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Vazquez is back and workng to get even better

29
Sep

No one would’ve questioned Israel Vazquez’s decision had he decided to retire after his epic three-fight series against Rafael Marquez. He endured a career’s worth of wear and tear in those 24-plus rounds of mayhem.

Throw in the fact that Vazquez was diagnosed with a detached retina after the third fight, on March 1 of last year, and retirement would almost seem like a no-brainer.

Vazquez, 31, is a fighter, though. The Mexican national, who lives in Huntington Park, Calif., endured three operations on his eye and has been cleared to resume doing what he loves. And he said those who believe he has nothing left will be surprised on Oct. 10, when he steps back into the ring after a 19-month layoff against Angel Priolo at Nokia Theater in Los Angeles.

“I still have a lot of life left in boxing,” he said through a translator last week. “I have an itch, an itch I want to scratch. I’m going to prove on Oct. 10 that I’m still capable of many things.”

Vazquez feels fortunate that he’s able to fight again at all.

His sight was never in danger, he said. However, he didn’t know for sure whether the eye would stand up to the rigors of boxing until he was cleared to fight recently. Now, after he resumed training, he is able to focus on training and not the eye.

“Obviously there are requirements by the state of California,” he said, referring to his clearance to fight again. “I passed every requirement. The doctors have cleared me 100 percent to fight again, which enabled me to get my license.

“I’ve been training pretty hard; sparring has been rough. I started off a little slow but lately I’ve been testing it. It’s not the same as a real fight but I feel confident that nothing will go wrong in the fight.”

Vazquez and his trainer, Rudy Perez, are taking precautions in his comeback with all the past ring wars in mind.

They’ve been working on his defense, a word not generally associated with Vazquez even though he has very good boxing skills. No one should expect to see a radically different fighter. Rather, they are making subtle changes to prevent unnecessary punishment.

Vazquez demonstrated his new approach at an open workout Tuesday at the Westside Boxing Club in L.A., at which he showed off his skills.

“I like to be aggressive,” said Vazquez, stating the obvious, “but I can always improve. I don’t want to keep receiving these punches. It’s no fun to be receiving these punches. If I can enhance my style and get hit less, then it’s better for me. I’ll be a better fighter.”

Perez just wants Vazquez to fight smarter.

“Warriors in the old days were smart,” he said through the translator. “ÔǪ You can’t just get in there and go to war. You gotta think defense. That’s what I’m trying to instill in him.”

It’s hard to imagine Vazquez (43-4, 31 knockouts) a much better fighter. The one we saw do war with Marquez was an amazing fighting machine. The same can be said of Marquez, which is why their trilogy was so compelling.

They took us on one of the wildest rides in boxing history, Marquez scoring a seventh-round TKO and Vazquez coming back to win by sixth-round TKO and then winning a split decision in successive fights in 2007 and last year.

Their handlers tried to make a fourth fight, which seemed like a natural, but they couldn’t come to terms. Vazquez said he remains open to that possibility but isn’t preoccupied with it.

He wouldn’t say specifically who he’d like to fight — although Chris John's name came up — but he made it clear that he’ll fight anyone.

He’s just tickled to back in business after the eye injury. And when it’s time to walk away, he said, he wants it to be on his terms and not because of an injury.

“Boxing has given me so much satisfaction,” he said. “I’ve been very happy boxing. I could never believe the heights I’ve reached. Now, with this new-found life, I’m able to box again. I feel there’s so much more I can achieve.”

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]

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