It’s become one of boxing’s highest compliments: “That was a fight of the year candidate!” You know them when you see them. They’re the ones with all that crazy drama and action, the ones that have you leaping out of your chair, the ones that make you exhale forcefully because you’re struggling to grasp the totality of the feat.
We’ve saved this category for our last group post — we’ll hand out some awards on an individual basis Friday.
Here they are — no longer “fight of the year candidates,” but our picks for the actual Fight of the Year.
Tim: Israel Vasquez-Rafael Marquez II
If I could vote for a tie and feel like I hadn’t wussed out, this would be the year. But the two fighters involved are the same either way: junior featherweights (122 lbs.) Rafael Marquez and Israel Vasquez. They fought twice, in March and August, both times delivering such high-quality, intelligent, savage action that you could hardly believe it, even if you knew, like I did and like a number of other hardcore fans did, that it was a dream match-up. For all the seesaw drama, it’s only appropriate that each boxer won one of the two fights. Because I feel compelled to pick, I’ll take the second, despite the fact that Vasquez won and I’m more of a Marquez fan. Round three was when Vasquez almost KO’d Marquez, but Marquez flipped that switch that only some boxers have, the one that that makes them go temporarily insane and say to themselves, “I’m about to get pummeled into unconsciousness, so right around now is the time for me to shoot for the knockout.” He opened up the cuts that would force Vasquez in round seven to either knock out Marquez or risk having the fight stopped, which would have awarded Marquez the victory. Vasquez knocked Marquez out. And now, next year, we get the third fight. Can’t hardly wait. This trilogy is almost certain to go down in history as one of the best ever. As Showtime commentator Al Bernstein said in round three of the rematch, “If ever two fighters were made for each other, these two are.” Here, here. Runner-up? The first Marquez-Vasquez fight, of course.
Sean: Israel Vasquez-Rafael Marquez II
I am going to have to agree with my colleague Tim yet again on this one. Their first fight was epic but the rematch was a classic. In a small border town in south Texas two diminutive pugilists but forth an effort that was larger than life. It seems almost criminal that a sparse crowd congregated at the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo, TX as Vasquez-Marquez II was the type of fight that years from now you will regale your grandchildren about. It was two-way action at its finest with both Mexican warriors displaying a beautiful ballet of brutality that had the viewers glued to their television sets in awe-struck wonder. Marquez was on the verge of defeat in round three, rallied back to hurt Vasquez and in the process opened up some nasty cuts on the face of Vasquez. Then the magnificent seventh round unfolded, blood pouring from his cuts and in risk of having the fight stopped, Vasquez dug deep into his internal reservoir of courage and caught a wicked shot to the head of Marquez that ended the fight. It was the sweetest victory for Vasquez who evened the score at one apiece. The best news of all? These two badasses are scheduled to do it again in 2008.
Runner-up Vasquez Marquez I
Vivek: Israel Vasquez-Rafael Marquez II
Welp, guess we can call this a very unanimous trifecta. How could anyone dare go against this pick. Vasquez -Marquez put on a helluva show….twice. The action in this fight was the type of action that the non-fight fan as well as the avid aficionado could cling to and mentally set aside as a possible fight of the decade candidate. Castillo-Corrales was perhaps the only fight that I could think of that actually matched this type of action, possibly all-time. An epic showdown with all intangibles. Guts, heart, and action from the start.