Saturday, April 01, 2023  |


Vazquez-Marquez IV nothing like I, II or III

Fighters Network

Israel Vazquez's cutman said the gash above his left eye went down to the bone. Photo / Chris Cozzone-FightWireImages

LOS ANGELES — Their first three fights were epic. Their fourth was pathetic.

Rafael Marquez exposed Israel Vazquez as a faded champion Saturday at Staples Center, dominating his rival from the opening bell and then cutting up his tender eyes to even their series with a third-round knockout that left a hopeful crowd of 9,236 very disappointed.

Vazquez was as gallant as ever but seemed to validate the fears of those who believed he gave absolutely everything he had in the first three fights — as well as so many other wars — and was in danger of being seriously injured.

Marquez controlled the fight from the opening bell, consistently landing quick, hard punches to the head of his Mexican compatriot. One of the punches opened a huge gash above Vazquez’s left eye in the second round. Another did the same in the third, leaving the once-great brawler blind and helpless because of the blood.

The fight ended at 1:33 of the third of a scheduled 12-round featherweight bout with Vazquez covering up as Marquez pounding away, a sad ending to one of the greatest series in boxing history.

Or is it the end? The fighters actually spoke of a fifth fight, although Vazquez and his manager later cast serious doubt on that unappealing possibility.

Vazquez said at the post-fight news conference that he doesn’t know whether he’ll fight again, that he wants to discuss it with his family. Frank Espinoza, his longtime handler, was more certain about his fighter’s future: “His career is over,” he said.

The cuts were no surprise. Vazquez had been sparring with a face mask to protect his eyes, which became particularly prone to cuts later in his career. Now it’s difficult to imagine him emerging from any fight unscathed.

The cut above his left eye was gruesome. Miguel Diaz, his renowned cutman, said it was about an inch long and a half inch deep, going all the way to the bone. No one could’ve stopped the bleeding. The other cut wasn’t as bad but still bled into his eyes.

The damage is particularly sobering because Vazquez (44-5, 32 knockouts) had three operations to repair damage to his retinas, which kept him out of boxing about a year and a half before he fought Angel Priolo in October.

Still, as crazy as it might sound, the cuts probably were the best thing that could’ve happened to Vazquez. They looked horrible but might’ve saved him from taking damaging punishment. Marquez, clearly the fresher of the two veterans, seemed poised to deliver a brutal beating but didn’t have enough time to do so.

So, in a way, he was fortunate. He made $800,000, walked away with nasty cuts but his brain intact and can look back on a career that gave fans a great series and probably will culminate with induction in the International Boxing Hall of Fame. That’s not a bad way to go out.

Marquez (39-5, 35 KOs) is in a different position.

It’s difficult to gauge whether the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez has lost a step because the fight on Saturday was so short and Vazquez provided so little resistance. Clearly, though, he was much fresher than his rival possibly because he’s been in fewer wars.

Gary Shaw, his promoter, mentioned the possibility of Marquez fighting Vic Darchinyan. That doesn’t seem likely because the Armenian would have to move up three weight classes. Another possible opponent is Juan Manuel Lopez, although that’s a scary thought for a 35-year-old veteran near the end of his career.

Marquez would only say that he wants to fight the best in his division and the world. Immediately after the fight, he reveled in the fact he had avenged consecutive victories by Vazquez.

“I’ve been waiting for this moment for almost three years,” he said.

It’s just too bad that Vazquez couldn’t make it more interesting.

Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]