Back to the woodshed

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

WATCH VIDEO: WBC 122-pound belt will be on the line in the rematch of Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez. Watch highlights of their first fight, March 3, 2007 in Carson, CA.

In the boxing industry, saying one fights like a Mexican is a euphemism for calling a fighter a brawler.

Rafael Marquez can brawl as well as anyone, and he's 100 percent Mexican, but he's not so easily categorized.

He's one of the best pure boxers in the game, a smart and patient hunter willing to wait out his foe until the time is right to pounce.

It would be just as wrong to peg him as a cautious counter puncher as it would be to tab him a toe-to-toe warrior.

"Whatever he needs to do at a given time, he slips into that type of fighter," his long-time trainer, Nacho Beristain, said. "He adapts to what is happening in the ring as well as anyone who is out there."

Marquez is probably boxing's most anonymous star. He takes on former super bantamweight champion Israel Vazquez in a heated rematch on Saturday in Hidalgo, Texas, in a bout that will be televised on Showtime, but scant attention is being paid to the bout.

Much of it is focused on a match featuring long-time Mexican star Erik Morales, who takes on David Diaz for a lightweight title in a pay-per-view bout on Saturday in Chicago.

Morales is a first-ballot Hall of Famer, but he's on the downside of his career and trying to bounce back from three consecutive losses and four defeats in his last five outings.

But if sharing the spotlight bothers Marquez, he does a great job of hiding his feelings. He expressed admiration for both Morales and Marco Antonio Barrera, another star who has cast a wide shadow over all Mexican fighters.

"Morales and Barrera deserve whatever they get because of how good they have been for so long," Marquez said. "They made people want to watch fights (in the lower weights). "I think we are better off because of them. And time will compensate us for what we have done."

He made his pro debut in 1995 as a wide-eyed 20-year-old against Victor Rabanales, who had a 5-2 record in world title fights.

Not surprisingly, Marquez was beaten. But he showed anyone who watched that he had the makings of a superstar.

He proved that when he took on Mark Johnson in 2001. Johnson was hailed as one of the five best fighters in the sport at the time and hadn't lost a bout in 11½ years, but Marquez won a split decision that didn't seem as close as it was called.

And is if to prove it was no fluke, Marquez pummeled Johnson four months later in the rematch, stopping him in eight rounds.

The wins over Johnson led Marquez to a fight against former U.S. Olympian Tim Austin, who sported a 25-0-1 record and a reputation as the baddest man south of 130 pounds. The bout was no contest, though, and Marquez stopped Austin in the eighth round, earning a reputation as somewhat of a giant killer.

"He's not afraid of anybody, he's willing to fight anybody, he puts on a show and he wins," his promoter, Gary Shaw, said. "What more could you ask from him?"

Well, you could ask him to outspoken in order to draw attention to his fights. Rather, Marquez is a quiet and thoughtful man who ponders a question he's asked and answers it fully.

He knows that Vazquez represents one of the most significant challenges of his career. Marquez was in control of the early portions of their March 3 fight in Carson, Calif., but Vazquez was coming hard when he had to quit on the stool after the seventh round because he was having difficulty breathing.

Marquez never hesitated to agree to the rematch because he said he knew the fans wanted to see it again.

But this is probably the one time he was a bit selfish. He's going in with a point to prove on Saturday and a motivated Marquez is a dangerous man to be standing across from in a boxing ring.

"If there are any questions, I want to answer them," Marquez said. "There are no excuses for this fight. He is ready. I am ready. We will see who the best man truly is."

Bet on it being Marquez.


As usual.

Now, check out Kevin Iole's Column on Israel Vazquez