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Best I Faced: Rafael Marquez

Rafael Marquez (left) in action against Toshiaki Nishioka.
11
May

Rafael Marquez won world titles at bantamweight and junior featherweight in the early to mid-2000s, but he is best remembered for his four-fight series with Israel Vazquez.

Marquez was born in Mexico City in March 1975. He was introduced to boxing as a six-year-old, along with elder brother and future four-weight world champion Juan Manuel.

“My dad taught me, he took me to train in the Deportiva in Iztapalapa,” Marquez told RingTV.com, through translator Paul Landeros. “There wasn’t any facilities to train back then.”

Both brothers also learned from legendary coach Arturo “Cuyo” Hernandez, who managed and trained 12 world champions including Alexis Arguello, Ruben Olivares and Carlos Zarate. Hernandez was posthumously inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 2013.

Marquez recalls, “When I arrived from primary school at 3:00 p.m., he made us practice the jab for one week or two, so we perfected it. It didn’t matter if it took us one month, he taught us all the punches this way.”

Eager to enter the paid ranks, Marquez turned professional at 20 years old. Incredibly, he would take on former WBC 118-pound titlist Victor Rabanales in his debut assuming, incorrectly, that the bout was an exhibition. The grizzled veteran stopped Marquez in eight rounds.

Marquez (left) fought four times against Israel Vazquez (right). Photo: Tom Casino

Marquez rebounded by rattling off 12 consecutive wins, 11 of which came by knockout. He quickly built a reputation as a skilled, heavy-handed fighter who could be hurt himself. It was a habit which would make him one of the most exciting fighters of his era.

After losing to Genaro Garcia in the fall of 2000, Marquez got himself back in the win column before facing former champion Mark Johnson. He made the most of the opportunity, edging the American by split decision. With a huge victory under his belt, Marquez had finally emerged from the shadow of his older brother.

Four months later, Marquez left no room for doubt when he stopped Johnson in the eighth round of their rematch.

In February 2002, Marquez met yet another talented American. Tim Austin was a long-reigning IBF bantamweight titleholder who would be making the 11th defense of his title against the hot young Mexican contender. Entering the eighth round, Austin was slightly ahead on the cards but Marquez closed the show to win his first world championship.

He believes this a career-best win that will live long in the memory.

“(Austin) was a southpaw, he won an Olympic medal, he was undefeated back then and he was knocking out all his opponents,” Marquez explained. “When I received the offer to fight him I was recently married, so I asked (trainer/manager) Nacho Beristain for money to get a house. The very same day I asked him for money, he called me to offer me the fight with Tim. Maybe he wanted to be sure I was going to pay him (laughs). I even took him out of the ring. Round 8 was amazing.”

Over the next three-and-a-half years, Marquez cemented his place as the best bantamweight in the world. He made seven defenses of his title, beating the likes of Heriberto Ruiz (TKO 3), Mauricio Pastrana (UD 12 and TKO 8) and Silence Mabuza (TKO 4 and RTD 9) before moving up to the junior featherweight division.

Awaiting him there was WBC titleholder Israel Vazquez and one of the great modern rivalries began on March 3, 2007. In an all-action encounter, Marquez recovered from a third-round knockdown to win THE RING and WBC 122-pound titles. He broke Vazquez’s nose and forced his brave compatriot to remain on the stool after seven rounds.

Looking back, Marquez feels it was his proudest moment, “When I won the WBC title that is number one,” he said. “For me, that belt was the best. That was my dream since (I was a) kid.”

Marquez lost the rematch by sixth-round stoppage and the rubber match by split decision. Both encounters were terrific wars that were named THE RING Fights of the Year for 2007 and 2008. In truth, the two men had beaten the fight out of each other. Still, despite being semi-active, they agreed to a fourth encounter in May 2010.

Vazquez looked a shadow of himself, capitulating in the third round, and this incredible rivalry – one of Mexico’s finest – was tied at 2-2.

“He was an elite fighter,” acknowledged Marquez. ” I was motivated for the challenge and was aware he was difficult. He was one of the best. All the rounds were fabulous; he threw bombs, but I always prepared well. I trained for four month as I knew what I was facing.”

Marquez remained active for over three more years, winning only two of his last six fights. He lost in two world title challenges; by eighth-round stoppage to Juan Manuel Lopez at featherweight, and then to Toshiaki Nishioka in a bid to regain his old WBC 122-pound belt.

After Marquez was stopped by fringe-contender Efrain Esquivias in September 2013, he accepted that he could no longer cut it at the highest level. He walked away with a record of (41-9, 37 knockouts).

Having taken on so many of his contemporaries there are still two fighters that Marquez wished he could have met.

“Jhonny Gonzalez and Abner Mares,” he revealed. “I was still fighting and Jhonny began to train with Nacho. I wanted to fight him but we had different commitments so we couldn’t settle anything. It is something I wanted to do but couldn’t and now I regret it. I feel we have unfinished business. I would like to have a farewell fight with him.”

Marquez, now 42 years old, is married and has three sons. He owns his own gym called Si Gym Marquez, in the Iztacalco municipal of Mexico City. He works as a boxing TV analyst for a cable TV network and has a real estate business.

The former champion graciously took time to speak to RingTV.com about the best he fought in 10 key categories.

BEST JAB
Mark Johnson: In our first bout in Corpus Christi in 2001, he was very explosive and I was not able to see his jab. I managed to defeat him by split decision.

BEST DEFENSE
Israel Vazquez: I didn’t fight many boxers with good defensive skills. Maybe the best one was Israel Vazquez but I smashed it with my jab.

BEST CHIN
Vazquez: In four fights, I was able to send him to the canvas two times.

