- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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After three epic battles, Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez are already linked for eternity in boxing history. But they haven't had enough of each other, nor have the fans, so they're doing it one more time.
Their fourth fight, appropriately titled "Once and Four All" and scheduled for May 22 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, was formally announced Thursday with expectations high for another memorable slugfest.
"Without a doubt, this is going to be a war just like the previous fights were," Vazquez said. "I'm really motivated to come back for this battle with Marquez and I know this fourth fight is going to be very significant to my career. I hope all the fans are as excited as I am for this fight and as excited as they were for the previous three, as the fourth will be no different than the others."
If that turns out to be true, we will be seeing another all-time classic.
Vazquez leads the intense series 2-1 against his Mexican countryman. Their three-fight rivalry consists of 25 fast, furious and bloody rounds.
"Israel Vazquez and I are destined to be intertwined together because of the legendary battles we have waged against each other, but I intend to close the book on our rivalry by dictating the final chapter -- and the fight -- on May 22 at Staples Center," said Marquez, the younger brother of lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez. "I have never wanted to win a fight so much in my life. I'm training to win. I'm fighting for my legacy."
In the Showtime-televised co-feature, Colombia's Yonnhy Perez (20-0, 14 KOs) will defend his bantamweight belt for the first time against a friend of his, Abner Mares (19-0, 12 KOs), a 2004 Mexican Olympian who lives in Southern California. Mares has to come through a tune-up bout on March 25.
The first three Vazquez-Marquez fights, which were fought consecutively, were each for the junior featherweight championship. The trilogy is widely considered one of the greatest in boxing history. The fourth chapter, a rarity in modern boxing, will be at featherweight.
"There has been no greater privilege for me than to have promoted [Diego] Corrales-[Jose Luis] Castillo I and the Vazquez-Marquez series," said Gary Shaw, Marquez's promoter. "At the end of the day, boxing and boxing fans are the winners. Rafael Marquez and Israel Vazquez are two of the greatest warriors ever. They are the stuff Hollywood movies are made from."
A former bantamweight champion, Marquez stopped Vazquez in the seventh round to win the 122-pound title in the first fight on March 3, 2007.
It was such a tremendous action fight, it looked like it would stand up as the fight of the year. But then came the rematch in which Vazquez bounced back to score a sixth-round knockout on Aug. 4, 2007. It trumped the first fight and claimed fight of the year honors from virtually every media outlet, including ESPN.com and Ring magazine.
As good as the first two fights were, the third one was even more stunning in it's non-stop, blistering action. In that March 1, 2008 fight, Vazquez rallied from a fourth-round knockdown to score a 12th-round knockdown that turned out to be the winning margin in a sensational split-decision victory as he regained the world title in the fight of the year.
After the amount of punishment both men took, a fourth fight seemed unthinkable. Both fighters needed long layoffs following the trilogy.
Marquez (38-5, 34 KOs), who turns 35 next week, was out for 14 months before returning for a third-round knockout of Jose Francisco Mendoza last May.
Vazquez (44-4, 33 KOs), 32, needed a 19-month layoff, during which he underwent three surgeries on his damaged retina. When he returned in October, he struggled to a ninth-round knockout of Angel Priolo.
Those fights came against lesser opponents after long layoffs. Now, they're back in the spotlight against their greatest rival. Showtime, which televised the first three bouts, is back for the fourth one and happy to be involved again with two fighters who have defined the network's boxing programming in recent years.
"Vazquez-Marquez IV is a fight we couldn't say no to," Showtime's Ken Hershman said. "The rivalry between these two warriors is rooted in the deep respect they have for one another. We knew from the first time they faced off against each other that their fights would deliver the highest quality boxing and fans should expect nothing less May 22. We are honored to have them back on Showtime. Fighters like Israel Vazquez and Rafael Marquez represent the best boxing has to offer: amazing competitors putting it all on the line in the name of sport."
With their careers nearing the end and a fourth fight easily the best financial option, the fight was put together in December, but had to wait until May because of the Staples Center's availability.
"May 22 is more than a fight, it is for pride, honor and respect of the boxing world and we are excited to be able to deliver the fourth fight following one of the best trilogies in boxing history," said Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, Vazquez's co-promoter. "This type of fight reminds us of the great events from the 70's at the [Los Angeles] Olympic Auditorium and the Forum, featuring two great Mexican warriors who leave it all in the ring."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.
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