Rafael Marquez, the former bantamweight and junior featherweight champion, is one of the era’s greatest warriors. His four-fight series with Israel Vazquez -- they’re 2-2 -- between 2007 and 2010 is the stuff of legend.
Someday, Marquez likely will earn entrance into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But since evening the series by knocking out a badly faded Vazquez in the third round of fight No. 4 in May 2010, Marquez is just 2-3. The wins came against low-level opponents (Eric Aiken and Eduardo Becerril) while the losses were to the good ones (Juan Manuel Lopez in a featherweight title fight, Toshiaki Nishioka in a junior featherweight title fight and former junior bantamweight champion Cristian Mijares by ninth-round knockout in his last fight in October).
The rough stretch was not enough to convince Mexico’s Marquez (41-8, 37 KOs) to walk away. He is making a comeback at age 38 and hopes it results in another junior featherweight title.
He recently signed with Golden Boy Promotions, reunited with Hall of Fame trainer Nacho Beristain and fights 30-year-old Efrain Esquivias (16-2-1, 9 KOs) of Gardena, Calif., in a scheduled 10-round bout in the co-feature of the Seth Mitchell-Chris Arreola heavyweight fight Saturday night (Showtime, 10:30 ET/PT) at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.
"I hope he comes forward because that's exciting for the fans,” Marquez said. “Everyone knows that's my style, and I want to make the most exciting fight for my fans.”
Marquez wanted to be clear that he did not consider retirement after the loss to Mijares. He just took a break for nearly a year.
"Being retired never entered my mind,” said Marquez, the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez. “I took some time off and came back with Nacho because I feel like I still have something to prove to the fans. I've signed [with Golden Boy] for four fights, but my mind is on this fight right now.
"I have a lot to prove. I want to be a world champion again."
Esquivias also has dreams of winning a world title.
“I'm coming in real strong and ready to show boxing fans that I'm capable of competing for a world title. I'm not an opponent. I'm here to win,” Esquivias said. “I don't back down, and neither does Marquez. Most people in the sport know about my father passing away from ALS. He's the one who gives me the strength to continue. His spirit lives within me, and he's the reason why I fight.
“I view myself as the favorite. That's no disrespect to Marquez; he's a future Hall of Famer. But I always feel like I'm the best boxer in the ring. It would mean the world to me to beat Rafael Marquez. Some people say he has lost a step, but I don't think so. Look at his brother, [40-year-old] Juan Manuel Marquez. These guys are built for longevity.”