FASTEST HANDS
Johnson: I was not able the see his combinations, even the six-punch combinations. It was a surprise. He was announced as the winner and I immediately walked to his corner to request a rematch. He instantly said, ‘No.’ On my way to the locker room, I was told that there was a mistake, that someone read the cards wrong and that I was the winner. Then, (Johnson) came to me and asked me for the rematch. I replied ‘Yes’ and defeated him in eight rounds.

FASTEST FEET
Johnson: He was the fastest fighter I faced in all senses. I was not able to reach him.

SMARTEST
Heriberto Ruiz: I beat him in the third round, but “El Cuate” has an outstanding counter attack. He looked for my hands, he made feints, he was studying me to get some space to get me.

STRONGEST
Mauricio Pastrana: Pastrana from Colombia. I did everything to knock him out. I even dislocated his shoulder with punches, but I defeated him by decision.

BEST PUNCHER
Vazquez: He punched harder than everyone I ever faced. Mark Johnson was powerful too.

BEST SKILLS
Tim Austin: He won the bronze medal in Barcelona 1992. He was IBF champion also. He was fast, southpaw and he hit hard. I fought with him in 2003 at Caesars Palace. I defeated him in eight rounds.

BEST OVERALL
Vazquez: A smart fighter. He had a lot of power, he gave everything he had inside the ring. If you took him down, he would get up. Very strong physically and emotionally. He always went forwards. He never gave a backwards step. Strength, power, intelligence, he had it all.

 

RingTV.com would like to thank Victor Silva and Paul Landeros for their help translating and coordinating this feature.

 

 

 

Questions and/or comments can be sent to Anson at [email protected] you can follow him at www.twitter.com/AnsonWainwright

 

 

 

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  • maxx

    One of the best punchers of the modern era, no question about it.

  • Already956

    One of my favorite boxers.

  • Gnome

    Definitely a man who deserves HOF.
    He fought the toughest, the best, always competed with the champions, and probably one of my favorite champions of the modern era due to all that was listed above.

  • Chris Smith

    One of my favorite fighters of all-time. Classy warrior.

  • WildArrow

    Mr. Wainwright pls do Floyd Mayweather best I’ve faced.

    • Ten Count Toronto

      Nah, it could be years before Mayweather is willing to give opponents props, and when he does he will probably not be genuine, but rather make obscure or unlikely choices just to spite and diminish anyone who actually gave him problems.

    • TNT

      Floyd Mayweather’s best I ever faced… Sugar Ray Leonard.

      Floyd Mayweather Jr’s bet I ever faced, overall: Myself. While shadow boxing I knew I was up against a student of the game, TBE. So I had to bring my A game each and every time. Even then ya’ll won’t give me no credit. I was up against an undefeated champion who has faced more champions than anyone else befoe, and ya’ll still won’t give me no credit.

  • Orca

    Great. Enjoyed this. Surprised with his choice for best defense. Loved hearing about the Johnson fight……wrong decision, rematch request etc. Would love to have one from Lennox Lewis if we haven’t already. Have no idea what his answers would be. Good work!

    • Ten Count Toronto

      I’m surprised by that pick too, but fighters memories sometimes get hung up on one or two specific things that made an impression on them in the fight and it stays with them. In this case I think in 3rd fight Vasquez showed up with really improved technique in all aspects including a little better head movement, small feints and keeping his hands up & elbows in more consistently than before and maybe Rafael dinn’t see that coming.

      • Orca

        Yeah, you’re probably right. I wasn’t in the ring so what do I know. Such great fights. Proper Mexican wars, cough, cough.

        • DRE

          True Mexican Warrior.

    • DRE

      Who would be the best puncher LL ever faced. He could pick the two guys who knocked him out. But he stood up to bigger punchers than McCall or Rahman. Vitali Klitschko comes to mind. Strongest guy with best chin? Either Vitali or David Tua.

      • Orca

        No idea enough he’d choose. I’d guess it’d be someone that he beat. Bruno, Morrison or someone like that. Next chin has to be McCall. Lewis had free shots on the guy and didn’t floor him.

  • Jorge

    Pastrana was one tough SOB

  • Ten Count Toronto

    > Very underappreciated. In the space of 12 months, two pure & clean count’em out KO’s over P4P quality fighters in Johnson & Austin. How often do you see that these days? 2sharp may have been a bit on the downside at the time, but Austin’s previous coulple of fights showed no trace of vulnerability.

    > Mabuza was an excellent boxer who was never the same after those bouts with Marquez. Pastrana also took a big drop in level.

    > Was most shocked by the the KO loss to Mijares because to me that guy looked done after the Darchynian & Cermeno bouts but apparently rehabilitated himself fighting under the radar and remained a factor for some time.

    > The first 3 fights with Vsquez were all-time classics even thought by the 3rd one you could see the mileage creeping up on Marquez. He really blew that 2nd fight by bending, hooking & headhunting with the shorter, stockier brawler – but it made for 6 rounds of exquisite, high level violence.

    > What kind of manager books his 20 year old ‘s pro debut against Victor Rabanales for a 10 rounder???

  • Bar Kokhba

    All of these ‘Best I’ve Faced’ installments have been great, but some of the subjects are real blue-chip material. This is one.

  • Gopal Rao

    I was lucky enough to have attended 2 of the fights mentioned here; the first fight against Silence Mabuza, and the 3rd fight against Israel Vazquez. The atmosphere for the Vazquez fight was truly electric, as they say. It was at Stub Hub (then Home Depot Center), and there were boxing celebrities all over the place. One of the greatest live sporting events I have ever attended.

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