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Vazquez-Marquez: One more Fight of the Year?
We’ve seen it all so far in 2010.
We’ve seen a super fight a decade in the making between Hall of Fame-bound pound-for-pounders attract close to 1.5 million pay-per-view buys. We’ve seen an outdoor stadium fight draw more than 50,000 fans. We’ve seen the most-lucrative fight of all-time fall apart over a 10-day discrepancy in the acceptable drug testing window.
We’ve seen a RING championship change hands on an off-the-canvas upset scored by a 35-year-old. We’ve seen a RING championship vacancy filled by a supposedly fading 32-year-old. We’ve seen a fighter fall out of the ring and leave on a stretcher without suffering any injuries.
We’ve seen a perfect record disappear on a disqualification when a fighter got knocked out while on one knee. We’ve seen Jim Lampley lose his mind on air for about 30 seconds. We’ve seen a major fight cancelled because of an earthquake. And we’ve seen an undefeated titleholder murder his wife and then hang himself.
Heck, we’ve even seen Audley Harrison provide a spectacularly thrilling moment. Who thought we’d ever see that?
We’ve seen it all in the first 4½ months of 2010 – with one important exception: We haven’t seen a serious Fight of the Year candidate yet.
In the 65-year history of THE RING’s Fight of the Year award, several pairs have captured the award together twice. Tony Zale and Rocky Graziano did it in 1946 and ’47. Sugar Ray Robinson and Carmen Basilio did it in ’57 and ’58. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier did it in ’71 and ’75. Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales did it in 2000 and 2004. And Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward did it in ’02 and ’03.
But no two fighters have ever combined to win the award together three times. Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez have a chance to make history this Saturday night at Staples Center in Los Angeles. They produced the Fight of the Year in 2007, then repeated the feat in ’08. Can they position themselves for a third Fight of the Year award in a four-year span, and in so doing, provide the one thing 2010 is lacking, a true time-capsule brawl?
“I don’t know if it can measure up to the first three fights, but I still expect it to be a Fight of the Year contender because these guys don’t know anything else but to bring out the best in one another,” said boxing broadcaster Bernardo Osuna, who has called fights for both Vazquez and Marquez since before they were championship-level fighters. “Whether it’s over in three rounds, five rounds, six rounds, 12 rounds, it’s going to provide action. Someone’s legs are going to get buckled every single round. There’s going to be tension and you’re going to be on the edge of your seat because that’s what these two guys know.
“That’s what these Mexican warriors bring to the ring. We’re going to get a war. The questions are how long will it last and who will be the man with his hand raised.”
The question of how long it will last is a valid one. If there’s anything that could prevent this fight from being a classic, it’s the possibility that one fighter will enter the ring completely used up and get blown out in short order (think Zale-Graziano III). Neither Vazquez nor Marquez will disappoint in the effort department, but all the guts and desire in the world don’t matter at this level if your reflexes are gone and your chin is disintegrating.
Marquez has always been a little chinny and, though he was on the verge of victory both times, he did lose the last two against Vazquez. Could he be the one who’s shot?
Vazquez looked like more like a clubfighter than a pound-for-pounder his last time out, when he needed to grab a handful of miracle dust to beat journeyman Angel Priolo. There’s only so much of that powder in every fighter’s satchel, and Vazquez wasn’t supposed to have had to use any of it that night. Could he be the one who’s shot?
Hopefully, neither one is shot – or at least if one is, the other is equally so and we’ll still get a competitive fight. However, “competitive” does not necessarily equate to “entertaining.” Here’s one scenario that prevents Vazquez-Marquez IV from being a Fight of the Year contender: Marquez finally resists the urge to slug and boxes as carefully as he can behind his jab.
From what Marquez had to say at a recent press conference, that doesn’t seem like something we have to worry about.
“It’s going to be a great fight, just like the other three,” he promised. “That’s the kind of fights that we make. We’re here to please the fans, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”
Even if Marquez is just saying that to promote the fight and comes in intending to box, Osuna doesn’t think that mentality will last long.
“Like they say, the plans are all great until you feel the first punch,” the Telefutura commentator said. “(Trainer) Nacho (Beristain) has been harping in his fighter’s ear since the first fight, ‘You’re the better boxer, you’re the one who can dictate what goes on in the ring,’ but it hasn’t been the case. In most rivalries, including Morales-Barrera, at some point one or both guys say, ‘This guy is so good, I have to think things through, I have to box at a certain point,’ and it evolves.
“These guys have evolved absolutely zero from Fight One to Fight Four. I don’t think we’ve ever seen any two fighters just go toe to toe round after round after round like these two have.”
Certainly, we haven’t seen it yet this year. Probably the leader in the clubhouse for Fight of the Year is Antonio Escalante’s 10-round win over Miguel Roman, which, fun as it was, feels like an “Honorable Mention” at best. Next best was probably Roman Karmazin’s late rally to stop Dionisio Miranda. They were both entertaining fights, but neither compared to even the first installment of Vazquez vs. Marquez, which was the least amazing of the series so far and the only one that wasn’t named Fight of the Year.
We’ve seen it all so far in 2010, but we haven’t seen a truly classic fight and we haven’t seen a Vazquez vs. Marquez fight. Fortunately, they’re one and the same, so when we see the fourth chapter in this series on Saturday, we’re all but guaranteed the Fight of the Year candidate we’ve been waiting for.
• For what it’s worth, if by chance Vazquez and Marquez don’t deliver, the Showtime co-feature between Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares could pick up the slack. Who knows, maybe we’ll get two Fight of the Year candidates on one card.
• Just when you thought Roy Jones couldn’t sink any lower, the Rivers Casino announced a new promotion featuring Jones playing tic-tac-toe against a chicken named Ginger. I wish I was making a joke, but sadly, this is an actual news item. Whether Jones will wear his Captain Hook hat and wig while playing tic-tac-toe against a chicken remains to be seen.
• On behalf of HD snobs everywhere: Thank you, ShoBox.
• As long as ShoBox is belatedly joining the modern age, I figured I might as well also. I’ve finally broken down and joined the social networking world, so please follow me at http://twitter.com/EricRaskin. One word of warning: I’ll be tweeting about both boxing and poker (my other line of business), so you might have no interest whatsoever in 50 percent of my tweets.
• You know what would be a good thing for boxing? If Don King would put as much time and money into making fights as he does into preventing them.
• Keep an eye out for a new episode of Ring Theory going up on Thursday, with THE RING Managing Editor Joe Santoliquito joining us as our special guest. Other than the Lost series finale, this is definitely the can’t-miss entertainment event of the week.
• I couldn’t quite place where I recognized Paulie Malignaggi’s hairstyle from … then it dawned on me.
Eric Raskin can be reached at RaskinBoxing@yahoo.com. You can read his articles each month in THE RING magazine.