Israel Vazquez is back

Israel Vazquez with Milton Luban

Israel Vazquez with Milton Luban

Israel Vazquez is back. And the sport of boxing is all the better for it.

Vazquez, 31, was medically cleared to resume training by the California State Athletic Commission late last month after three surgeries to correct a detached retina in his right eye. He plans to fight again this fall.

“I never really lost focus or hope,” Vazquez said. “But I am human, too, and there were times I got down. So it wasn’t easy. But now I’m just waiting to come back into the ring and do my boxing business in a few months.”

Vazquez (43-4, 31 KOs) suffered the injury in the third fight of his exciting trilogy with Rafael Marquez on March 1, 2008. Vazquez has been idle since. .

In the interim, he has decided to vacate his WBC super bantamweight title and move up four pounds to the 126-pound featherweight division.

This is significant, because that’s also the division where Marquez (38-5, 34 KOs) now resides.

Could a fourth meeting between the two be near?

“I’ll leave the decision on who I fight to my team, but if I feel that’s the right fight, absolutely, I will fight him again,” Vazquez said. “After the third fight, I was ready to do it again then. If the fans want it, I want it. Where do I sign?”

Vazquez must feel like there is no other opponent out there for him. His last three fights all have come against Marquez.

Over the past two years, the two Mexican countrymen have waged one of the more memorable trilogies in boxing history. Vazquez has won two of the three, in unforgettable fashion.

Their first duel, March 3, 2007, ended when Vazquez suffered a badly broken nose that forced him to retire on his stool at the end of the seventh round.

But Vazquez regained the title in the rematch on Aug. 4, 2007, scoring a sixth-round knockout. Then in the rubber match, considered the best of the three, Vazquez claimed a split-decision win on March 1, 2008.

The second and third bouts were classics that many media outlets picked as fight of the year.

The first fight likely would have won such an honor had it not come in the same year as the rematch.

As thrilling as the fights were, they exacted a heavy toll on the participants. The two waged 25 rounds of sustained violence.

Marquez, 34, absorbed tremendous punishment and, after the third bout, didn’t fight for 14 months. Vazquez also took a beating and in the third fight suffered a detached retina as the result of a punch in the third round.

“He thought it was just the Vaseline in his eye, because it was blurry,” said Frank Espinoza, Vazquez’s manager. “So he fought nine more rounds with a detached retina. It shows you the kind of warrior he is.”

A week after the fight, Vazquez had the first surgery. But it didn’t work. He had to have a second procedure after the retina detached again.

Then in late November, the retina detached a third time, and Vazquez needed a third surgery to repair the damage.

“It’s been a long journey to this point,” Espinoza said. “Three surgeries. It’s been a long road.”

There’s a possibility of a fight with WBO super bantamweight champion Juan Manuel Lopez (25-0, 23 KOs), but Lopez has given no indication he’s ready to move up to 126 pounds.

That brings us back to the possibility of a fourth Vazquez-Marquez fight. Money will be an issue, but if both fighters are going to continue to fight and take punches, why not do it for the most money in the biggest fight?

“I would like to see the Marquez fight because I think that is the fight fans want to see,” Espinoza said.

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