Shaw: 'This may go down as the greatest'

Updated: February 29, 2008

Tom Casino/Showtime

Don't blink: Vazquez, left, and Marquez can change the course of a fight with one punch.

Vazquez, Marquez ready to rumble again

In 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.

Marquez, Vazquez

Chris Cozzone/FightWireImages

Can Marquez and Vazquez repeat the theatrics of their first two fights?

Like the epic three-fight series between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, Riddick Bowe and Evander Holyfield and Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales, the Vazquez and Marquez series is poised to take its place in the pantheon of all-time trilogies.

Few expect anything less than another slugfest when they meet again on Saturday night (Showtime, 9 ET/PT) at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., the site of their first classic.

"I don't think this trilogy in my mind can be compared to anything," said Gary Shaw, who handles Marquez and promoted all three fights. "I think this may go down as the greatest -- we won't know obviously until after [Saturday]. But, if I know both fighters like I think I do, and I know the camps and the trainers and everyone else, I believe that this might go down as the greatest trilogy of all time."

Said Marquez: "This fight definitely has the possibility of being better than the last two."

As they did before each of the first two bouts, both fighters are promising another memorable collision.

"Please don't miss this fight. It is going to be a war," said Marquez, the former bantamweight champion and younger brother of junior lightweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez. "The first two fights were wars, and this is going to be a classic battle."

Said Vazquez: "Fans will be treated to a spectacular show. I know a lot of boxers say that to hype up a fight, but I think it means a little more when I say it. The proof is in our last two fights. Everyone loved those battles and everyone will love our third fight, too."

Shaw, who has been involved with boxing since the early 1970s, said he'll never forget their fights.

Marquez, Vazquez

Tom Casino/Showtime

In their first encounter, both fighters came out swinging, but Vazquez, right, got the worst of it.

"I don't want to get emotional and I don't want to talk like a promoter, but I believe this trilogy will be a part of history," Shaw said. "I can tell you at the end of the round of the year of the second fight, what I will remember is [copromoter] Scott Woodworth [of Sycuan] behind me banging me on my shoulder pulling me up by my neck off the chair, saying, 'Can you believe this? Can you believe this?' Now, that's a promoter of the opponent to my fighter. We are against one another, and he's banging me and lifting me up and can't believe it.

"I will always have memories of these two fighters that have huge hearts. I did the first Micky Ward-Arturo Gatti fight when I was with Main Events. Not taking anything away from Arturo Gatti or Micky Ward, but when they had that trilogy they were not A-plus fighters. These are A-plus fighters."

Nacho Beristain, who trains Marquez, doesn't expect Saturday's fight to be much different from the previous two.

"I don't see anything that's going to be a difference. It's going to be a war," he said. "The first two fights were wars, and I don't see this third one any different. They are going to give everything in the ring, and I'm just hoping that Marquez makes a little bit different fight than he did in the second one so we can [win]."

One of the endearing elements about the Vazquez-Marquez rivalry is the respect they have shown for each other through all three promotions. Instead of becoming bitter and nasty toward each other, like Ali and Frazier and Barrera and Morales, they've been sportsmen.

"Deep down in my heart, I know and believe I am going to win by knockout Saturday night," said Vazquez, who aspires to unify 122-pound belts or move up to challenge featherweight titlist Jorge Linares if he wins. "I have the utmost respect for Marquez -- everybody knows that -- but in the ring it is a totally different story. I have to win by knockout. There is no other option. This is a very important fight for boxing, but it is more important for my career and my legacy. This fight will go down in history.

When they mention Marquez's name, my name will be tied to him because of the legendary trilogy that we fought against each other."

Said Marquez, "There is no bad blood between Vazquez and myself. We are professionals and we want the same thing, to win fights and world championships."

Diaz eyes Pacquiao

David Diaz

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

David Diaz has one eye on the lightweight prize.

Lightweight titlist David Diaz and junior lightweight star Manny Pacquiao are on a collision course to meet this summer in Macau, China, but both have critical bouts before then.

Pacquiao, of course, faces 130-pound titleholder Juan Manuel Marquez in a much-anticipated rematch of their wild 2004 draw on March 15 (HBO PPV) at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay.

Diaz is on the pay-per-view in a nontitle bout against little-known Ramon Montano in order to keep him fresh for the possible Pacquiao fight. Diaz said that he hasn't let the possibility of a Pacquiao bout detract from his preparation for Montano.

"I'm sure Montano is preparing for the fight of his life. It's his opportunity of a lifetime," Diaz said. "As for me, when we touch gloves before the fight, we're going to do what we do and see who's the better fighter. Bottom line is I know I must beat Montano to get a shot at Pacquiao."

Still, Diaz is looking forward to facing one of the best in the business.

"I know the deal. If I beat Montano and Manny beats Marquez, he's going to move up to 135 to try and take my title," Diaz said. "Good for him. I like the fact that he wants to fight for my title. If we both win on March 15, I'll be the first one to meet him at the postfight press conference to welcome him to 135. As far as I'm concerned, they can officially announce the fight right then and there.

"He wants to move up and try to continue collecting belts, and I want to test myself against the very best -- and that's what they call him. He beat Barrera twice, Morales twice, already has the draw with Marquez, beat Velasquez, Larios and Solis. He's been on quite a run; if he beats Marquez, maybe he's the best fighter in boxing."

Toney trudging on

James Toney

Kevin Terrell/WireImage.com

You haven't seen the last of James Toney.

Although British media this week jumped all over the prospect of heavyweight James Toney (70-6-3, 43 KOs) heading to England to face former title challenger (and Mike Tyson conqueror) Danny Williams this spring, that is merely one of several bouts being discussed for Toney, promoter Dan Goossen told ESPN.com.

"I've had conversations about a Williams fight in England, but I've also had conversations with a promoter in Russia and one from South Africa," Goossen said. "We'll go for the biggest fight."

Goossen said the proposed bout in Russia would pit Toney against Dennis Bakhtov (26-5, 16 KOs). The match in South Africa would come against Francois Botha in May. Another possibility is a rematch of a draw with ex-champ Hasim Rahman, Goossen said. Rahman manager Steve Nelson said they've discussed the fight, which could take place overseas.

"I have to see what's real and then make a decision with James," Goossen said. "None of these fights are done, but we'll get something done. James would rather fight in the United States, but I told him, if I have to sit next to him to keep his nerves down on the plane, I will because he hates to fly."

Toney, a former three-division champion, hasn't fought since May, when he outpointed Dan Batchelder. However, they both tested positive for steroids afterward and were suspended. It was Toney's second steroid-related suspension.

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QUICK HITS

Wright

• 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.

Kirkland

• 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.

Arce

• 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.

Green

• 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).

Chavez

• 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.

Ottke

• 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."

Maccarinelli

• 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."

Dawson

• 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.

Duddy

• 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.

Pacquiao

• 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.

Quotable

Gomez

"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.