Vazquez, Marquez ready to rumble againIn 2007, junior featherweight champ Israel Vazquez and former champ Rafael Marquez waged two hellacious battles. Marquez won the 122-pound title in March via a seventh-round TKO in a fight that ended when his Mexican countryman retired on his stool, unable to breathe because of a severely broken nose. It was such an electrifying fight that many immediately declared that it would win fight of the year honors -- even though nine months remained in the year. It may have indeed won, but in August, Marquez and Vazquez met again. This time, Vazquez reclaimed the title with a sixth-round TKO in a fight that was even more exciting and dramatic than the duo's first encounter. Several media outlets, including ESPN.com, Ring magazine and Yahoo! Sports, honored the rematch as fight of the year. The fight's third round also was heralded as round of the year. Now, it's trilogy time.
Can Marquez and Vazquez repeat the theatrics of their first two fights?
In their first encounter, both fighters came out swinging, but Vazquez, right, got the worst of it.
Diaz eyes Pacquiao
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
David Diaz has one eye on the lightweight prize.
Toney trudging on
You haven't seen the last of James Toney.
• Publicly, Winky Wright has made noise about wanting to face middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik on June 7, but because that has no realistic chance of happening, Wright is exploring other fights behind the scenes. He has Golden Boy, which promoted his last fight in June 2007 against Bernard Hopkins, exploring possible bouts. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com that inquiries have been made about the availability of German titleholder Felix Sturm for a summer bout. Sturm has an April 4 defense scheduled. "They're interested and Winky is also interested," said Schaefer, who added that Sturm was willing to come to the U.S. to fight Wright. In Sturm's only U.S. appearance, he lost a controversial decision and a middleweight belt to Golden Boy boss Oscar De La Hoya in 2004.
• With the Shane Mosley-Zab Judah HBO PPV card landing on May 31, that means HBO's "Boxing After Dark" card will take place May 17. The opener likely will be power-punching junior middleweight James Kirkland (21-0, 18 KOs) against Nigeria's Eromosele Albert (21-1, 10 KOs). Kirkland was originally supposed to be in the main event against Joel "Love Child" Julio, but promoter Gary Shaw couldn't come to terms with Main Events to deliver Julio. Because Shaw didn't have another main event-worthy bout to offer HBO, it is talking to Dan Goossen about heavyweight prospect Cristobal Arreola headlining. David Tua was the top choice, but he rejected the bout. Among other possibilities, Arreola (23-0, 21 KOs) could face fellow prospect Chazz Witherspoon (22-0, 15 KOs).
• Mosley's May 31 HBO PPV fight with fellow former welterweight champion Judah now has a venue. (The fight was agreed to last week, but its location was not announced.) The fight will take place at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
• Top Rank is planning another "Latin Fury" pay-per-view card for May 17 in Mexico. The likely main event will be former junior flyweight titlist Jorge Arce challenge junior bantamweight titlist Alexander Munoz, Bob Arum told ESPN.com. Also on the card: an appearance by junior welterweight prospect Omar Chavez, one of Julio Cesar Chavez's sons.
• With no explanation given to organizers, Allan Green refused to show up when he was supposed to in Marksville, La., for his "Friday Night Fights" main event (ESPN2) against Antwun Echols. Green, who had a signed contract, faces a suspension for bailing. Echols hasn't answered calls from promoter Tony Holden. Chicago's Mike Walker (18-0-1, 12 KOs) was flown in as a last-minute substitute to face Echols (31-7-3, 27 KOs).
• Ex-lightweight and junior lightweight titlist Jesus Chavez (42-4, 29 KOs) is making a comeback after being sidelined with a right knee injury since February 2007, when he lost his title to Julio Diaz via a freakish third-round knockout. The knockout was ruled when Chavez's knee went out and he was unable to continue. Chavez's return is scheduled for April 4 (Telefutura) in a 10-rounder against an opponent to be named at the Morongo resort in Cabazon, Calif., according to Golden Boy. Before the fight with Diaz, Chavez, 35, had been idle for 16 months recovering from other injuries. Opening the card will be ex-bantamweight titlist Jhonny Gonzalez.
• Sven Ottke and Dariusz Michalczewski, two of the biggest names in recent German boxing history, are coming out of retirement to fight each other. They'll both be 40 when they meet in a cruiserweight bout May 24 in Hannover. Ottke (34-0, 6 KOs) unified super middleweight belts and retired in 2004 after a division-record 21 title defenses, although several were controversial decisions. Michalczewski (48-2, 38 KOs), who is from Poland but fought virtually his entire career in Germany, is a former longtime light heavyweight champion and cruiserweight titlist. He lost his last two bouts before retiring in 2005. Ottke has reunited with trainer Ulli Wegner to begin training this week. "It's like he's never been away," Wegner said. "He's in great shape. It's no surprise he has celebrated so many victories."
• Cruiserweight titlist Enzo Maccarinelli, who meets recognized world champion David Haye on March 8 in London, has begun working what he calls the "night shift." Because the bout will take place at 2 a.m. London time to accommodate Showtime's live East Coast telecast in the United States, Maccarinelli has switched his training schedule from daytime to late night to prepare for the odd start time. "I've been going to bed at around 3 a.m. so I'm in the best condition of my life when I face Haye," he said. "When I'm out pounding the mountains most people are tucked up in bed and sound asleep, and it can get pretty spooky. It's so isolated that it's like something out of a horror movie -- but Haye will be having nightmares on March 8."
• With light heavyweight titlist Chad Dawson set to face former champ Glen Johnson on April 12, Montreal-based Romanian Adrian "The Shark" Diaconu, Dawson's overdue mandatory challenger, will face Houston's Chris Henry for an interim title. Diaconu withdrew from a fight with Dawson last fall because of a hand injury. He'll meet Henry (21-0, 17 KOs) on March 29 in Bucharest. The winner will be the mandatory for the Dawson-Johnson victor. Diaconu (24-0, 15 KOs) is pumped to fight in his home country for only the third time as a pro. "My dream since I was a boy was to win a world title, and I can't wait to accomplish my dream in Romania," he said.
• HBO only showed a brief highlight package during its Wladimir Klitschko-Sultan Ibragimov coverage, but if you want to see the fight that cost middleweight John Duddy a shot at champion Kelly Pavlik in its entirety, and you have access to MSG Network (which is available in the New York tri-state area on satellite services), you're in luck. MSG will air the Feb. 23 slugfest Sunday (8 p.m. ET). Duddy eked out a majority decision against Walid Smichet but was badly cut in the process, rendering him unavailable for a June 7 fight with Pavlik. Also on MSG's telecast: blue-chip middleweight prospect Joe Greene's strong performance against Francisco Mora.
• The Nevada State Athletic Commission this week selected officials for the much-anticipated March 15 rematch between junior lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao. Kenny Bayless will be the referee. Judges are Duane Ford, Jerry Roth and Dick Flaherty.
"I've thought of this day for 17 years -- to walk up to a podium and talk about fighting for a world title. [Miguel] Cotto is a great champion, very strong and he hits very hard to the body. But he's made his millions in the ring and he knows I will be more hungry than him to win." -- Welterweight contender Alfonso Gomez, speaking this week at a news conference in New York to announce his April 12 HBO fight against titlist Miguel Cotto.