You saw the original. You loved the sequel. You thought you saw the war to settle the score. Now Showtime, Espinoza Boxing, Gary Shaw Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions brought you “Marquez vs. Vasquez IV: Once and Four All” Saturday night from Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. A full mariachi band was in effect as the crowd got to their feet in anticipation of the fourth and (hopefully) final bout between these two warriors. The fighters entered the ring and a production assistant asked the band to wrap it up and the lights dimmed as the crowd roared even louder. The classy Jimmy Lennon Jr. stepped to center ring and announced, “IIIIITS SHOOOOOOWWWWWTIIIIIIIIIIME!”
Both men looked to be in excellent condition. The crowd showed love to both warriors who have given so much to the fans, writers, and sport.
The bell sounded to start the bout and both men seemed to pick up where they left off for a moment, trading leather and giving no quarter. Marquez used his rapier-like jab to pound away at the scar tissue on Vasquez’ left eye. But then the pace slowed to a boxing match that favored Marquez, who seemed to want to work the eye at long range. He seemed the busier of the two particularly with the jab. Jab, jab, jab, right hand miss by Marquez. Right hand left hook for Vasquez, who plodded forward but seemed unable to get neither his head movement working nor a consistent offense. A late combo flurry for Marquez, then the ten seconds mark sounded and both men opened up, but it was an even flurry in what was largely a Marquez round.
A right hand for Marquez opened the second round. Vasquez’ face was already red from all the jabs and the right hands Marquez was getting in. Marquez seemed to want a slower boxing match this time out and knew that left eye of Vasquez couldn’t hold up all night. Vasquez jabbed to the body, but was walking in and eating shots as he typically does. Inside, Vasquez got off little flurries. A right hand and left hook landed for Marquez, who dug into Vasquez early. More right hands and left hooks later, and Vasquez suddenly was cut open on that left eye. It could’ve be from a headbutt but it the damage was done. Vasquez shook his head in disappointment as he went to the corner.
Marquez smelled blood to start the third round. A one-two lands for him and Vasquez is nowhere near as sharp. Vasquez soon suffers a cut on the other eye. A one-two from Marquez on the inside, then Izzy took a knee, his face a bloody mess. Vasquez rose midway through the count and put on the ear muffs as he went back inside, but Marquez flurried on him. Vasquez’ knees buckled under the onslaught. Izzy blinded by his own blood, moved to the ropes and referee Raul Caiz Jr. mercifully stepped in and stopped the bout. It was unquestionably a brave effort, but Vasquez’ face was just not up to the task.
As they waited to hear the official time, the crowd was on its feet as if waiting for the moment to cheer both these brave men on. We all knew it wouldn’t go on long and that’s OK. As they both exited the ring- perhaps the last time for Vazquez and certainly for the last time together- the crowd gave them a long and well-deserved ovation. Long live these two kings.
The time of the TKO was 1:33 of the 3rd.
“The plan was to attack the eyes,” said Marquez afterward. “I’ve been waiting for this moment for three years. I give full credit to my cornerman Daniel Zaragoza. Even my hand wraps felt better.”
“I’ll be 5-6 months out,” said Vasquez. “When I come back, I hope the commission lets me fight a fifth fight.”
Here’s hoping they don’t. It was a great career, Israel, but I, for one, can’t take you getting punished to the face like that.
In a spectacular undercard bout, Yonnhy Perez and Abner Mares fought bravely and in varied fashion to a draw. The fight was for Perez’ bantamweight title and was a fitting war appetizer to the main event. In fact, it seems as if a new trilogy may have been born.
The lower bowl was already full at Staples Center in Los Angeles when Mares, 20-0-1 (13), entered the ring along with Perez, 20-0-1 (14). Both men looked to be in shape and ready to go. Wayne Hedgpeth, who botched the Travis Kauffman vs. Tony Grano fight last year, was the ref. Luckily, tonight, he did an excellent job as the third man in the ring.
It was a pro-Mares crowd that roared their approval through his introductions, while Perez got the Bronx cheer in a chorus of boos. Fight fans, this atmosphere is what they mean when they say the room was electric. To paraphrase Stu Nahan in Rocky, "This was going to be a good one."
It was a nice first round for Mares as he came out dictating the action using superior speed, a consistent jab and a right hand/left hook combo. Perez seemed a half step behind as he tried to land his right hand and left hook, but missed several times. Mares lured him to the ropes and spun out for a reversal as he pasted Perez with a jab, right hand and hook. A nice left hook punctuated the action for Mares at the bell.
Mares showed versatility as he took the fight inside in the second. Perez got some shots in but it was all Mares as he pressed Perez to the ropes, used excellent inside defense mixed in with tight shots (hooks, uppercuts and body work) to control the action and beat Perez, who appeared to have the heavier hands (and laid some nice ground work to the body, in his own right) at his own game.
