LOS ANGELES -- A fifth fight?
Whether it's the California State Athletic Commission, his manager, his trainer, his family, his friends, his fans or all of the above, somebody needs to reason with Israel Vazquez.
After losing on a third-round TKO to Rafael Marquez on Saturday night at Staples Center, in front of a crowd of 9,236, Vazquez should not only abandon his storied rivalry with Marquez after four fights, but his career as well.
The fight was stopped by referee Raul Caiz Jr. at the 1:33 mark of the round because of cuts over both eyes, the blood streaming down Vazquez's face.
The cut over the left eye was caused by a punch in the first round, the cut over the right eye by a head butt.
But the truth is, both cuts were the result of a savage career in which the 32-year-old Vazquez accepted a great deal of punishment on the way toward a 44-5 record with 33 knockouts. His excellence had earned him the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council super bantamweight titles, but it had also left him with eyelids about as thick as tissue paper.
He had won two of the three previous ferocious battles against Marquez. But even in victory the blood streamed down from those fragile eyelids, creating patterns across Vazquez's face that resembled a spider web.
As it turned out, the damage went even deeper. Since last facing Marquez, Vasquez had several surgeries to repair a detached retina.
When Marquez and Vazquez ran across each other at the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight in December 2008, Marquez -- eager for revenge after losing the rubber match between the two -- asked for a fourth fight.
Vazquez, proving to be a pretty good prophet, pointed to his eyes and said he needed to heal.
Obviously that hasn't happened.
Marquez won the first two rounds decisively Saturday night, then knocked down Vazquez early in the third round with a solid right hand.
Vazquez got to his feet, but when the onslaught resumed and Vazquez seemingly unable to see the right hand coming, the match was wisely stopped.
"It was definitely the plan to go after the eyes because of the surgeries," said the 35-year-old Marquez (39-5, 35 knockouts). "Because he hit me pretty good, I thought the fight would go longer."
"I need to close up the cuts," Vazquez said, "and five to six months to recover. But if the commission is OK with another fight and the fans want it, I would be willing to do it. We gave the fans four great fights."
Make that three great fights, one of the greatest boxing trilogies ever. Vazquez lost the first fight on a seventh-round TKO when he suffered a broken nose. He won the rematch on a sixth-round TKO. He won the third fight on a close decision.
All three fights were classics. That's a legacy Vazquez can be proud of. And one he should stand on.
Perez vs. Mares
Saturday's semi-main event, some predicted, would steal the show. If non-stop action, consummate skill and grim determination are the determining factors, that was indeed the case.
IBF bantamweight champion Yonnhy Perez and challenger Abner Mares brought a combined 40-0 record and 27 knockouts into the ring.
When they exited, they were still unbeaten after a technical draw. Perez is 20-0-1 with 14 knockouts, Mares 20-0-1, with 13 KOs.
Judges Eugenia Williams and Gwen Adair had it draw. The third judge, Marty Denkin, had Mares a winner, 115-113.
I must have been watching a different fight. I gave it to Mares 116-112. I thought he was the more accurate puncher, exhibited better ring command and blunted every attack by Perez.
No surprise. When it was over, both fighters claimed victory.
"I won this fight," said Perez. "It was not a draw."
"I'm really sad," said Mares. "I thought I won and the crowd thought I won."
There will probably be another fight between the two.
Let's hope that is not the case with the main event.
Steve Springer is a freelance journalist and the author of eight books, the last three best-sellers. He was an award-winning sports writer with the Los Angeles Times for 25 years and is a past winner of the Nat Fleischer Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Boxing Writers' Association of America.