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You could ask 100 boxing experts to name the most important attribute a fighter needs to be successful.
You'd probably hear such diverse answers as punching power, fast hands, quick feet, a good chin and plenty of courage.
All of them are good answers, but none of them is the answer.
They're all wrong. Dead wrong.
I'd suggest that zero of those 100 experts would actually get it correct.
Without question, though, the answer would have to be the ability to breathe.
If you doubt that, ask Israel Vazquez, who on Saturday will take on Rafael Marquez for the fourth time in their glorious rivalry in a Showtime-televised card from the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Vazquez has won the last two meetings between the men, two of the better fights in modern times, both of which were named the Yahoo! Sports Fight of the Year.
In the first one, though, the record shows that Marquez won by technical knockout in the seventh round.
Vazquez, though, simply quit on the stool.
Or, at least, that's the story that many of Vazquez's critics at the time reported. Frank Espinoza, who's officially Vazquez's manager but is more like his father, knows differently.
A double jab by Marquez in the fifth round crushed the cartilage inside of Vazquez's prominent nose. When Espinoza brought Vazquez to a doctor a few days after the fight, he was stunned by what he learned.
"The fans and some people in the media were really hard on Israel, and it bothered him a lot when people said he quit," Espinoza said. "The guy couldn't breathe. The doctor said he had 90 percent blockage in one [nostril] and 100 percent blockage in the other. You can't fight that way."
With the nose repaired, Vazquez got off the deck to stop Marquez in their rematch. Covered in blood, he raised his arms skyward in exultation after the bout, pleased beyond words that he had proven his skeptics wrong.
"I know how much that fight meant to Israel," Espinoza said. "I don't even want to think of what he was willing to go through to make sure he won that fight." When they meet on Saturday for the fourth time, though, Vazquez said it will mean more than ever. Vazquez won the rubber match by beating Marquez in an inspired 12th round in the 2008 Yahoo! Sports Fight of the Year.
Each man has laid low over the last 26 months, fighting once apiece. Vazquez underwent three surgeries on his right eye to reattach his retina.
Marquez would seem to have more reason to want to win, to even the score, but Vazquez oozes intensity.
"I just want Saturday to get here," Vazquez said. "It is the biggest day of my life. With this fight, Marquez and I will definitely be part of boxing history, even more so than now. My motivation to win is like none I have had before."
Marquez said much the same thing, giving credence to the thought that the two can never be in a poor fight against each other.
But Marquez has made a significant change that may alter the way the fight is fought. He parted with long-time trainer Nacho Beristain, who had been with him throughout most of his professional career, and replaced him with Hall of Fame boxer Daniel Zaragoza.
Marquez blamed Beristain for the loss in the third fight, which was at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. He said Beristain told him he had the fight won after the 11th and that if he didn't get knocked out in the 12th, he'd win.
He didn't, but Vazquez knocked Marquez down in the final 10 seconds of the fight to punctuate a late rally that gave him the split decision. Had Marquez simply won the 12th round, he would have earned the split decision victory.
"I lost the last round of the last fight basically because my [former] cornermen made a lot of mistakes," Marquez said. "Instead of telling me to go out and fight, my instructions were to box and that cost me the fight."
That led to the eye-opening decision to replace Beristain, one of the game's best tacticians and sharpest minds. Marquez, though, said he's getting the special one-on-one attention he wasn't getting for years from Beristain, who is one of the busiest trainers in Mexico.
"My father is the one who taught me how to box, not [Beristain]," Marquez said. "He was the one who was behind me. Nacho didn't give me the attention I needed. It's different now. Daniel Zaragoza gave me 100 percent attention. He's worked with me, showed me how to fight with speed, and he's taught me. I wasn't getting that before."
A good trainer can play a key role in a close fight, making adjustments and motivating his fighter.
In this series, though, after they've shared the ring for three fights, there isn't much one doesn't know about the other.
"I know him very well," Marquez said. "He knows me very well. The one thing we have learned is respect for each other."
They'll look like sworn enemies on Saturday once the bell rings. They'll pummel each other as hard as they can for as long as they can. When it ends, they'll smile and embrace, confident they've added to their legacies.
For Espinoza, who met Vazquez 12 years ago and regards him as a son, it will be hard at times to watch. But he knows it will also be a continuation of some of the finest fights in years.
"You know going in that they're going to both give and receive a lot of punishment," Espinoza said. "It's hard to watch someone you care about as much as I care about Israel taking that kind of punishment. It's a dangerous sport and every time someone steps in there, it doesn't matter who, there is a risk.
"As a boxing fan, it's great being a part of history. This series between these kids is one of the best ever. Everyone pretty much agrees on that. And this is their jobs. It's hard, at times, but it's also part of the business. These are the fights that define a fighter's legacy and both Israel and Rafa know that and take it very seriously."
- Israel Vazquez