Although it took place more than two years after their epic trilogy ended, Rafael Marquez approached fight number four with Israel Vazquez as though it meant more than any of the previous encounters. Bloodying and battering the man who had bested him in two out of three fights, Marquez got his revenge and evened the series at two fights a piece.
Marquez first fought – and defeated – Vazquez in March of 2007. Despite being knocked down in the third round, Rafael was able to climb off the canvas and stop Vazquez after breaking his nose. Israel returned the favor just five months later, fighting through two horrendous cuts to put Marquez down and eventually finish him off in the rematch, which was named 2007’s Fight of the Year.
The third fight in 2008 also won Fight of the Year and was arguably the most dramatic of the trilogy. Marquez dropped Vazquez early and appeared to be ahead on points going down the stretch. But Israel rallied in heroic fashion, hammering Marquez around the ring for the duration of the final round and ultimately winning by a single point, thanks to a knockdown he was credited with when Rafael fell into the ropes.
The fans were satisfied then, but Marquez wasn’t. Having also been penalized a point for a low blow in the third fight, Rafael felt he had been robbed of a career-defining win and denied the chance to call the trilogy his victory. While Vazquez sat out for a year and a half recovering from a detached retina inflicted by Marquez, Rafael was thinking about fight number four.
After two years of waiting and replacing trainer Nacho Beristain with Daniel Zaragoza, Marquez finally got his wish and earned his revenge in just three short rounds Saturday night.
Considered by most to be the better boxer between the two, Marquez got his jab working seconds into the first round, popping Vazquez’ head back. Vazquez, used to it after fighting 25 rounds with Marquez, didn’t seem to mind and kept coming forward, even knocking Rafael’s head back with his own series of jabs.
Firing a straight right hand, Marquez came back to catch Vazquez with a left hook to the jaw. A short right hand inside followed, turning Israel’s head. But when Marquez tried his hook again, Vazquez met him with one of his own. Rafael responded by snapping Vazquez’ head back with a jab.
The scar tissue-laden left eye of Vazquez was already reddening as he knocked Marquez’ head up with a left hook. A few more jabs to the eye had Israel pawing at it with his glove. Rafael then snapped off a hard right to the side of Vazquez’ head but ate a left hook in return. Marquez tried to answer and ended up plowing his head into Vazquez’. With Israel staggering back, Marquez hit him with a left hook.
Vazquez walked toward Marquez with his gloves in front of his face, but Rafael still managed to slam a right through the guard and across his nose. Vazquez got in a left hook before the bell but lost the round and returned to his corner already cut over the eye.
Israel tried to smother Marquez to begin round two but caught an uppercut and a left hook for his trouble. Rafael missed with the next combination before smashing Vazquez’ head sideways with a perfectly placed right hand – directly on the cut. Marquez ducked a counter right moments later before blasting Israel with a left hook.
Vazquez kept coming and landed a left hook, an uppercut and a solid right that turned Marquez’ head. Still, Marquez continued to fight levelheaded, stinging Vazquez with his jab, hard and often. At the end of a three-punch combination, Rafael caught Vazquez with a straight right. But Marquez seemed to have gassed as Israel came forward and hit him with a straight right. Vazquez added a left hook before taking a straight right on the chin.
Another straight right from Marquez buckled the knees of Vazquez. With Israel covering up, Rafael fired off a round of hooks and hit him with another right. Marquez landed another right, and, when Vazquez came up for air, his eye was badly bloodied. Rafael showed no mercy and buried in a right-left combination and a body shot. The bell rang just in time to stop Vazquez from letting his left hook go.
Marquez didn’t take kindly to the idea of Israel possibly hitting him after the bell and pointed his glove accusingly. Having committed no foul, Vazquez tried to touch gloves, but Rafael pulled his away and complained. Marquez finally walked away as the crowd cheered in appreciation of a good fight getting better.
But there was one problem. In his corner, Vazquez sat on his stool with a hopelessly deep cut on his left eye. He leaned forward intently, knowing that time was running short on this night. To pull out another win, he would have to draw on the will he found in the second and third meetings with Marquez.
Vazquez came out and fired a combination before taking an uppercut and a left hook in return. Having bumped heads with Marquez in the melee, Israel looked to Referee Raul Caiz Jr. to complain while wiping his cut. Rafael opened his mouth and raised his gloves, urging Vazquez to fight, but Caiz stopped the action to take a look at Israel’s always worsening cut.
Marquez wasn’t happy about the head collisions either and chose to take out his frustration by engaging Vazquez. They traded hard right hands in close quarters, and Rafael followed up by blasting Vazquez with a thudding uppercut and straight right to the chest. Vazquez tried to jab his way inside but walked into another uppercut from Marquez.
As they barreled into one another once more, Vazquez turned his head, gritting his teeth, having been victimized by another headbutt. This time, his right eye was cut open, and his face was quickly turning into a bloody mess in the same fashion as the second and third fights with Marquez.
Now a sitting duck for a sharpshooter like Marquez, Vazquez absorbed a body shot and a hard right over the side of the head. He answered with a left hook but suffered another body shot and a one-two from Rafael. That was enough to send Vazquez to a knee as he tried to protect his head with his gloves. Once there, he bowed his head almost as if he was ready to submit. But after only a count of one, he stood up and walked away to buy some recovery time.
With blood streaking down both sides of his face, Vazquez assured Caiz that he was ready to continue. Marquez wasted no time in letting his hands go, blasting in shots around the defensive Vazquez’ gloves. A one-two through the guard saw Vazquez double over, but he willed himself back to an upright position.
Marquez wasn’t about to let his man off the hook this time and marched forward with seven unanswered jabs and straight rights to the head. Vazquez leaned over, wilting under the onslaught, and caught an uppercut to the face. Caiz had seen enough and stepped in, pinning Vazquez against the ropes and calling it off midway through round three. Vazquez winced and put a glove to his left eye as Marquez turned away and began the celebration.
Marquez and Vazquez found each other shortly thereafter and embraced, sharing words. All the while, Vazquez had a towel on one eye or the other, his team desperately trying to stop the blood flow. Standing together in those moments, Marquez and Vazquez juxtaposed one another. While one man’s career may very well have been rejuvenated, the other’s inevitably could – and should – be over.
The series at least seems to be over for good. Immediately following the bout, Vazquez’ career-long manager Frank Espinoza stated that it was time for his charge to hang up the gloves and that there would be no fifth fight.
Marquez lost the trilogy that the pair will be most remembered for; however, his performance in the fourth and final fight was the most definitive victory of all and should give him the opportunity to land more big fights going forward, even at the age of 35.
As for Vazquez, the fourth fight was ill-advised from day one. His comeback bout with Angel Priolo back in October showed he was no longer the same fighter and that his badly damaged eyes would not hold up in a rough and tumble fight. But Vazquez has always been known for taking chances and delivering classic fights. His career is one that will be cherished by boxing fans for generations, but it appears to have finally come to an end.
Tags: Abner Mares, Boxing, Israel Vazquez, Israel Vazquez vs Rafael Marquez, Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez 4, Rafael Marquez, Vazquez-Marquez, Vazquez-Marquez 4, Vazquez-Marquez IV, Yonnhy Perez