By Felipe Leon
Photos by Big Joe Miranda
“This is truly like a family affair.” No words could have described the atmosphere at the post fight press conference better than the words uttered by Gary Shaw as a stoic Israel Vazquez (44-5, 33KO) and a triumphant Rafael Marquez (39-5, 35KO) made their way to the dais with their respective teams. Despite the heavy artillery that both fighters have unleashed on each other for twenty-five rounds as part of quite possibly the greatest boxing trilogy in boxing history, only words of respect and praise were shared by the both camps.
In a bout that took more than a year in the making and with both fighters traveling north to the featherweight division, the two former champions faced off for what Golden Boy Promotions in Association with Gary Shaw Promotions, Espinoza Promotions and Zanfer Promotions billed as “Once and Four All”, the fourth chapter of boxing’s version of Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War”.
Although the boxing world wished for a back and forth battle similar to their three previous fights, the nearly 10,000 fans that witnessed the fight inside the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles enjoyed just three rounds of the same intensity that were displayed in their three previous encounters. Despite hurting Marquez at the end of the first round and controlling most of the second, Vazquez developed a brutal gash over his left eye by the end of the round. Early in the third, Vazquez was cut over the right eye and after taking a knee to stop the non-stop onslaught from Marquez, Vazquez was hurt once again from punches that he couldn’t see coming which prompted referee Raul Caiz Jr. to stop the bout at the 1:33 mark.
“Unfortunately a cut early in the fight changed the course of the fight,” Vazquez stated. “I hope everybody enjoyed the fight even though it only lasted three rounds. I am going to work hard and we will see how we can fix this. The cut affected me a lot, It was a lot of blood and I couldn’t see the punches coming.”
The world renown cut man Miguel Diaz, who was in charge of Vazquez’s cuts, gave his impression of the gash over the former champion’s left eye.
“The cut was too deep. You could see the bone. There is no way to stop that cut with the medicine that we have in the corner,” Diaz said. “I only have seen a cut that bad once before.”
With as much respect that he has shown his rival inside the ring, Rafael Marquez spoke about Vazquez’s performance during his turn at the podium.
“We knew it was going to be a tough fight. We came prepared for a war,” Marquez said through his interpreter and co-promoter, Fernando Beltran. “Like Israel said, the cut didn’t favor him but I came to win. I saw that cut and it was a little shocking but it is not my call to stop the fight, the referee is supposed to make the call.”
“He is a great fighter and at any time he can change the course of the fight because of his punch,” Marquez continued. “He hits very hard but we came prepared.”
As speculation of who should be the next opponent for Marquez, it was obvious that nobody in the room was pushing for a fifth episode between the two battle worn warriors.
“I don’t think I would like to see a fifth fight,” Gary Shaw, who co-promotes Marquez with Zanfer Promotions, stated. “The most important part is for Israel to heal. The Espinozas and Golden Boy will decide what Vazquez will do.”
Oscar De La Hoya, whose company Golden Boy Promotions employs Vazquez, second the sentiment.
“We witnessed four great fights. We witnessed one of the greatest trilogies in boxing,” De La Hoya said. “Marquez is a great fighter. It is 2-2 and that is the way it should end. Both fighters will move on, there is no loser.”
As Vic Darchinyan and Juan Manuel Lopez were mentioned as possible foes for Marquez, only talk of retirement was mentioned for Vazquez’s next move although he felt that it might be too soon.
“I don’t think that my performance was that bad to think of retirement,” Vazquez stated. “I will regroup with my team and family and think about it.”
As far as Marquez, he mentioned that he was willing to face anybody.
“The best fighters in his division. Juan Manuel Lopez or any of the other champions,” Marquez said as the WBO featherweight champion Lopez sat in the press conference.
When asked if he truly wished to challenge the much younger Lopez, Marquez somewhat confused by the question responded with a emphatic response.
“Of course! I am willing to fight anybody,” Marquez said sternly. “If they fight like Israel Vazquez, even better because you are guaranteed a great fight.”
In the semi main event, a fight between two unbeatens took place as Yonnhy Perez defended his IBF bantamweight title against Abner Mares. Even though the general consensus was that somebody’s “0” had to go, it didn’t as they fought to a twelve round majority draw with Perez retaining his title.
During their post fight comments, both fighters landed jabs as well as they did inside the ring.
“Abner Mares is going to be a great champion,” Perez (20-0-1, 14KO) stated. “There is four ways to get there, the WBA, WBC, WBO and the IBF. The only thing is that it won’t be through the last one because Yonnhy Perez is the champion of the IBF. There is talk of a rematch but I don’t know, I have to sit with my team. Darchinyan called out the winner of this fight so I would like to fight Darchinyan or Fernando Montiel.”
“He’s a great friend but lets be honest, I won that fight,” Mares stated forcefully in response. “He talks of a fight against Darchinyan but one judge saw me win and the other two saw it a draw so I won. he says the IBF is not the way for me… let’s have a rematch. If Darchinyan wants a fight with a true warrior, here I am. I closed the twelfth round like a warrior, not him.”
Even Gary Shaw, who is not one to mince words, got into the act in defense of Perez who he co-promotes with Thompson Boxing.
“Mares you are a good fighter, a good looking guy who speaks two languages but you are not the champion,” Shaw said. “The champion comes in with the belt and leaves with the belt, you got to be humble.”