On Sept. 13, Rafael Vazquez got tagged with a shot that buzzed him badly: Doctors told his wife, Sandra, that she has cervical cancer. That was actually the second shot that landed on the Vazquez family; Rafael's six-year-old daughter, Ayleae, was diagnosed as autistic.
The health worries came at an inopportune time: Eight days later Vazquez was scheduled to fight Leon Moore, a 30-2 fighter from Guyana, at Resorts World Casino in Jamaica, Queens, for the New York State super bantamweight title.
The Puerto Rico-born boxer, who grew up in Bushwick and has lived in Howard Beach for the past nine years, admitted to NYFightblog that he contemplated pulling out of the fight. Nobody would have blinked and all involved would have understood if Vazquez did what he had to do to support his family. "But then I remembered, I'm a professional, a fighter, and I said, 'I'm going to fight to take care of my family,'" said Vazquez, the father of four.
In Round 8, Moore had Vazquez hurt. His corner told him that Moore would be looking to finish and that he might get overaggressive, and that could leave an opening. It did: A left hook and two rights from Vazquez sent Moore on his back, hard, and gave Vazquez (9-1), who deserves some good news, a ninth-round TKO win. It was the fight of the night in front of about 2,000 fans at Resorts.
Promoter Felipe Gomez was still buzzing on Monday morning. "Oh my God, it was an epic ending," he said. "Vazquez was down on all three cards, but I could see how determined he was still to win. Going into the fight, he wasn't in the right state of mind and instead of quitting, he said, 'I'm not going to.'"
Vazquez is fortunate in that he has a full-time job, at the UFC gym in Manhattan, and has a decent health insurance plan. He said doctors are optimistic that they can eradicate Sandra's cancer, and results have come in that show Ayleae's recent health scare was a false alarm.
"Yes, some days it gets to you, but I pray to a higher power, and I'm focused on taking care of my family," Vazquez said.