about his tales: a heroic face where the wrinkles and blood mix to provide a sculpted mask of determination.
Few imagined that after 11 rounds of near-death fighting, Vazquez could muster up energy to increase an already fast-pace championship tempo. It was ludicrous to conceive that after 12 furious rounds of total action that anyone could increase their punch output, but that’s exactly what Vazquez did. No one was more amazed than Marquez whose eyes belied a look of shock that his opponent continued to fire almost nonstop.
When Marquez was pummeled with less than 25 seconds in the final round and was on the verge of hitting the floor from the barrage, referee Pat Russell correctly stopped in between and started an eight-count. Seconds later the fight was over and Vazquez was ruled the winner by split-decision.
Some booed the decision and Marquez’s corner cited the referee's point deduction as an error, but there were more than a few blows connected below the beltline. And the knockdown ruling at the end of the 12th was correct. Russell performed an outstanding job as always and is perhaps the best referee in the world in my opinion.
What a night.
A few boxing fans from Boston came over to talk. They said that friends back home called them crazy for taking the trip. But they replied that they knew the fight would be something special and were not disappointed.
“We saw history,” said one fan.
Yes, we all saw history.
Pound for Pound female
Layla McCarter defends her GBU lightweight title against Dominga Oliva at the Orleans Casino on Friday March 7. The fight card is promoted by Crown Boxing, which has showcased McCarter for the last two years. The Las Vegas resident is considered one of the top female fighters in the world. Oliva recently fought a draw with WBC lightweight titleholder Jelena Mrdjenovich and lost a close majority decision to McCarter last year in Colorado. For tickets and information call (702) 635-7075.
WBC heavyweight titleholder Oleg Maskaev defends his title against Nigeria’s Samuel Peter at Cancun, Mexico on Saturday. The fight will be televised on HBO. Maskaev defended his title once last December in a boring affair. Hopefully his title defense against Peter proves more exciting.
Lightweight world champion Juan Diaz defends the IBF title against contender Nate Campbell of Florida on Saturday in Mexico. The fight will be shown on HBO. Diaz also has the WBO and WBA lightweight titles, but they are not at stake. Campbell is famous for dropping his hands and sticking his chin out to mock Australia’s Robbie Peden and was knocked out at Pechanga several years ago.
Cruiserweight world champion David Haye of England defends the WBA, WBC and WBO titles against Enzo Maccarinelli of Wales on Saturday. The title fight will be televised by Showtime. Haye beat France’s Jean-Marc Mormeck last November by knockout. The big punching Brit has 19 knockouts in 20 fights. Maccarinelli is no slouch either. The fighter out of Wales has knocked out 21 of 29 opponents. Both are tall for their size and exceed six feet three-inches in height.
No more cruiserweights for Haye after this fight.
“This is my last fight at cruiserweight,” promises Haye.