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After three stirring fights, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez are set for a fourth

The latest bout in a rivalry that began in 2007 and has created an increasing amount of buzz since will be Saturday at Staples Center.

May 21, 2010|By Lance Pugmire

Israel Vazquez, somewhat amazingly, will test his comeback from three surgeries to repair a detached retina in his right eye in the most severe way possible: a fourth fight against his legendary rival Rafael Marquez on Saturday night at Staples Center.

The boxers have given their sport two "Fights of the Year" during their trilogy, with Vazquez winning two of the three battles.

Word of mouth about the Vazquez-Marquez trilogy, which began three years ago in front of a half-filled Home Depot Center tennis arena, has grown to the point that 10,000 are expected for the nontitle featherweight bout. Vazquez will get $800,000 for the bout, according to his manager.

Vazquez and Marquez both weighed in at 125½ pounds Friday.

However, there is concern about the toll of the prior 25 rounds of Vazquez-Marquez. Vazquez suffered a fight-stopping broken nose in the first bout and Marquez was subjected to serious punishment in relentless middle-of-the-ring brawling.

George Dodd, the new executive officer of the California State Athletic Commission, said Vazquez's vision in his right eye is better than the 20/200 minimum.

"People are squeamish about this fight, but the way I see it is these two fighters should be applauded just for coming out of the dressing room," Vazquez's manager, Frank Espinoza, said.

Vazquez added, "People should look at this as a sport that I'm a professional at. That's what they should take home with them: the fights I produce. It's not about the injuries. It's not about the money."

One of the squeamish is Vazquez's 7-year-old son, Israel Jr., whose mother, Laura, told The Times previously that the boy had said that he didn't want to see his father fight again.

Meanwhile, Marquez is more than a 2-to-1 favorite for the bout.

Marquez (38-5, 34 knockouts) badly wants to even the score at two victories apiece in the series and avenge a decision in the third fight that he thinks was questionable.

"I'm so well prepared, the knockout will come," Marquez said. "I don't want to leave it up to the judges. This is going to hell, to the death."

Said Dodd: "I'm always concerned about the safety of our fighters. This is the profession they've chosen. They understand the risk. Sometimes these things do keep me up late at night."

In the months after one of Vazquez's eye surgeries, he talked about how his sight in his right eye was like looking through the bottom of a Coke bottle filled with water.

Vazquez has had one bout since his thrilling third epic against Marquez, which he won by decision in March 2008 with a final-seconds knockdown in the 12th round. In October, he looked sluggish for most of his bout against Angel Priolo before winning with three ninth-round knockdowns.

"This was a good opportunity for my career," Vazquez, 32, said of the fourth Marquez match. "It wasn't all financial. It was about boxing … and I want the people to remember Israel Vazquez as one of the best fighters ever, someone who would risk everything, even his whole life. … I want to fight and not leave anything behind."

Vazquez (44-4, 32 KOs), a former super-bantamweight world champion, would like to win a third world title and said he feels confident that he can last for "two or three more years" in the sport.

Co-promoter Gary Shaw said the interest in a fourth Vazquez-Marquez fight proved irresistible.

"There wasn't a fight out there for either of those guys that would attract as much attention as this one. They're made for each other. When that bell rings, I can guarantee you within 30 seconds, everyone in Staples Center will be standing."

lance.pugmire@latimes.com

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