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What's the thrillogical next step?

'That was some war. Wanna do it again?' AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

Anyone know the proper etiquette for thanking people and asking them for a favor all in the same breath?

Say your neighbor was nice enough to help you lug your new 150-pound marble coffee table in from the car; there simply is no easy way to ask him whether he'll stick around and help you paint the garage.

That's what it feels like suggesting that Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez fight a fourth time.

You can't thank these warriors enough for what they've given to the sport the past 12 months, producing three fights and 25 rounds of nearly nonstop action, producing 2007's fight of the year and possibly 2008's.

There were broken noses and gushing gashes. There were a combined four knockdowns, and each one was followed by a stunned fighter rising and asking for more.

The "thrillogy" designation is not to be handed out injudiciously, but Vazquez and Marquez earned it. There can be no disputing that they deserve to be talked about alongside Zale-Graziano, Ali-Frazier, Barrera-Morales and the other great three-fight series in boxing history.

What can and will be disputed is whether they should go to hell and back together one more time -- or leave it be at three and go their separate ways.

To ask the question in five little words: ┬┐No mas o una mas?

We can all agree that we need to say "gracias" a thousand times first.

However, call me a sadist, call me ungrateful, but once I'm all gracias-ed out, I'm asking these guys to get it on again.

For starters, they're willing. (It would take a particularly twisted breed of ungrateful sadist to send them back into battle if they didn't want any part of it.)

Marquez, disappointed that the split decision in Saturday night's rubber match didn't go his way, said, "Of course," when asked whether he wanted another shot at Vazquez.

"No problem, I will give him a fourth fight," was the junior featherweight champion's response.

So that part is out of the way. Now it comes down to what's best for the fighters' careers, what's best for their bank accounts and what's best for the fans. On all three counts, I think the answer is Vazquez-Marquez IV.

For the fans, how can you go wrong with pairing these guys up another time? It's a style matchup that can't fail, as the extraordinary consistency of their three bouts indicates.

All the great thrillogies that came before had one fight that wasn't quite worthy of countless viewings. You can't say that about Vazquez vs. Marquez.

Their third fight, especially, seemed to follow a Hollywood script, featuring everything short of Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed hitting the deck simultaneously.

Round 4 was an early contender for round of the year, with Vazquez tasting the canvas but getting up to wobble Marquez in an intense final 40 seconds in which it seemed any punch from either side might end the fight.

Heading into Round 12, Vazquez was cut over both eyes and his nose had doubled in size; meanwhile, Marquez's left eye was closing, his energy was waning and his early lead was just about gone. One judge still had the ex-champ up by a fairly ludicrous five points, but the others had him ahead by one and trailing by one. Vazquez needed to win the round to keep his title on a draw, and he needed a two-point round to win the fight.

As he pounded Marquez throughout the 12th, a Julio Cesar Chavez vs. Meldrick Taylor feel enveloped the furious finish. With four seconds left on the clock, Vazquez scored the knockdown when referee Pat Russell correctly ruled that the ropes were the only thing keeping Marquez on his feet.

It was a 10-8 round. "El Magnifico" won the decision by one point on the deciding card.

The fight was billed as "The Tiebreaker," and technically, it achieved that end.

But as Showtime analyst Al Bernstein wondered after it was over, "Could we ever have a 12-round fight that's great and not have controversy?"

Marquez lost a point in Round 10 for a punch that -- like the other "low blows" he was warned for previously -- landed on the lower portion of the belt line, right in that hazy region where it's left open to the ref's vision and interpretation.

When it was over, there was a distinct sense that Vazquez's size and strength were overwhelming Marquez the same way they had in the second fight and that, if there had been a 13th round, we probably would have seen a knockout.

But the fact remains that this was scheduled for 12, and after the final bell, the only thing separating these two brave champions was a debatable point deduction. As emphatic statements go, Zale-Graziano III this was not.

From an entertainment perspective and a clarity perspective, a fourth go-round makes sense.

Whether it makes as much sense for the fighters' careers and their futures is subject to debate.

"Enough is enough," opined Micky Ward, who knows a thing or two about brutal thrillogies, having ended his career with three legendary fights against Arturo Gatti. "I know it's great for the public and it's great to see, but what it comes down to really is someone's health, and I don't think it's a good idea for either one of them. They'll always fight each other the same way. They could fight again when they're 50 and still fight each other the same way.

"I think they gave enough of themselves for two lifetimes. And you only get one."

The counter to that compassionate and compelling argument, however, is that if Vazquez and Marquez have succeeded in taking years off of each other's careers, if neither one will ever be the same again, wouldn't you rather see them match their depleted bodies against each other than watch them get abused by a younger, fresher fighter?

Vazquez has talked about moving up to featherweight, having conquered just about all there is to conquer at 122 pounds. Fights against the likes of Robert Guerrero and Jorge Linares, two of the better under-25 competitors in the game, would be intriguing, no doubt.

But couldn't you see the 30-year-old feeling the effects of his wars with Marquez and taking a whipping from those whippersnappers?

Think Joshua Clottey vs. Diego Corrales.

Then there's the financial consideration. For Saturday's slugfest, Vazquez made $750,000 and Marquez's purse was $425,000. Given the way the two fighters added to their legends in the rubber match, Showtime conceivably could beef those figures up by about $300,000 each.

And if ever a fight has been worthy of our pay-per-view dollars, it's Vazquez-Marquez.

We got the first three at no extra charge. If they could produce a modest 150,000 pay-per-view buys at $45 a pop, that's a gross of $6.75 million. Even after everyone else involved gets paid, Vazquez and Marquez can take home the seven-figure purses they deserve.

It's hard to envision either fighter reaching those monetary heights against any other opponent.

One thing is for certain: Both fighters deserve a nice, long rest. After three brutal fights in
exactly 365 days, a gap of about eight months or so without a fight is warranted.

But if, after some time has passed and the wounds have healed, Vazquez and Marquez still want to do it a fourth time, and if that's the most lucrative fight out there for either of them, I say touch 'em up.

In the immediate aftermath of Saturday's brilliant battle, both men should have been hooked up to an IV.

But once their fluids have been replenished, it'll be time to start thinking about hooking the fans up to Part IV.

Eric Raskin is a contributing editor for and former managing editor of The Ring magazine.