Head to head analysis: Vazquez vs. Marquez
ISRAEL VAZQUEZ vs. RAFAEL MARQUEZ
When: Saturday, May 22
Where: Staples Center, Los Angeles
TV: Showtime, 9 pm. ET (live) / PT (delayed)
Weight: Featherweight (126 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: None
Also on the card: Yonnhy Perez defends his bantamweight title against Abner Mares.
Height / Reach: 5-4¾ (164cm) / 66¾ (169cm)
Hometown: Huntington Park, Calif. (from Mexico City)
Turned pro: 1995
Record: 44-4 (32 knockouts)
Trainer: Rudy Perez
The Ring rating: None
Titles: IBF junior featherweight (2004-05; stripped); WBC junior featherweight (2005-07; lost it to Rafael Marquez); WBC junior featherweight (2007-08; regained it from Marquez and then vacated).
Biggest victories: Jose Luis Valbuena, March 25, 2004, TKO 12 (won vacant IBF title); Oscar Larios, Dec. 3, 2005, TKO 3 (won WBC title); Jhonny Gonzalez, Sept. 16, 2006, TKO 10; Rafael Marquez, Aug. 4, 2007, TKO 6 (regained WBC title); Marquez, March 1, 2008, SD 12.
Biggest losses: Oscar Larios, May 17, 2002, TKO 12 (for interim title); Rafael Marquez, March 3, 2007, TKO 7 (lost WBC title).
Height: 5-5 (165cm) / 68¾ (174)
Hometown: Mexico City
Turned pro: 1995
Record: 38-5 (34 knockouts)
Trainer: Daniel Zaragoza
The Ring rating: None
Titles: IBF bantamweight (2003-07, vacated; seven successful defenses); WBC junior featherweight (2007; lost it to Israel Vazquez)
Biggest victories: Mark Johnson, Oct. 6, 2001, SD 10; Johnson, Feb. 23, 2002, TKO 8; Tim Austin, Feb. 15, 2003, TKO 8 (won IBF title); Mauricio Pastrana, Oct. 4, 2003, UD 12; Pastrana, Nov. 27, 2004, TKO 8; Silence Mabuza, Nov. 5, 2005, TKO 4; Mabuza, Aug. 5, 2006, TKO 9; Israel Vazquez, March 3, 2007, TKO 7.
Biggest losses: Israel Vazquez, Aug. 4, 2007, TKO 6 (lost WBC title); Vazquez, March 1, 2008, SD 12.
Skills: It’s not that Vazquez can’t box. He’s got solid technique and an underrated jab. He’s even been known to get up on his toes once every blue moon, but we all know his bread and butter is fighting. Marquez, on the other hand, is a quintessential Nacho Beristain boxer, which means he’s a counter-punching technician who utilizes a textbook jab. Like most Beristain pupils, Marquez has very good balance and footwork and he knows how to control distance.
Power: If Marquez’s boxing ability has been underrated it’s because of his considerable punching power. He knocked out 33 of 36 opponents at bantamweight before stepping up to the junior featherweight division to challenger the champ, Vazquez, who is no slouch in the punching department. However, where Vazquez has heavy compact punches that grind his opponents down, Marquez has the proverbial “eraser” — the ability to knock an opponent cold with one shot.
Speed and athletic ability: There’s no doubt that one of Vazquez’s endearing qualities, especially to Mexican fans, is that he often “guts” his way to hard-fought victories. This is because he’s not the fastest, or the most nimble or powerful fighter around. Marquez, however, is gifted with high-level athleticism that includes above-average speed, reflexes, hand-eye coordination, and of course, bone-jarring power.
Defense: Neither warrior is known for his defense (hence the “warrior” tag), but Marquez’s height, reach, and sharp jab mixed with his classic stand-up Beristain style has enabled him to keep most of his opponents at bay. Vazquez never met a punch he didn’t like. There’s a reason he’s been in as many Fight of the Year candidates as he has.
Experience: Both men have plenty of world-class experience even without including the 25 classic rounds of their trilogy. Vazquez has gone more rounds with top quality fighters such as Oscar Larios, Jhonny Gonzalez, and Joel Julio, but Marquez has been in with a slightly higher caliber of foe, such as Mark Johnson, Tim Austin, Mauricio Pastrana, and Silence Mabuza.
Chin: Marquez was frighteningly formidable at bantamweight but he had an Achilles heel — his chin. On his way to his first title, Marquez’s whiskers let him down in fights with former beltholder Victor Rabanales (which was in his pro debut, so no shame there), then-contender Genaro Garcia, and journeyman Francisco Mateos. Vazquez is plagued by tender skin but other than a first-round TKO early in his career, his chin has held up to the heaviest of hitters.
Conditioning: Both men are always in superb condition for their fights and have never exhibited difficulty in fighting the 12-round distance, however, Vazquez is used to fighting the championship route at a break-neck pace. Vazquez is the busier and more aggressive of the two fighters and he’s proven that he’s got a little more in the tank for late-round rallies. (Vazquez’s breath-taking surge in the 12th round of their rubber match is the prime example of this.)
Wear and tear: Marquez’s textbook technique and awesome punching power enabled him to control and prematurely end most of his bantamweight fights, which is why he’s relatively well preserved for a 35-year-old fighter. Until his trilogy with Vazquez, Marquez didn’t experience a true ring war. Not so for Vazquez, who engaged in brutal, bloody battles of attrition with Larios (in their rematch) and Gonzalez before his classic series with Marquez.
Corner: For most of his career, Marquez was under the tutelage of one Mexico’s all-time great trainers, Nacho Beristain. However, for this fight, he is being trained by former junior featherweight champ and fellow Beristain fighter Daniel Zaragoza. Zaragoza is in the hall of fame as a boxer but as far as training goes the wily southpaw is a novice. Rudy Perez, who has trained Vazquez since the Marquez rematch, is definitely not new to coaching. He was the sole trainer (both amateur and pro) for future hall of famer Marco Antonio Barrera. Perez is responsible for the gameplan that enabled Vazquez to win the 2007 Fight of the Year rematch with Marquez.
Outcome: Fans can expect more of the same from both Vazquez and Marquez only at slower pace than their first three wars. The veterans are fighting four pounds heavier (at featherweight) than in their previous three bouts and they have the considerable wear and tear on their bodies from their junior featherweight series. However, the two warriors will give whatever they have left in this fourth fight and that will be enough to produce some of the vicious exchanges, blood and dramatic moments that made their trilogy an instant classic. However, Marquez will limit their inside trading by using his jab to keep Vazquez at a distance. Vazquez will work his way inside and do some damage by the middle rounds of the bout but his face, especially the tissue around his eyes, will pay a heavy price to get in close quarters with Marquez. By the late rounds of the bout, Vazquez’s face will be a bloody, misshapen mask. Once it’s evident that the proud warrior can no longer see well enough to defend himself or find his target his corner will signal the referee to end the contest.
Prediction: Marquez by late-rounds technical stoppage
Michael Rosenthal contributed to this feature.