By Kevin Iole, Yahoo! Sports
August 1, 2007
WATCH VIDEO: Israel Vazquez will try to regain the WBC 122-pound belt he lost to Rafael Marquez. Watch highlights of that first fight.
Not since Jimmy Durante was on the sunny side of 80 has the subject of a man's nose been so prominent.
Israel Vazquez has talked about his nose more in the last week than he has about the world title fight he is preparing for on Saturday.
And Rafael Marquez, the guy whom Vazquez is challenging on Saturday in a Showtime-televised super bantamweight title bout from Hidalgo, Texas, has spent much of his free time discussing the state of Vazquez' proboscis.
"A lot of questions about the nose," Marquez says, politely.
Vazquez and Marquez fought earlier this year at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., for the WBC 122-pound belt that Vazquez owned.
Everyone with an opinion, it seemed, agreed prior to the March 3 bout it had the potential to be brutally entertaining. The potential for cuts, welts, bruises, knockdowns and other mayhem was high.
And as it turned out, the fight was everything anyone could have expected of it.
Except for the ending.
And no, it was not because Marquez won the bout. Marquez is one of boxing's elite stars and perhaps its most highly underrated. If there are five boxers who are better than he is, it's a lot.
Rather, the ending was significant because Vazquez, the man who crowed before the first fight that he would have to be killed to quit, up and quit after the seventh round while he was very much alive.
Now, you can't blame him for quitting. Boxing is a sport, and the guy had a bone splinter in his nose. The air passage in one nostril was completely blocked and the other was 90 percent blocked.
"You can't fight if you can't breathe," Marquez said.
And so Vazquez had to cry uncle and surrender in a fight he could have won. He was beginning to turn the tide much the way he had in his previous fight, when he stopped Jhonny Gonzalez.
But the lunacy of the thing is that while he made an understandable decision, he set himself up for the barrage of questions by making the idiotic statement about dying in the ring before the fight.
Vazquez, though, doesn't seem bothered by it, though much of the fanfare that should be following the bout is missing.
"If I would have died in there, then we wouldn't be having this rematch that everyone wants to see," Vazquez said.
Probably not, though the WBO not that long ago moved a guy up in its ratings after he died, so I suppose in boxing, anything is possible.
The little matter of what Vazquez plans to do to counter Marquez' power and deceptively fast hands has largely been forgotten in the debate about the state of Vazquez' nose.
But Vazquez, 29, knows it's going to be brutally difficult once again.
"I saw a lot of tape of Marquez before the first fight, but watching tape and actually being in the ring with him are totally different," Vazquez said. "You can see the speed and you can see the power when you watch on tape, but when you're in the ring, you can see it first hand. He's so much faster than he looks. He's a great fighter."
Vazquez isn't half-bad himself. He's 41-4 and the loss to Marquez in March snapped a nine-fight winning streak.
But his trainer, Freddie Roach, opted out of the bout. Roach told the Arizona Republic that Vazquez should have taken more time off.
"He's starting to slur his words," Roach told the paper.
Vazquez, who has hired Rudy Perez as his trainer, was unaware of Roach's feelings. He said he believes Roach cares about him and just wants what's best for him.
And what's best, Vazquez said, is getting into the ring with Marquez as quickly as possible.
"We had to strike while the iron was hot," Vazquez said. "The rematch was there and people wanted to see it. The doctor cleared me and gave me the OK to fight. I have been fine and I've had a great camp. We couldn't really wait."
Now, he can't wait until Saturday, when he gets a chance to avenge the heartbreaking loss. Oscar Larios, the last person to beat Vazquez prior to Marquez, took a terrible beating in their 2005 rematch and was stopped in the third round.
Vazquez isn't predicting a third-round stoppage of Marquez, but he is predicting a fight to the finish, nose problems or not.
"As long as you give your all, the fans don't turn against you," Vazquez said. "I don't think anyone's mad at me or turned away from me because I had to quit. I didn't want to. I had to. But I took this fight to show I'm not afraid of Marquez and that I can beat him when I am healthy.
"After this, I won't be asked so many questions about my nose. Hopefully, they'll talk about the fight."
Now, check out Kevin Iole's Column on Rafael Marquez
Kevin Iole covers boxing and mixed martial arts for Yahoo! Sports. Follow him on Twitter.
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Updated on Wednesday, Aug 1, 2007 8:34 pm, EDT
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