By Rocco Morales
Wednesday afternoon, the Conga Room in Downtown L.A. was host to the final press conference for “Once and Four All” the appropriate name given to the highly anticipated fourth fight between Israel Vasquez (44-4-0) and Rafael Marquez (38-5-0). Of their three prior fights, Marquez was victorious in the first fight while Vasquez has won the prior two meetings. Their last fight was the only one to go to the scorecards and Vasquez was the split decision winner.
Their last two fights were all out wars that earned the accolade of “Fight Of The Year” for each 2007 and 2008.
Since their last meeting that took place in March 2008, both fighters have understandably taken some much needed time off and have each fought just once since. In his last fight, nearly a year ago, Marquez wiped out fringe contender, Jose Mendoza, who came into the fight with a very respectable record of 21-2-2, only to be knocked out by Marquez in the third round.
Meanwhile, last October, Vasquez fought one time world title challenger, Angel Priolo, who despite a respectable record of 30-7 at the time of their fight, came into the fight riding a six fight losing streak, five of those losses by way of knockout. Vasquez had his hands full with Priolo who lasted into the ninth round before getting knocked out. At the time of the stoppage, Vasquez and Priolo were all even on two of the three judges scorecards.
Each fighter appeared confident when taking the podium to address the assembled media. Both fighters were brief in their commentary and instead seemed more content to let their fists do the talking Saturday night.
Marquez said, “There’s no need for words of introduction for Vasquez and I. Everyone knows us from our trilogy of fights. You’re going to see a great show and who Rafael Marquez is this Saturday night.”
Vasquez followed and said, “On May 22nd, Rafael Marquez and I are going to again fight the best fight of the year.”
In addition to each fighter speaking, the managers and promoters of each fighter also addressed the media.
Gary Shaw, the promoter for Rafael Marquez, had the following to say. “Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez don’t shit talk and have a mutual respect for each other but when the bell rings they are there to fight.”
Richard Schaeffer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, promoter of Israel Vasquez, said “Israel Vasquez brings to the table an outstanding record of 44 – 4 which in today’s world of boxing is an incredible record. Vasquez is also a three time world champion and took this fight even though he already has a 2 – 1 record against Marquez. Even though he brings a 2 – 1 record to this fight, on May 22nd he will put any doubt to rest by, again, defeating Marquez.”
Fernando Beltran, manager of Rafael Marquez, said “I really that it is a big fight that allows for a rematch and a great rematch that allows for a trilogy. But this fight, the fourth between Marquez and Vasquez, is going to be a grand slam.”
Frank Espinoza, manager of Israel Vasquez, said “This trilogy will be remembered as the greatest of all time. They both refuse to take a step back as their pride, hunger and determination will not allow for it. Both realize that no one ever achieves greatness by playing it safe.”
In a semi-main event that threatens to steal the show, undefeated IBF bantamweight champion, Yohnny Perez (20-0, 14ko) makes the first defense of his belt against friend and undefeated challenger Abner Mares (20-0, 13ko).
Perez, on the road to the championship, first had to travel to South Africa to win an IBF title elimimator against tough Silence Mabuza, who, coincidentally, had only lost to Rafael Marquez. By 12th round TKO, Perez stopped Mabuza and five months later, last October, Perez faced Vic Darchinyan conqueror, Joseph “King Kong” Agbeko. Although Agbeko was dominant in his fight against Darchinyan, it was Perez who, in turn, dominated Agbeko and left no doubt in the mind of the judges as he took Agbeko’s IBF bantamweight title by a wide margined unanimous decision victory.
Mares, although very promising so far in his career, has yet to face anyone of the caliber of Mabuza or Agbeko. Mares does, however, enter his fight title challenge fresh off three consecutive knockout victories and is the younger fighter at 24 years old compared to Perez being 31 years old.
Both Mares and Perez also addressed the media.
Mares, appearing happy go lucky as he took the podium said, “Yohnny is a great friend but on May 22nd, I am going to treat him like a friend who just stole my girlfriend. Abner Mares vs. Yohnny Perez is going to steal the show this Saturday night.”
Perez, draped with his IBF bantamweight championship belt, exuded a quiet confidence as he took the podium. “It is a great responsibility to be fighting and to be defending my belt. But, this belt doesn’t really belong to me because I gave it to my kids back in Colombia. I brought the belt back from Colombia, borrowing it from my kids. But, what you give to your kids, you don’t take away from them and that is why after May 22nd I am taking the belt back to Colombia to my kids.”
“Once and Four All” unfolds on Saturday, May 22, at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, live on SHOWTIME at 9 p.m. EST/PST (delayed on the west coast). Doors open at 2:55 p.m. with the first fight scheduled for 3pm PST and the televised portion scheduled for 6pm PST.
The historic doubleheader is co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions, Gary Shaw Productions, Espinoza Boxing Promotions and Zanfer Promotions and sponsored by Cerveza Tecate. Tickets, priced at $250, $125, $75, $50 and $25 are available online at ticketmaster.com, via Ticketmaster charge-by-phone lines at (800)745-3000. Tickets are also available at the STAPLES Center Box Office.