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Mailbag: Hard to top Vazquez-Marquez

It's amazing what impact a great fight has upon boxing fans. All of a sudden, my inbox was full of messages raving about the sport and bragging about its health.

Just a week before, at the end of a desultory heavyweight unification bout in New York between Wladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov, the doomsayers were out in force, predicting the end of the line for the sport and ceding its place in the combat sports world to mixed martial arts.

So let's get to your thoughts on the outstanding rubber match Saturday between Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez, which has to be Fight of the Year, as well as a few other topics. If this fight doesn't win Fight of the Year for 2008, you know it's been an all-time kind of year for the sport.

My answers are, as always, in italics below the question.

BEST TRILOGY

Which do you consider the best trilogy, Israel Vazquez-Rafael Marquez or Arturo Gatti-Micky Ward?

Juan Carlos Rodriguez
Texas

I think hands down it's Vazquez-Marquez. The quality of the fighters is much better and there were no slow moments in it. The second Gatti-Ward fight wasn't nearly as ferocious as the first and third ones were.


GREAT SHOW

The Rafael Marquez/Israel Vazquez fight was terrific, but after seeing the judges' scores you posted on the round-by-round article, I was wondering why the judge that had Marquez winning didn't deduct the point for the low blow?

Chris Cardenas
Waterville, Maine

All three judges did, in fact, deduct the low blow. What happened was a transcription mistake on my end. The commission's official score sheet lists the point deduction in a separate column. When I was transcribing from paper, I folded the score sheet and only noticed the round score. It was my error and I apologize. The judges had it correct.


I LOVED IT
I just came from the Vazquez-Marquez fight. Damn, that was a fight. It's a shame not more people knew about it, though there were many celebrities on hand (all of them trumped by the greatest Mexican fighter ever, Julio Cesar Chavez). The crowd was off the hook. I love UFC and missed it tonight because of this fight and would gladly miss the replay if this fight were on TV. I seriously doubt that anything they had was on the same level of what I saw tonight. There will always be a place for boxing.

Luis Vega
Paramount, Calif.

The atmosphere was phenomenal in the Home Depot Center. This is what can occur when boxing promoters don't attempt to protect their stars. Not all fights can be as entertaining or as compelling as the three between these men, but there is no reason that all boxers can't try as hard as Marquez and Vazquez did.


FIGHT OF THE YEAR

Are you kidding me? What a spectacular fight! The right man won, but let's give credit to both fighters for competing in what has to be the Fight of the Year. I was expecting a great fight and it lived up to its hype. It reminded me of the great heavyweight fights of yesteryear, meaning I was excited before, during and after the fight. After that borefest of Feb. 23, the heavyweights should take notes on what heart and determination it takes to be a great champion. I don't want to see a fourth fight between Vazquez and Marquez. Also, where do you rank Vazquez pound for pound?

Ernesto Casas
Los Angeles

I can only disagree with you on one point, Ernesto: I'd love to see more of them in the same ring. Marquez' protests after the fight were hollow and Vazquez clearly got the deserved win. Referee Pat Russell actually warned Marquez three times in the first round alone for low blows. And I think I noticed by watching the replay he had seven or eight low blows in the fight. Whether they do damage or not is immaterial. But the fights were so good, they cry out for more. I think Vazquez is probably ranked where he should be. He was seventh in our February poll. He gets hit too much to catch the guys who are currently ahead of him, in my opinion.


PUNISHING BOUTS

How much fight do you think these three fights took out of Vazquez and Marquez? Will they have diminished skills because of the beatings they gave each other?

Chris Austin
Baton Rouge, La.

The fights had to have taken a tremendous toll on each man and I don't think either will be near the same as he was before the first bout. And as much as I'd like to see them fight again, I hope promoters give them more than enough time off before making a rematch, if one is to be made. The fight should be in a big arena next time, because more than 8,000 people deserve to see it live.


OVERRATED OSCAR

Oscar De La Hoya is an extremely overrated fighter. Why is a fighter who has lost his five hardest fights against the four toughest opponents he's faced (Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Shane Mosley twice) so revered as a boxer? Not to mention he should have lost his fight against Felix Sturm. No one ever talks about that fight. Watch it again if you don't remember, because he lost that fight.

Chadwick Rastatter
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

I've said before I don't think Oscar is a top 100 all-time fighter and I'll stick by that. But give the man credit. Yes, you're right on the bouts he lost, though many believe he should have won the Trinidad fight and the second Mosley fight. And he's got quality wins over Fernando Vargas, Ike Quartey, (a faded) Julio Cesar Chavez, Rafael Ruelas, Pernell Whitaker and Genaro Hernandez, among others. Oscar has been one of the best fighters of his generation. If I remember correctly, I called De La Hoya-Sturm a draw, and De La Hoya admits he wasn't in shape for the fight. But he has been one of the elite fighters of his time, taking on just about everyone, and he's been an action fighter, so what is the complaint?


THOUGHTS ON RUBIO
What are your thoughts on Marco Antonio Rubio? He is currently ranked fourth in the WBC middleweight division with a great record. Do you think he is ready for a world title fight?

Julio Gudino
Anaheim, Calif.

Honestly, I'm not that impressed with Rubio. I'll never forget when Kofi Jantuah knocked him out with a single punch in 2004. Rubio is a second-tier fighter who is good enough to beat everyone but the A-level guys. If he ever fights Kelly Pavlik for the middleweight title, he'll be in big trouble.


OPEN SCORING

It was my understanding that they were considering trying some new things when it came to judging. I had read a while back that they were thinking of showing the judges' scores during a fight, so the crowd, fighters and trainers would be able to see where they're at as the fight unfolds. Is this a possible future action, or just a rumor? Are you in favor of this change? What are its pros and cons? I'm personally on the fence, but it would stir up some interesting situations.

Vincent Grashaw
Los Angeles

Vincent, what you're asking for is open scoring, which has been an abysmal failure whenever it's been tried. Here's the problem: In a fight that is very closely contested, yet one guy is winning most of the rounds by a razor-thin margin, open scoring would guarantee a dud down the stretch. Let's say that Fighter A and Fighter B are putting on a good fight, but Fighter A is just squeaking out most of the rounds. At the end of nine, the judges have it scored seven rounds to two for Fighter A. It's reasonable that Fighter A might think it's a tight fight and the outcome hangs in the balance. Over the last three rounds, he'll continue to fight hard in order to pull out the win even though on the sheets, he had it locked up after nine. But if he knows he's ahead, why take a chance? He'll run and avoid any contact, because he knows he's guaranteed to win. There are other reasons, but plain and simply, open scoring doesn't work.


CALZAGHE OVERRATED?

Joe Calzaghe at No. 3 pound-for-pound? I know you expected bad feedback for all or parts of your list, and overall I think its pretty good, but Calzaghe in third place? Please! Who has this guy fought in the past 10 years? The last guy he fought on HBO was a nobody. The only reason anyone has ever heard of him outside of Europe is because of HBO. I make it 3-1 Hopkins gives him a boxing lesson. I read you all the time. You're a damn good sports writer except for that Calzaghe miss.

Ric Martin
New Jersey

I think Calzaghe is a wonderful boxer who deserves his place high on that list, Ric, so we'll have to agree to disagree. His last victory wasn't over a nobody. Mikkel Kessler was a legitimate world champion who was unbeaten going into the fight with Calzaghe and had fought in the U.S. before. It's xenophobic to ignore quality fighters in other parts of the world. Also, Calzaghe has indeed beaten a number of other quality fighters. Just because he hasn't been on television a lot in the U.S. doesn't mean he can't fight. He's very good.