Fighter Profile: Rafael Marquez
Rafael Marquez is a 34 year-old pro fighting in the featherweight division. His work during the past decade has placed him favorably among the very beat Mexican fighters of all time. In 2010, the younger brother of Juan Manuel Marquez looks to reclaim his place among the lower-weight elites.
Marquez turned pro in 1995 after a reported 59-1 amateur record. It is stunning to reflect that Marquez made his pro debut against grizzled former bantamweight titlist Victor Rabanales, a veteran of 55 fights! Somewhat predictably, Marquez was stopped in the 8th round.
Thankfully for Marquez, he began facing a diet of opponents more befitting a young fighter, as he began compiling wins against fellow fledgling pros and journeymen. After 12 straight wins (11 by kayo) he was upset in 1998 by Francisco Mateos via third round TKO.
He rebounded with nine consecutive knockouts before succumbing to longtime bantamweight contender Genaro Garcia by second round knockout. At this point, there was some skepticism surrounding Marquez’ future prospects. Having been stopped three times before even getting into contention, Marquez needed to turn things around.
That’s just what he did. He brushed off those defeats and flung himself back into combat with a vengeance, scoring 4 quick KOs before getting the biggest opportunity of his career.
Rise to Prominence
In October 2001, Marquez was chosen as an opponent for longtime standout Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson. Johnson, undefeated in his last 11 years of combat had long been considered one of the finest fighters in the world. In a controversial bout, Johnson lost two points for holding, the deciding margin giving Marquez a split decision win. It was a signature win, but there were many who felt Johnson had gotten a raw deal.
Four months later, the two squared off for a rematch and this time there were no doubts, as Marquez dominated, knocking Johnson out in the 8th round. Marquez had arrived!
The Johnson wins set Marquez up for a shot at longtime IBF Bantamweight Champion Tim Austin. Austin was a formidable champion, with nine defenses to his credit. Marquez won by 8th round KO not only to become the IBF champion, but also to become recognized as one of the best fighters in the world. Both Johnson and Austin had been very highly regarded and Marquez had beaten them both conclusively.
Marquez’ Title Reign
Marquez put together a nice run of defenses against tough competition, including wins over 30-3 Mauricio Pastrana, 27-3 Peter Frissina, 31-2 Heriberto Ruiz, and tough Ricardo Vargas. Marquez then scored two stoppages over dangerous contender and future champion Silence Mabuza. His stature as one of the best in the sport was now solid.
The Israel Vasquez Trilogy
Israel Vasquez and Rafael Vasquez then embarked on one of the most vicious rivalries in boxing history. All who saw them will remember the three fights they had. Perhaps never before have two fighters meshed together so well in terms of skills and heart.
Their first fight was an evenly and fiercely contested war that culminated when Vasquez was forced to retire due to his nose being smashed by Marquez. It was somewhat of a surprising capitulation, but in light of the subsequent horrors Vasquez would endure, the injury must have really been quite bad.
The fight was so good that a rematch was quickly scheduled for 5 months later. This time the action was blood curdling, as each took turns pounding each other. Every punch seemed to be a home run shot. Both men walked through shots that would fell most 122-pounders. In the sixth, Vasquez dropped a badly battered Marquez and continued to pour it on until the ref saved Marquez. It was Ring Magazine’s 2007 fight of the year and one of the can’t-miss fights in the annals of available boxing footage.
The rubber match was scheduled for 7 months later. Again, these two warriors tore into each other right from the get-go. In the fourth, Marquez pounded Vasquez down to the canvas. Over the next several rounds each man took turns pummeling the other. Each man was on the precipice of demise many times only to spring back with a vengeance. There was little to separate the two, though Vasquez maybe had a slight edge aided by a point deduction in the 11th.
In a superhuman effort, Vasquez came out for the 12th at an ultimate fever pitch. For him to summon this from the depths of his soul after enduring the beating Marquez put on him is the stuff of legends. As if there was not enough to get excited about in this fight, now there was the tension of seeing if a waning Marquez could get to the final bell. Vasquez pounded Marquez all over the ring finally pummeling him into the ropes for a late knockdown to seal the fight by split decision. Again—fight of the year.
Aftermath and Future
The Vasquez fights, combined with the fact that Marquez is closing in on 35, cast a certain amount of doubt on his future. A hard-hitting warrior like Marquez can never be written off completely. On May 22, he will have a fourth fight with Vasquez, and if he can emerge victorious, there is a possibility that he can turn his attention toward other fighters and squeeze some more glory out of his career. If he loses, however, his options will be pretty thin.