- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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Through two hellacious junior featherweight championship fights in 2007, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez traded TKO victories and engaged in 13 rounds of pure combat.
Virtually every round of their action-packed brawls -- sort of a mini version of the lightweight battles between the late Diego "Chico" Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo -- was exciting.
However, standing above all of the bakers' dozen of violent rounds they fought was Round 3 of their rematch on Aug. 4 in Hidalgo, Texas.
For three minutes of fury, Vazquez, who would regain the title via sixth-round TKO, and Marquez traded bombs as if there was no tomorrow in a classic frame of ebb and flow that made the third round the 2007 ESPN.com Round of the Year.
The first two rounds of Vazquez-Marquez II picked up where the first fight left off, with the Mexican warriors pounding away. They had fought on even terms through those first two rounds until the third, when Vazquez finally broke though. He rocked Marquez with a big left hook that sent him reeling.
Although Marquez was in trouble, he didn't go down. Instead, he stood his ground and traded fierce punches with a charging Vazquez as they both went for the knockout.
As they were showering each other with blows, Showtime's Al Bernstein invoked the legendary lightweights: "Can you say Corrales-Castillo? This is an amazing round of boxing!"
Just then, an uppercut rocked Marquez again, who shook it off and responded with a right hand.
The kind of action we were seeing was absolutely reminiscent of the first Corrales-Castillo fight, and it continued throughout the final 80 seconds of the round.
Somewhere during the tumultuous action, Vazquez sustained a cut around his right eye, and as they battered each other, blood was pouring down Vazquez's cheek. His left eye was also cut.
"Marquez has gotten himself back into this round in a major way. Amazing," Bernstein exclaimed.
And Marquez wasn't done yet. He landed a series of lefts and rights to rock Vazquez.
"And this is after Marquez was in trouble," Showtime's Steve Albert bellowed. "Marquez wailing away at the head of Vazquez as the blood continues to flow from the eyes of Vazquez."
Marquez emerged from a late exchange with blood under his right eye and back and forth they continued to hammer each other for the remainder of the round in an insanely violent scene.
Even after the bell rang, they continued to punch for a few moments.
Cried Albert, "No letup whatsoever!"
Up next: Fight of the year
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Round 3 of Israel Vazquez's rematch with Rafael Marquez packed more action into one stanza than most fights do into 12, writes Dan Rafael.