The third was another busy round for both fighters as the fast pace of the first two was exceeded. Perez came out aggressively looking to get his right hand and left hook in while Mares used his feet to stay at longer distance. A nice left hook by Perez might have been his best shot, if not for a right hand that landed later. Mares kept his cool and got in his own left hooks, flurry of one-twos and body work. It was a close round but I liked Mares, based on his defense, jab, and right hands.
Perez ratcheted up the pressure each round and landed some nice left hook hybrids with right hands behind them. But Mares had no quit in him as he pressed forward and backed up Perez with his own jab and right hand. Perez came back with that chopping right hand and I got the sense he had the kind of fight he wanted as he pressured and landed hard, heavy shots on Mares, but in slow bursts. Mares backpedaled as Perez dug to his body, off a duck-under attempt. Perez let go with a five-punch combo down the stretch that may not have been clean but certainly didn’t look like it tickled.
Mares had to dig deep and it was only the fourth round. Every skill he ever learned came into play as Perez pressured him around the ring. Mares got in a left hook inside as he pressed Perez to the ropes. “Will the boy become a man tonight?” was the question because, at that moment, the fight was looking like old dangerous lion vs. the young lion. Perez got in a chopping left from mid-range as Mares backed away and then went to his one-two. Perez got in two body shots and a one-two over the top as he ate a counter right from Mares at the bell.
Mares moved and hit for most of the early part of the next round; perhaps shaking off those body shots from the previous round. The crowd was not crazy about it as they wanted more of the toe-to-toe action. But like Ali said, "You can’t fight hard every round. Sometimes you have to take one off." Mares did that in spots, but still kept Perez confused by moving, sticking and flurrying hard down the stretch. When it was a boxing match, it was all Mares.
Perez started to close the gap a little more in the seventh. His shots seemed heavier though fewer landed. Mares moved, stopped to get off fast flurries with little pop while Perez walked him down. A hard left hand landed inside for Perez as Mares stopped to flurry.
A flock of boobirds descended on Mares as he moved about the ring in what looked like retreat while searching for punching space. Mares’ technique started going out the window a bit as he pressed forward and tried to get Perez’ respect. A couple rights by Perez got through and then a hard one landed home flush. Perez was simply overwhelming Mares with volume and single, well-placed hard shots. Perez was, as Doug Fischer to my right said, more consistent.
Perez worked in a nice little left hook as Mares dipped forward defensively. It wasn’t hard but it landed clean and got Mares out of his game a bit. Nice uppercut right hand lands for Mares and Perez digs to his body. This is high-level stuff as the fight compressed into a phone booth and then expanded into a boxing match at center ring. Round nine was hard as hell to score. A crisp right hand by Mares landed late and maybe took a round where he was busier but didn’t land the harder shots, save for a few.
Mares found the right answers to the questions many experts had about him. He drove forward and got off first, landing that left hook and digging into Perez’ body. Perez got in a flush hook of his own and worked that stiff jab to Mares’ face. But Mares became the aggressor, getting off a rear uppercut and going to a sweeping hook as he escaped to his left from Perez. A nice left hook inside by Mares, off his own right hand miss, then a great left to the body backed Perez up. Mares was growing up round-by-round. A jab to the head and hard right to the body by Mares set up the punch of the fight: a right hand over the top by Mares’ with Perez’ back to the ropes that snapped the champ’s head back.
Perez seemed to come on strong early off the strength of that hard jab and chopping right, but Mares was in a groove. He kept landing that left hook first and getting to Perez’ body. Did someone say these two are old friends? They sure didn’t act like it as they went toe-to-toe. Another close round ends but it was another one for Mares. The crowd was on its feet to start the 12th.
There was an awkward start to the last round, but it heated up soon enough. They traded one-twos and came back for more. Neither man was fresh, but both showed champions’ hearts and will as they pressed at each other while landing shots inside. Mares seemed to get the sharper ones off, getting away with a triple hold and hit, then landing a huge one-two for Mares down the stretch. Mares was the aggressor and looked to close the show and, in the end, he did what the old-timers would call “taking it away from the champion.”
The judges disagreed.
Judge Marty Denkin had it 115-113 for Mares, but Eugenia Williams and Gwen Adair had it 114-114, resulting in a majority draw.
“I’m sad. I thought I won the fight,” said Mares afterward. “I fight for the crowd and the fans and they felt I won. The judges didn’t. I showed I am a high-quality fighter tonight. The last round, I thought I was going to KO him, but I didn’t.”
“I win this fight. It was not a draw,” said Perez. “He is a good fighter, but he never hurt me. I would fight a rematch, but it’s up to my promoter.”