The Ring ratings update
This past Saturday in Yokohama, Japan, Toshiaki Nishioka stopped Genaro Garcia in the 12th round to retain the WBC super bantamweight title he never won from Israel Vazquez.
Vazquez won both the WBC belt and the vacant RING world title with his rubber-match stoppage of Oscar Larios in December of 2005. He lost both titles in his first fight with Rafael Marquez in March of ’07, regained them in their Fight of the Year rematch five months later and defended them in last year’s all-time classic rubber-match with Marquez, which Vazquez won by split decision.
However, the herculean effort Vazquez put forth last March didn’t come without a price. The 31-year-old Mexico City native suffered a detached retina to his right eye that resulted in three surgeries last year. Because of the indefinite amount of time it will take for Vazquez to fully recover from these surgeries, the WBC awarded Nishioka its “interim” belt when the Japanese fighter out-pointed Napapol Kiatisakchokchai last September.
Although Vazquez has repeatedly stated his intentions to return to the gym as soon as he’s cleared by his doctors and plans to fight sometime inside the first half of ’09, the WBC elevated Nishioka to full titleholder status in December.
In other words, Vazquez was stripped of his WBC title.
It doesn’t seem like a fair shake to arguably the most courageous fighter in the sport, recognized by all as one of boxing’s pound-for-pound best, but fans will still refer to Vazquez as “champ” when they talk about his great fights or when they see him ringside because the Southern Californian still holds THE RING’s word 122-pound title.
THE RING Championship Policy does not have a provision for “interim” champions; and fighters who hold RING world titles are never “stripped”. The only way RING champion loses his title is if he gets beat in the ring or vacates the title to move up in weight or retire.
Vazquez has been inactive due to a legitimate eye injury that has required repeated surgery. In cases such as this, THE RING will continue to recognize the injured or ill champion unless he retires, moves to a different division on a permanent basis, or voluntarily relinquishes the championship.
Vazquez’s manager Frank Espinoza says the star of his stable will definitely return to the ring this year.
“The break from fighting has been good for Israel,” Espinoza told THE RING. “He’s got the hunger and the drive to succeed even more than before. He’s ready to get back to work as soon as he can and once he’s in fighting shape he says he wants to fight the best.”
However, Espinoza says Vazquez will not step foot in a gym until he receives full clearance from his eye specialist.
“You never know with an injury like this,” Espinoza said. “He could be ready to fight as soon as April, maybe May, but I would never rush anything. I want Israel to be 100-percent recovered. To be safe, he may not fight until June, and I think the extra time is good for him.
“Even without the eye injury and the surgeries I wasn’t going to let Israel train until at least February or March of this year. Those were three very brutal fights with Marquez. He needed a rest. So, I understand why the WBC did what they did. They couldn’t wait around forever. And I’ve been told that Israel has sort of the same status as Vitali Klitschko had. Whenever he returns to the ring, he’ll be a WBC mandatory challenger.”
As far as THE RING is concerned, Vazquez more than earned his time off and the purest warrior in the sport is still the junior featherweight champion of the world.
Read on to find out if last week’s world-title action caused any movement within THE RING ratings, plus information on upcoming RING title bouts:
Knocking out Garcia (36-7, 20 knockouts), a tough Mexican veteran who had lost two of his last three bouts going into Saturday’s title fight with Nishioka (33-4-3, 20 KOs), was not quite enough to earn the Japanese veteran, best known for going 0-2-2 in four bantamweight title bouts with Thai hero Veeraphol Sahaprom, a place in THE RING’s top-10 junior featherweights.
Thailand’s Denkaosan Kaovichit (46-1-1, 20 KOs) knocked out WBA 112-pound beltholder Takefumi Sakata (33-5-3, 15 KOs) to advance from number six to number four, while Sakata, who was attempting to make his fifth title defense, falls from fourth to sixth.
The first RING world title bout of 2009 will be middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik’s February 21st defense against Mexico’s Marco Antonio Rubio, who is currently THE RING’s No. 8 contender at 160 pounds.
The following week, on February 28th, THE RING’s lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez will make the first defense of the title he won by knocking out Joel Casamayor last September. Marquez’ challenger will be THE RING’s No. 3 contender Juan Diaz.
Homepage photo of Israel Vazquez was taken by Tom Hogan/ Hoganphotos.com.